These Beauty Bloggers Teamed Up to Teach Us the Keys to Getting Flawless Skin

Thanks to the rise of the beauty guru, we can all learn how to apply makeup like a professional (or we think we can). Makeup tutorials are now inescapable, but there's relatively little attention paid to what's underneath that pricey NARS foundation.

Slapping an enviable beat on top of problem skin only creates more troubles, so it's time to get serious about skincare.

But where to start?

Skincare products and professionals rarely focus on Black women. That means that some of our most pressing concerns, like hyperpigmentation, go unaddressed. Enter: Christene Carr, Danielle Gray, and Felicia Walker Benson of Face Flawless Skin Clinic.

The women, who are respected beauty bloggers, have teamed up to offer the keys to glowing complexion.

We caught up with them to find out why great skin is so important and what we're missing in our skincare regimens.

Why focus on skincare?

Christene Carr: For me, it all begins with skin, so it was kind of a natural thing to focus on. Having great skin gives me the confidence to be my best self as well as the freedom to experiment with makeup, hair and fashion. Great skin is always in!

Danielle Gray: Skin is the largest organ---it protects your vital organs so you want to make sure you give it the TLC it needs. But let's be honest---we're beauty girls and the better you take care of your skin, the better it looks both with and without makeup. Great skin is also an amazing accessory for your wardrobe.

Christene Carr
Felicia Walker Benson: Because I'm vain! But seriously, skin is the body's largest organ, so it's vital to take good care of it. But back to vanity -- Healthy, radiant skin makes me feel invincible. And I've always been a bit of a skin care geek...even as a pre-teen.

What type of skin do you have?

CC: I have combination oily skin. I read that people with oily skin take longer to show their true age, so, over the last several years I have been celebrating my oily skin.

DG: I have oily skin. As I get older, it's less oily than it used to be but still oily. I live in NYC where we get four distinct seasons so my skin changes with the changes in weather. For instance, I get a little drier in the winter so I alter my skincare routine to contain products that are more hydrating. Once the weather starts to warm up, I alter my routine again to contain products that are lighter in texture and that control oil production without drying out my skin.

FWB: I have sassy, temperamental skin. Calm and glowy one minute, then hormonal and pimple-y the next. So a proper, customized skin care routine is really important. I have to stay on top of my skin's ever-changing needs and adjust accordingly!

How did you find a skincare routine that works for you?

CC: Trial, error and research. I went through an acne phase in my late teens to early twenties where I learned quickly that all ingredients aren’t created equal.  I have a sensitivity to benzoyl peroxide, which is a popular acne treatment ingredient.  The first time my face was swollen from using a product with a 4% Benzoyl Peroxide concentration was the first time I really started paying attention to product ingredients.  I now know what types of ingredients work for my skin and which don’t. Over time if you pay attention, you get to learn about your skin and the more you know about your skin the better prepared you are to take care of it.

P.S. I figured out I can use Benzoyl Peroxide, just not at 4% concentration.

Felicia Walker Benson
DG: The first step is understanding the type of skin you have---whether normal, oily/combo, or dry. That's crucial because it affects the type of products you should be using in your routine. Next step is identifying your skin concerns---for me right now that would be adult acne, hyperpigmentation, and anti-aging. From there take a trip to a place like Sephora or one of your favorite beauty counters and look at the products that speak to your skin type and concerns. Look at the ingredients, take pictures of the products, play around with the textures, ask for samples to take home. Once home, look up the ingredients, search for product reviews, see how the samples work out for you, check to see if products are available with similar ingredients at a lower price point. It takes trial and error as well as some research and patience, but you'll find a routine that works for you.

It's also super important to understand that your skincare routine can change many times throughout the year depending on the seasons as well as changes in your skincare needs. The products I'm using now aren't all what I used last season and my skincare needs now are different than they were last year. Some people get used to a routine and seldom ever change the components even when their skin has changes and then wonder why the products they've used for so long no longer work.

FWB: Two words: trial and error. That's how it all started, trying everything. And over the years, I've developed a better understanding of ingredients, formulations, delivery systems, etc. I now understand my skin a lot better and I have a good handle on the ingredients that work best for my specific needs. 

What do people tend to get wrong in their skincare routines?

CC: A lot of people think “natural” and “organic” means good and effective. In some cases that’s true but in other cases it’s far from the truth. I’ve had several people say that all they use on their face is black soap and coconut oil and they can’t understand why their skin is breaking out. These two items may work great for some, but for someone with acne prone skin, it can be a very bad combination. Black soap can be extremely drying and coconut oil can clog pores.  I tend to pay more attention to what is effective versus what is natural or organic. 

DG: I think so many people don't realize they need to change products with the change in seasons. Sometimes people immediately get drawn to products their favorite gurus review without looking into how it will work for their own skin.

I've also heard some "trends" that people follow that make no sense. For instance, some use the wrong products for their skin and think that it's best to not use anything in their routine. I've heard of people using just water to cleanse the skin---which isn't enough to properly cleanse the skin even if you're not wearing makeup. Or there are people who think because something is "natural" it's good for the skin. 

One thing many people forget in their routines is an SPF. Yes, Black people DO need to wear sunscreen. The sun's rays are the biggest culprit in premature aging and can cause skin cancers. Although women of color may not seem to get skin cancers in the numbers that our white counterparts do, when we do get it, it's harder to detect and more aggressive. Put that SPF on all year round and reapply every two hours when you're out.

FWB: Not having one. Honestly, that's the biggest hurdle. Most people do not even have a regular routine for cleansing, treating and protecting their skin. And don't get me started on not using daily broad-spectrum sunscreen! That's a major "miss" for most women!

Danielle Gray
Are the best skincare products the ones that are most expensive? 

CC: No. Expensive doesn’t mean effective.  There are many great products available at the drugstore level.  If you look at the labels you might notice that a drugstore product and a luxury product contain many of the same active ingredient but use different fillers, preservatives, packaging, etc. Once you have identified the skincare issue you want to address, focus on ingredients that have been scientifically proven to help with that problem then find products that contain that ingredient.

DG: It depends on the product and your desired results. Some drugstore products can be just as effective and have similar ingredients as those found at the department store. I advise people to start at the department store or luxury level to see what ingredients are in certain products and to feel the textures. Try it before you buy it, and then if you can, find similar products at the drugstore or lower-priced level. 

But for elevated or more severe skincare issues, sometimes a higher concentration of ingredient may be necessary and that may be where the expense is added.

Also sometimes new skincare innovations aren't available at the drugstore level until some time after they've been on the luxury market.

FWB: Of course not! "You get what you pay for" is somewhat true, in terms of certain ingredients and formulations. But, one truly does not need to spend a whole lot to obtain high-performing skincare. The drugstore level is really showing up and showing out these days!

What's one thing someone struggling with their skin should know? 

CC: It takes time and there isn’t one product to address all your skin issues.

DG: Skincare isn't a one and done thing. You constantly have to work on your skin even if you don't feel you have major issues. Also strongly consider seeking a professional--a trip to the Dermatologist may not be as expensive as you think and can be integral to improving your skin.

FWB: Trouble won't last always! We've all been there. When my skin looked like a big old pizza pie, I felt like an ugly beast. But it's important to take control. Do the work, seek a professional dermatologist  or esthetician if things get too bad. Eventually, you'll get through it.
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