recommended by experts

How to Build a Black-Owned Skin-Care Routine

Photo: retailer

When considering how to incorporate Black-owned businesses into one’s life long term, I can think of few better ways than beauty. If you love a beauty product, it will likely be something you purchase over and over again. So, below: products from Black-owned businesses for every step in your skin-care routine as recommended by myself and beauty writers, editors, and enthusiasts: from a cleansing oil with plankton extract that helps with hyperpigmentation to Fenty’s Fat Water — a toner-serum hybrid that does everything from shrink pores to brighten skin.


Cleansing oil

If you’re someone who double cleanses already, or have considered starting (now is a good time — the sweat accumulated from wearing masks all day means there is that much more to wash off at night), you’ll need a good oil cleanser. This mild cleansing oil from luxury beauty brand Epara is a great option. It uses ingredients like licorice root extract and plankton extract to help with brightening and hyperpigmentation, and also incorporates ylang ylang oil to soothe — a perfect first step for your routine.


Naomi Elizée, an associate market editor at Vogue and the host of the podcast So What Do You Do Again? swears by this cleanser from epi.logic skin care, which uses ingredients like rosehip oil, vitamins A, C, and E, to simultaneously cleanse and soothe the skin. “I love this calming cleanser for when I need to refresh my skin,” she says.

Founded by esthetician and formulator Lesley Thornton, Klur is known for its thoughtful formulations and sustainable packaging. One of their most popular products is Gentle Matter, a non-foaming cleanser that uses antioxidants like white and green tea and gentle resurfacing ingredients like papaya extract to cleanse without stripping the skin.

Gisele Smith, who works in public relations at Black-owned hair-care brand Sienna Naturals, likes the Super Smoothie cleanser from Rosen skin care, which contains active fruit powders like lemon, strawberry and raspberry, which help to clear and tone the skin. “The texture of this cleanser is incredible,” says Smith. “I have tried a lot of cleansers in the attempt to pinpoint one that really felt like it was making a difference for my skin, and this one by Rosen is my current favorite,” she says, adding that it left her skin glowy after just one use. It also helped to fade some older hyperpigmentation marks, said Smith, and does so without stripping the skin. She did note, however, that the cleanser is fragranced (albeit naturally), which is something to keep in mind if you’re sensitive to scent.


This toner, delivered in mist form, is a favorite of Vogue beauty assistant Akili King. “I’m obsessed,” she says of the spray, which she uses during her skin-care routine and during the day as a way to refresh her skin. Chamomile is the toner’s main ingredient, and in addition to soothing the skin it helps to neutralize free radicals, which can cause premature aging.

“Of all three products in this collection this one deserves all the flowers,” says Smith of Fat Water, a pore-refining toner-serum hybrid that brightens, smoothes, and helps to fade dark spots without stripping skin. “This product provides instant glow,” she says. “It has a unique texture, because it’s a sort of combination essence and toner, but that’s why I love it. It takes the best parts of both steps, and is incredibly effective.”


We’ve written about the Hyper Skin vitamin C serum before, a powerful but gentle product that uses ingredients like vitamin E, turmeric, and bearberry to address hyperpigmentation, dark marks, and acne scars that also helps to prevent future outbreaks. Its sheer, weightless texture also makes it easy to layer under the rest of your skin care. Elizeé counts the serum among her must-haves — she says she uses it in both the morning, and in the evening before she moisturizes. “Hyper Skin really changed the game with its vitamin C formula,” she says. “It packs a huge punch, and is half the price of other serums.” Brown Girl Hands founder Hannah Harris is also a fan, saying that while it’s not a quick fix for her dark marks, over time, it majorly helps to brighten skin and keep it clear.


Photo: retailer

“I always felt like when I used a face mist I was just spraying glorified water onto my face — I didn’t feel like it was making a difference in my skin,” says Smith, “Face Dew from Rosen changed that for me.” Unlike most other mists, this one’s meant to replace your moisturizer. It contains oils like rosehip and castor, which help to moisturize while ingredients like rosewater refresh and hydrate the skin. “You can actually feel the effects of the oil with each spray, without the weight and oily look most face oils provide,” she says, “my face feels like it’s actually moisturized after I use it.” Rio is also a fan, noting that it’s “nourishing enough to lock in moisture, but light enough to let skin breathe.”

I’m a massive Buttah fan and have been since the brand’s launch a few years ago. Their facial shea butter is ultra-smooth and makes my skin feel moisturized and glowy but not greasy. It’s the first time I’ve encountered that with a shea butter designed for the face, and, as such, this product has become a staple in my winter skin-care routine. Once the temperature drops, I begin using it nightly — it helps to keep my dry, flaky skin under control.

Facial oils

When I was a young beauty intern, I was gifted Nyakio’s glow oil by a benevolent editor with too many products and very little desk space. I instantly fell in love, and even as my stash grew, I came back to it time and time again. It uses ingredients like marula and neroli, which are high in unsaturated, fatty acids, to condition your skin and help it glow. It’s become a staple in my routine, and now my partner’s — she saw how good my skin looked with continued use, and started using it herself.

In addition to the hydrating mist from Essentials by Temi, King also uses the matching oil, which she loves for its soothing ingredients, like chamomile and seabuckthorn, both of which help with inflammation and irritated skin. A little also goes a long way with this one — you only need three to five drops to cover the entirety of your face.

Night Cream

King loves this night time balm from Epara, which is packed with shea and mango butters, sweet almond and argan oil, and plankton extract which helps to tackle hyperpigmentation. Meant to be applied in place of a moisturizer, you can use this nightly on your face and neck. “It’s a forever staple for me,” she says, “I use it whenever my skin needs a reset.”

