America may tentatively be reopening, but after what felt like endless weeks of quarantine, many of us are emerging with some new habits—which might include a more thorough skincare regimen. Blame it on more time spent alone and makeup-free (or simply more time spent scrutinizing ourselves), but a basic Google search of “quarantine skincare” shows increased interest in our skin was a Spring 2020 trend; one we weren’t immune to as the days blurred into months. With our minds set on being as healthy as possible, our skin was bound to get some much-needed attention as well, especially as we suddenly had ample time to try out some of the many products gathering dust in The Glow Up’s beauty closet.
Granted, here at The Glow Up, there’s a pretty hefty stash to dig into, which is why we started with one of the contemporary forerunners in melanated skincare, Urban Skin Rx. Founded by medical aesthetician & melanin expert Rachel Roff, the 10-year-old brand was one of the first to bring spa-level services specifically formulated for those of us with darker skin to market, and there’s a reason her products have been such a success: they work.
It’s also worth mentioning that as a white woman who specializes in darker complexions, Roff is something of an outlier in the ethnic skincare space—and one happy to share the growing platform.
“It’s really a benefit for all of us,” she told The Glow Up earlier this year, shouting out some of the black-owned brands that share shelf space with her in big box stores like Target. “The more people that are drawn to my section—whether or not if it’s looking for Bolden or Specific Beauty as supposed to me—it still puts more eyes on my product. So it’s really a win-win for everybody.”
While The Glow Up primarily features black-owned brands, we both respect Roff’s ethos and the fact that her products remain unparalleled in terms of treating conditions specific to darker skin tones. As she told us, her brand focus was born of a genuine desire to see equality in the beauty space.
“I think just from a very young age I have been aware of things that aren’t inclusive or [are] prejudiced,” Roff recalled, reflecting on her upbringing in a family of liberal attorneys. “When I started posing those questions in aesthetic school, about, ‘Well, what about treating skin conditions for darker skin?’ it was always this message that: ‘That skin type is very sensitive and burns very easily and so we just don’t really treat it’…so we weren’t getting a lot of opportunities to practice on like non-white people. So me just initially wanting to treat the people that I loved and have full expertise, [I] just had to push for more education...It was just like, if I’m gonna be a skin expert, I can’t ignore this skin type. That makes no sense,” she added.
Roff would prove to be well ahead of the curve in an industry that has largely seemed to only acknowledge darker complexions in recent years—and her curiosity has paid off tremendously, as Urban Skin Rx is now sold internationally and boasts a loyal following. And as America continues to reckon with its persistent racial inequities, Roff says she hopes to do the same in the beauty space.
“There is a huge lack of inclusion in this industry and in general, and I actually feel like it is my duty to fix that,” Roff said. “I have the opportunity to take something that I love so much, which is clinical skincare, and really work on something that is so unjust going on in my industry that I care so much about.”
Of course, skincare may seem the least of our equity issues at present, but in a moment when self-care has also become a necessity, we happily turned our spare time into spa time with one of the more intimidating products in Urban Skin Rx’s at-home offerings: dermaplaning.
If you’re unfamiliar with dermaplaning, it’s a bit like shaving—well actually, that’s exactly what it is: sloughing off dead skin cells and fine facial hairs with a microblading tool, revealing more luminous skin underneath that is more receptive to products like chemical peels, serums and moisturizers. The process is regularly used by aestheticians and isn’t without its risks—in fact, Keke Palmer made news earlier this week when her facialist razored off her baby hairs during the procedure (h/t Allure)—all the more reason why you might want to perfect the technique for yourself.
True confession: I’d been in possession of Urban Skin Rx’s Dermapeel Smooth & Glow Treatment 2 Step System (currently on sale for $44) for many months before I finally got up the nerve to try it for myself. In fact, it was only while sequestered and sheltering in place that I finally embarked upon what would become a month-long skin journey with the brand’s dermaplaning tools and Complexion Correction Chemical Peel Pad. As it turned out, I had nothing to lose—not even baby hairs—and everything to gain as my stressed-out skin enjoyed a gradual refresh. Check out this week’s video to see the process and (makeup-free) results!