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Sean Garrette Is the Rihanna-Approved Esthetician Who Wants to Save Your Skin

"Oftentimes Black people, especially Black men, are forgotten about within the skin-care industry."
Sean Garrette for Fenty Skin.

Sean Garrette for Fenty Skin.

Rihanna wasn't messing around when she created the complexion-focused spinoff of Fenty Beauty, Fenty Skin. The result of years of development and careful attention to formulas, inclusive messaging, myth-busting and practical environmental consciousness, the three-product lineup made its debut at the end of July. Another thing she wasn't messing around with? The people she chose to be involved with the brand. 

In addition to the famous faces in the Fenty Skin campaigns (A$AP Rocky! Lil Nas X!), Rihanna chose Sean Garrette, a New York City-based licensed esthetician with a devoted following of more than 65,000 fans on Instagram to serve as its global ambassador.

Garrette's glow-y, dewy complexion speaks for itself, but he's also beloved by clients and fans for his no-nonsense, practical approach to skin care and his dedication to making it accessible to everyone. Ahead, he shares his number-one skin-care tip, insight into what it's like working with Rihanna and the importance of a genderless approach to beauty. 

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How would you describe your overall approach to skin care?

My approach to skin is always to keep things concise and as uncomplicated as possible. Because there are so many products, ingredients and treatments available on the market, people tend to get confused and overwhelmed with their skin-care routines. As an esthetician, I always preach to my clients about keeping their routine simple and focusing on products and ingredients that target their specific issues and concerns.

Tell me a bit about your background. How did you first become interested in skin care and at what point did begin pursuing it professionally?

I'm originally from Baltimore, Maryland — born and raised. I've always been obsessed with beauty and skin care since I was little. Growing up, I used to play in my grandmother's medicine cabinet and vanity for hours, playing with creams, lotions, fragrances. After suffering from a bit of adult acne when I turned 21, that's when I found my true love and obsession with skin care. Because I was able to fix and heal my own skin, it motivated me to be able to help others solve their skin-care issues. This love for skin care led me to enrolling in esthetics school, and since then, I've been treating clients with inflammatory skin conditions like acne and hyperpigmentation for the last three years.

What's your number one skin-care tip?

Wear sunscreen every single day. Ninety percent of my job is preaching to my clients and followers about the importance of sun protection. Sunscreen is absolutely non-negotiable and is essential in every skin-care routine. There has been a myth about Black people not needing to wear sunscreen – that's absolutely false! Sunscreen helps protect your skin from the harmful UV rays that can cause sun damage, accelerate premature aging and exacerbate hyperpigmentation and dark spots.

How do you choose the brands you work with? 

It's really important to me to work with brands and founders whose approach to skin care and overall beauty philosophy aligns with mine. Any brand that I work with has to be inclusive, create effective products and be transparent in all aspects of their business. Authenticity is incredibly important to me. I value my relationship I have with my audience over my relationships with brands. 

That's one of the reasons why I was really excited to work with Rihanna and Fenty Skin; she's such an involved founder and really prioritizes transparency and honesty with her brands and followers, too. She's just real. Me being authentic, truthful and sometimes brutally honest is what has helped me build the amazing community that I have.

What else about Fenty Skin appealed to you and made you want to work with the brand? 

I was really excited to work and partner with Rihanna and Fenty Skin because I truly stand by her mission to deliver healthy, beautiful skin to every skin type, skin tone and gender identity. As an esthetician, I always try to make skin care as approachable and accessible as possible. When I learned about Fenty Skin, it was immediately obvious that our outlooks and approach to skin care were aligned. I respect and relate to Rihanna's approach to skin care in making it simple and accessible for everyone. Oftentimes Black people, especially Black men, are forgotten about within the skin-care industry, and Fenty Skin didn't forget us.

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The average beauty shopper is arguably more educated about skin care more than ever before. What kind of pressure do you think that puts on emerging brands to really deliver on their formulas and be transparent with ingredients?

Beauty shoppers today are so tuned in to what's going on, especially in skin care. It's really become such a central part of people's overall beauty routines and I'm thrilled about that. Social media has also really helped with making skin care so widely popular, and shareable, as opposed to this private moment — everyone can get in on it now. 

The best thing brands can do right now is just be honest and transparent about what they're trying to deliver, and explain up front what the products are trying to achieve and transparently show the ingredients that are gonna do that for you. That's what people really respect, and I think, that's also what they really want.

Sean Garrette for Fenty Skin.

Sean Garrette for Fenty Skin.

Do you have a favorite Fenty Skin product?

What I love the most about the Fenty Skin products are their two-in-one multi-tasking abilities. All the products in the line are created to simplify your routine while still getting the benefits and results of having a multi-step routine. My favorite product in the line is the Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer Sunscreen. This is a two-in-one moisturizer/sunscreen that helps protect skin, nourish and hydrate. It's super lightweight and leaves the skin with a beautiful glow-y finish. It's also formulated with one of my favorite ingredients, niacinamide, which helps reduce the appearance pores, dark spots, and hyperpigmentation.

What has the response from your fans been like since you announced your role with Fenty Skin?

The response has truly been overwhelming and heartwarming. My followers are truly the best and have supported and rooted for me every step of my journey. That's what I love about what I do — it's become such a great community of people. And what I love about the skin-care community, in particular, is that skin care is such a personal process. The journey is unique to each person. So learning about every person's own struggles and successes, answering their questions or providing guidance and even just sharing in their happiness, is so fulfilling. I've received a lot of feedback from clients and followers who each have their own personal favorite from the line. Overall, it's been positive and I'm excited for our future launches.

Rihanna has been super vocal about the fact that Fenty Skin is genderless, and that's also quite apparent in the campaigns. What misconceptions do you think people have about how they believe gender plays into skin care, and how do you think or hope Fenty Skin will work to change that?

I think before skin care was widely shared on the internet, men thought that having a proper skin-care routine was only for women. One of my main goals as an esthetician and skin influencer is to educate all genders, but especially men, on the importance of skin care and skin health. 

What I love about working with Fenty Skin is Rihanna's message that you shouldn't put a label on skin care. Good products are good products, and they'll work no matter your gender identity. I think just from our initial Fenty Skin campaign, as well as having me, a Black man, be the ambassador for the brand, will open up the conversation and encourage more men to take better care of their skin and to invest in the health of their skin.

Fenty Skin products.

Fenty Skin products.

What do you think consumers are looking for out of a skin-care brand these days? There's a lot of talk about ingredients, sustainability, "clean" formulations, fragrance-free, cruelty-free, vegan and so on. Which of those qualities, if any, do you deem most important when it comes to choosing the products you use on yourself or clients, and in your view, how does Fenty Skin align with them?

Skin care is so personal, so priorities vary person to person. I really like supporting brands that are earth-conscious, because I think it sets a nice tone for the brand's sense of thoughtfulness and consideration for everything that the brand stands for and delivers. Fenty Skin does a great job with being transparent about its measures to be earth-conscious, like eliminating outer boxes and using refillable packaging where possible. When it comes to what's most important to me and choosing product for my clients, it's all about effectiveness. I want to know that the products are effective, do what they claim to do, are safe to use, and that the ingredients are well sourced and are of the highest quality possible.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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