Supermodel Winnie Harlow has always advocated for inclusive representation in the beauty industry. The Jamaican-Canadian model burst onto the scene in 2014 as a 19-year-old contestant on Season 21 of Tyra Banks’ competition show, America’s Next Top Model. Since then, Harlow has walked for many of the industry’s major fashion houses and even made an appearance in Queen Bey’s 2016 Lemonade video.
Proper sun care is a priority for Harlow, AKA Chantelle Brown-Young, who suffers from vitiligo. The long-term condition causes pigmentation in parts of the skin, leaving those areas to look white or pink. Since childhood, Harlow has known that protection from the sun’s harmful rays is critical because long-term direct sun exposure can worsen her condition.
“My parents were very adamant about putting sunscreen on me a lot, especially with my family being Jamaican and my dad living in Jamaica,” Harlow said in an interview. “Every holiday, summer and spring break, I was in Jamaica visiting my dad, and so I was in the sun a lot. Although she knew she needed to protect her skin from the sun, the model recalls hating the ashy tint it left behind on her skin.
But it was a two-day photoshoot in the Bahamas in 2018 which left her badly sunburned that compelled Harlow to find a more inclusive sun care option for all skin types. During the shoot, the model spent hours in the sun without sunscreen. The crew discouraged her from using sunscreen because they didn’t like the way the tint it left on her skin looked on camera. Hours of direct sun exposure without proper skin care left the model badly burned and permanently altered her vitiligo. “I got so badly burned. I was like a crispy lobster red, super tight, and in pain. I had to have doctors come to the hotel and give injections for pain and inflammation. It was really traumatic,” she says.
That painful experience left Harlow determined to create better and more inclusive sun care products and gave her the idea to launch CAY SKIN, a sun care line for all skin types. Available on Sephora.com and the CAY SKIN website, the line currently includes body oil, lip balm, and face lotions that are intended to be light and gentle on the skin. Every product in the CAY SKIN line is dermatologist-tested, vegan, and cruelty-free.
When it came to getting her passion project off the ground, Harlow was intimately involved in every detail. Everything from the product name (CAY, a reference to small, low islands in the Caribbean) to the ingredients (sea moss, hydrating nectar, and shea butter) takes inspiration from Harlow’s Caribbean roots. She was even intentional about the design and color of the sustainable packaging which matches her skin tone. She says she wanted to create a product that everyone wanted to use, regardless of age or gender. “I wanted it to be representative of everyone under the sun, from light to dark,” she says. “Sun care is for everyone under the sun.
CAY SKIN products will be available for purchase in Sephora stores beginning April 1.