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At the age of 14, Dr. Elyse Love was dealing with “pretty severe” acne and struggling to find a dermatologist that understood Black skin. Now based in New York City, Love practices at GlamDerm Gramercy Laser and Medical Dermatology. She grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, where there were “like two Black dermatologists,” she says. (Close to two decades later, a 2016 report published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology says roughly 3 percent of all United States dermatologists are Black.)
“My parents and I were going to all of these dermatologists that were highly esteemed — we were paying out of pocket — but they just could not come up with a routine that worked for my skin,” she remembers. When she finally found a Black dermatologist through the process of trial and error, her skin cleared up within months. It was then that Love realized the impact of skin on our self-esteem and how we interact with the world, she says.
Today, she works with brands like Ustawi, founded by former model and Miss Congo Natacha Paugam, that use African botanicals like the baobab fruit (a superfood ripe with antioxidants and vitamin C) to address the concerns of people of color (like hyperpigmentation). “The No. 1 thing that you want to do when you design a product for skin of color is to make sure that it includes ingredients that are going to help balance melanin production and that are going to make the user less prone to pigmentation,” says Love, who is the brand’s lead dermatology adviser. “The caveat being that the product also has to be gentle because if it’s too irritating, then you start over at square one.”
She relies on brands that “have this respect for science” like La Roche-Posay, Perricone MD, and Doctor Rogers. She simply doesn’t want to waste her time with products that don’t work on her skin, which typically leans oily in the summer but dry in the winter.
Love never forgets to apply a cream on her neck, which she calls “the most neglected” area of skin care. “People get in the shower, they clean their body, they wash their face, they put on this whole skin-care routine, and the neck just gets completely abandoned,” she explains. Just like older generations are learning about sun care and using sunscreen for the first time, she believes that necks will be “the millennial problem” down the line: “We’re gonna be like, Oh, man, I wish that I had used that neck product.”
The Double Cleanse
“Double cleansing, in general, is a good idea if you’ve been out and about during the day, especially if you’re wearing makeup. My preference for the first cleanse is micellar water, and this is my favorite because it’s actually a gel. What that means is you don’t even need cotton rounds or bamboo rounds, which makes it a little bit more environmentally friendly. It almost looks very crystalline, and it breaks up any oil, any dirt, any makeup that I have on my skin.”
“Both La Roche-Posay and CeraVe are my go-tos, but the Toleriane I like because it’s just a gentle, effective cleanser. It will take everything off that’s still remaining on your face, but it won’t dry out or strip the skin.”
“I’ve been using prescription retinoids since I was 14, so my skin is pretty hardy toward retinoids — no ‘retinol uglies’ here. I use Arazlo, which uses a retinoid called tazarotene. It’s formulated in this very hydrating lotion, so it’s very tolerable, and it is highly effective at preserving a smooth skin texture, preventing whiteheads and blackheads, and minimizing hyperpigmentation.”
“My retinoid is pretty tolerable, but it’s still definitely a retinoid, so I follow it up with Ustawi Niacinamide Dark Spot Corrector, which is actually meant to be a full-face treatment, not a spot treatment. Niacinamide is obviously the hit ingredient of 2021 and for really good reasons — it’s anti-inflammatory, it supports the skin barrier, and it decreases pigmentation.”
“For the summer, I am obsessed with La Roche-Posay’s Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer. It’s probably the moisturizer that most of my patients are using, and that’s because it is a lightweight, highly effective, gentle moisturizer. It’s oil free, so it’s good for people who are prone to oily skin, too, but it does add a good amount of moisture.
“In the winter, I like SkinBetter’s Science Trio Rebalancing Moisture Treatment. It’s kind of more of a souped-up version of the Double Repair, but because my skin is traditionally oily but dry in the winter, I need something that’s highly moisturizing but still very lightweight.”
The Neck Cream
“This cream is pretty thick when you take it out of the container, but when it goes into the neck, it’s very lightweight. It’s very smooth. It has caffeine and amino acids, and so (1) it hydrates the skin, and (2) it makes it look better, I think, immediately. Then theoretically, with the amino acids, it helps to support the skin barrier. Because it’s colder, I started using it twice a day. I didn’t really use it in the summer at all just because I didn’t want a lot on the skin. I highly recommend it.”