The One Reason You Can't Get Rid of Hyperpigmentation, According to Urban Skin RX Founder Rachel Roff
Slathering on a brightening cream isn't going to cut it.
Welcome to Beauty Boss, a reoccurring series in which we spotlight the power players driving the beauty world forward. Consider this your chance to steal their get-ahead secrets, and grow from the real-life lessons they’ve learned on the job.
While “inclusivity” and “diversity” are two of the biggest buzz words in the beauty industry right now, it takes more than dropping 40 shades of foundation for a brand to truly embody these terms. And in the case of skincare products and treatments, the needs and concerns of melanin-rich people are still widely ignored. Rachel Roff experienced this first hand working as an aesthetician in Charlotte, N.C. So, she went to work on a solution.
Roff educated herself on the needs of melanin-rich skin, and opened Urban Skin Solutions, a medspa, specializing in safe, effective treatments for dark skin tones. Through word-of-mouth, her business took off with people even traveling from out of state to make appointments. Instead of trying to maintain the integrity of the treatments she offered at open multiple spa locations, she focused on creating a clinical skincare line centered around one of the biggest concerns experienced by people with dark skin tones: hyperpigmentation. And that’s how Urban Skin RX was born.
While Roff’s clients loved the line, things really took off when she met Fantasia in a club. The two hit it off and the singer became a huge advocate of the brand after she visited Urban Skin Solutions. Thanks to a post on her Instagram, Urban Skin RX became a Insta-famous skincare brand.
Today, Urban Skin RX products are available a big retailers like Ulta, Target, and CVS, along with the brand’s website, and of course, at the medspa where it all started. Here, we caught up with Roff to find out how she became an expert in melanin-rich skin, the biggest mistake people make when treating hyperpigmentation, how Urban Skin RX became a celebrity-favorite brand, and more.
How did you start Urban Skin RX?
Growing up, I had a lot of skin problems, including acne and a pre-cancerous mole on the side of my face. I started going to see aestheticians, dermatologists, and even plastic surgeons because of where the mole was located the side of my mouth. Dealing with my skin issues and being bullied about my looks at school made me realize I wanted to be an aesthetician and own a medical spa so that I could have the tools to improve my own insecurities, and help others going through similar battles.
I ended up going to college and aesthetician school in North Carolina. They bought chemical peels and one laser to perform treatments, and by chance it was one of the few lasers on the market that’s safe for darker skin tones. Once I was trained on it, I started using it on some of my friends with melanin-rich skin. Since the center didn’t have a marketing budget, I made fliers showing a before-and-after photo of laser hair removal I performed on a Black male friend’s in-grown neck hairs, and brought them to barbershops around Charlotte to get more clientele. Then, I really focused on educating myself on the needs of diverse skin tones. I had a lot of family members and friends who had darker skin, and continued to see there was a total lack of education on needs of these skin tones and providing safe and effective treatments for them.
Eventually I opened my own own medspa, Urban Skin Solutions. Word of mouth traveled and I was getting a lot of clients from out of town. Instead of trying to open medspa locations around the world, I decided to pour all of my knowledge into formulating skincare products. Urban Skin RX concentrates on hyperpigmentation, the number one concern I see in darker skin tones.
What is the biggest mistake you see with people treating hyperpigmentation?
I think people forget to try to solve the underlying cause of hyperpigmentation because they get so desperate for a quick fix. They don’t realize that until they put more effort into what’s causing an uneven skin tone, you’re not going to solve the issue long term. For example, if you have acne, putting a lightening cream on your skin isn’t going to stop you from breaking out. If you’re not following an acne-focused skincare routine or exploring prescription treatment options, you’re just working backwards.
What's your approach to making products?
I have over 40 products and most of them contain ingredients geared towards treating hyperpigmentation. We know our consumer tends to have melanin-rich skin, so even if they’re dealing with acne, dryness, or aging, there’s a high risk of uneven skin tone. So, we’re always thinking about hyperpigmentation as a brand, and even if we create a product that’s anti-aging or hydrating, we add skin brightening ingredients in them so they go that extra distance to keep your skin even while addressing other issues.
All of Urban Skin RX's celebrity endorsements on social media helped the brand grow. How did you get all of these famous fans?
I’m kind of an anomaly. Not many entrepreneurs have a medispa where celebrities visit and post for free. Yes, in today’s world of influencer marketing we have a budget for micro and macro influencers where some are paid to post, but I’ve been so blessed to have celebrities seek me out because their peers have talked about the skincare line and the spa. I’ve also built strong relationships with celebrity hairstylists and makeup artists by reaching out to them and providing them with product. It’s important to align with them because these are the people celebrities trust with product recommendations.
Teyana Taylor’s first few posts were completely free. She had heard about the spa so she came in when she was in Charlotte and ended up loving the Even Tone Bar. After Teyana's first post, we sold $80,000 in 24 hours. So, of course, I had to set up a contract with her.
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What products from your line are you most proud of?
The Combination Skin Cleansing Bar because it reminds me of my own story. A lot of people didn’t think I was going to get where I am today, but I was adamant because I knew what I had was something special. It was one of the first products I ever developed and its original name was the Dry Skin Bar. While some of our customers have dry skin, it was just never as popular as the Even Tone Cleansing Bar and Clear Skin Cleansing Bar. When I got the opportunity for the brand to go into Target, I thought we should change the name to see if it does better. So, it became the Anti-Aging Cleansing Bar because that’s a huge category for retailers even if it it’s not the top concern of my customer. As a final plea, we ended up changing the name again to the Combination Skin Cleansing Bar and its sales doubled. People are obsessed with it and rave about it on social media. It’s one of my personal favorites, so it was the cherry on top when it recently won an industry award.
I’ve also been working on a sunscreen for three years that will finally come out in the spring. It’s a 100 percent mineral sunblock that goes on completely clear on dark, dark skin tones. I feel like I’m not truly a melanin expert until I release the only pure mineral formula that’s transparent on all skin tones. It’s taken so much money and time to do, but we’ve accomplished it.