At the moment, two of the most overused words in the beauty industry are “inclusive” and “diverse.” Brands are desperately trying to prove just how much they care about Black women and with good reason. Black women spend $7.5 million annually on beauty products. Though sadly, for many brands, we’re seen as a new marketing strategy demographic rather than a core customer base.
Fortunately, not every beauty brand sees Black women as just a trend. Some have been putting in the work for years to actually understand the intricacies of Black women’s skin and makeup needs in order to formulate products that actually work for us. One such person is aesthetician and entrepreneur Rachel Roff.
If the name doesn’t immediately ring a bell — Roff herself is pretty low-key — her beloved brand’s name most certainly will, Urban Skin Rx. Roff has created an effective skin care brand that caters to darker skin tones (it calls itself the melanin expert!) and treats some of the most pressing skin care issues for Black women.
Last year it seemed like celebrities couldn’t stop talking about Urban Skin Rx. Teyana Taylor is a huge fan (she confessed to ESSENCE that the brand is amazing for Black women) as is Ayesha Curry — Eva Marcille is currently the face of the brand. After a quick scroll through the brand’s website, it’s clear that it has a number of returning customers, with some hailing it as the “best products ever.” While it’s tempting to credit Urban Skin Rx’s smashing success (the brand recently launched nationwide in Target) to sheer luck, Roff has been working to perfect her formulations for deeper skin tones for decades.
“When I moved to Charlotte from San Francisco, it had a huge population of diverse skin tones, even more than where I came from in California,” she tells ESSENCE. “I thought, ‘I’m going to open a med spa and we’re just going to specialize in skin and everybody of every walk of life will come.”
One of the first things Roff noticed about the skin care industry when starting out was just how unjust it really was. At the time, there were no med spas that offered treatments or sold effective products for dark skin. “It really seemed like a form of racism, it just didn’t make sense,” Roff says.
So Roff decided to change that by specializing in deeper skin tones and offering services for this community. “I [thought], I’ll be able to take something I’m so passionate about, which is skincare, and actually start to bring more equality to [the skincare business],” she confesses.
Roff, who also happens to be white, explained that those around her (read: white people) laughed at her and thought she was crazy for catering to the Black community, telling her it wasn’t a sound business decision. “When I first opened I did deal with a lot of people who would walk in and be like, ‘What do you know about darker skin?’ and not be very nice about it,” she says thinking back to earlier days.
Now, Roff is the one having the last laugh.
Eventually, her med spa business did so well that she launched a skincare brand, Urban Skin Rx, which keeps the needs of deeper skin tones front and center. “I never wanted to be that cookie cutter skincare brand that just had one or two products that I [used] on everybody. I recognized that not everybody with acne has oily skin or just because you have dark marks doesn’t mean you don’t have other things going on,” Roff says.
Testing (and then testing again) across a range of skin tones, is what she credits to the brand’s success. “At a lot of these companies, they are outsourcing the testing and results. They do not have the diverse clientele that I have to test my product formulations on,” she says. For Roff, Black women and their skin care needs are not a new marketing strategy. We are the core of her business.
Other brands take note: Throwing the words diverse and inclusive on a few social media posts does not mean you are. “If a company has been around for a long time and all of a sudden they want to put out [diverse products], when they’ve ignored this need for so long… they’ve already kind of missed the mark,” Roff tells us.
As for what’s next for Roff and Urban Skin Rx, she’s got her sights set abroad. “Oh, my dream is to go international with distribution, I feel like there is so much potential for our brand internationally,” she says. We couldn’t agree more. More women of color around the world need the opportunity to buy effective skincare products from people and brands that truly care about them.
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