Face Masks

This cult-favorite mask from wellness brand Golde was mentioned by three different beauty lovers (and has been previously written about by Rio). It’s formulated with edible superfoods (meaning yes, you can eat it if you so choose), and contains ingredients like chlorella, spirulina, and mango juice. This mask comes in powder form and needs to be mixed with the liquid of your choice. “It’s basically a green smoothie for your face that makes your skin clear and glowy,” says Smith. “I had some of the best skin of my life when I was using it, then I got lazy and didn’t want to mix it and now I am patiently waiting for my new jar to arrive.” she says. Smith likes that it makes her skin feel ultra-clean, a difficult feat when living in a city where toxins and dirt are everywhere. “I prefer this mask to a charcoal one, because it feels like it is cleaning the dirt out of my skin without stripping it of its natural oils,” she says.

Formulated for dry, itchy, and eczema-prone skin, this mask from buzzy new skin-care brand My Topicals works to strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier. It contains ingredients like colloidal oatmeal (a known anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredient), ginseng (another anti-inflammatory ingredient), turmeric, and green tea extract which is ideal if you have any of the aforementioned skin issues or happen to be dealing with maskne.


Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30

Mineral sunscreens can be tough to find for deeper skin tones — the zinc oxide tends to leave a white, blueish tint on skin. Black Girl Sunscreen is one of the few that doesn’t leave a white cast, and has quickly become a staple in Black girl beauty routines. It has an SPF of 30 and is formulated with avocado, jojoba, cacao, carrot juice, and sunflower oil, which work together to keep skin even and glowing. Harris mentioned it in her list of must-haves, noting that it’s so lightweight that she barely feels it on her skin. Khalea Underwood, a senior beauty editor at The Zoe Report, also counts it among her favorites and says it lives up to the hype of drying down clear. “This stuff doesn’t leave any trace of a cast,” she says.

Photo: Iman Adhami/Dermstore/Target

If you’re on the hunt for a sunscreen that’ll also impart a dewy glow, then this one from Unsun (founded by Frank Ocean’s mom), is a good option. It’s one of the few mineral sunscreens that is also tinted, and is available in two shades: light/medium and medium/dark. “It truly gives one of the most hydrating and illuminating just-left-the-spa glows I’ve ever seen,” says Rio, who started using it after an eczema flare up, and found that it did not irritate her skin in the least. This is thanks to it’s nourishing and soothing ingredients, including vitamin E, vitamin C, aloe vera, and lactic acid.

Lip Care

Created by Kristen Noel Crawley, KNC Beauty focuses on total lip care, and has become a popular go-to for beauty gurus and editors alike. Harris likes this set from the brand, which contains their ultra-popular Supa Scrub and an accompanying scrub brush. “It will take your lips from dry and flaky and peeling to soft and shiny,” she says. “Apply some lip balm afterward and you’re all set.” The scrub simultaneously physically exfoliates and moisturizes, using nourishing ingredients like sunflower oil, shea butter and moringa oil to nourish and condition lips.

Underwood has tried hundreds of lip balms, she says, and this one, from Fenty Beauty is her favorite. “This shea butter and seed oil formula is rich enough for me to use as an overnight mask, and shiny enough to work as a gloss on days where I actually have my Zoom camera on.” It’s also non-greasy, ideal for wearing all day and reapplying throughout. It’s currently available in four sheer shades that work well on a wide variety of lip colors.



Photo: Bhavin Patel

Three people name-checked this bar soap from Redoux, a handmade, vegan skin-care brand that frequently sells out. “This beautiful bar of soap is packed with coconut, olive, palm, castor, and safflower oils as well as shea butter, turmeric, and rose clay. All ingredients I love,” says Harris. What really stands out for her, however, is the scent. “It’s the cherry on top.” she says. The scent is something they call 529 — it’s a blend of geranium, bergamot and ginger. Elizée says the turmeric version has had a dramatic effect on her skin. “It helps brighten up the dark spots on my back and doesn’t strip my skin of any moisture.” King is also a fan: “I’ve been using it to wash my hands and it never triggers my eczema.” The soap is currently available for preorder (after selling out ten times in a row) and will be shipping by the end of the month.

Stylist and editor Mecca James-Williams is a fan of this soap from Terra Tory, a Long Island–based skin-care brand founded by Kimberly Waldropt in 2017. The brand is entirely fragrance-free, making it ideal for sensitive skin types. Mecca likes the Sea moss one in particular, which contains A, B, C, and D vitamins which have helped sooth her eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis. Plus, she says, “it’s just such a nice, clean scent.”

Body moisturizers

Hanahana Beauty has something of a cult-following — and no less than five people I spoke to for this article recommended its ultra-nourishing shea butter. “I’m obsessed with all things Hanahana and I have a few empty bottles of their shea butter to prove it!” says Elizée. She likes the eucalyptus scent in particular, and recommends applying it right out of the shower for maximum hydration. Writer Yaminah Mayo (who has penned an ode to the brand) also loves Hanahana, calling it the only thing that has been able to save her overly sanitized hands, and eczema-prone skin. I’m also a fan — I use the unscented shea butter daily and have found that my skin has become noticeably more supple since I started using it.

James-Williams likes the shea butter from Cori René, which makes ultra-nourishing, unscented butters that contain avocado, olive and coconut oils, aloe vera, and glycerin. “The product is out of this world,” she says. “It keeps my skin moisturized through even the toughest of winter days.”

Johnson’s favorite shea butter comes from 54 Thrones, named after Africa’s 54 countries. A blend of Ghanian and Ugandan shea butter, it also contains baobab, avocado, sweet almond and jojoba oil, all of which helps nourish and moisturize the skin. “You can use it all over your body, but I really like it as a hand cream — something that’s earned new importance in my regimen, given all the handwashing we’ve been doing of late,” she says.

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How to Build a Black-Owned Skin-Care Routine