It’s reasonable to assume that celebrities don’t understand real skin struggles. We’re talking about a group that has L.A.’s best dermatologists dropping by for house calls, £50,000 LED beds installed in their glam rooms, and free samples of luxury skincare delivered to their doorstep daily.

But Rihanna wants people to know that breakouts and bad-skin days happen to everyone — even the highest-paid female musician in the world. For the launch of her new venture, Fenty Skin, the brand founder got real about her tumultuous relationship with her complexion. “Whether it’s starting with acne when I was a teenager, and then the acne treatments that led me to really blotchy skin and stripped my skin of all the good stuff that I already had in it, it was a tough journey to get it back here,” she told a small group of beauty editors during a virtual press conference yesterday.

Another hard lesson Rihanna learned on her long skin-care journey? The importance of sun protection and the misconceptions she believed growing up under the sun in Barbados. “You always thought that SPF was a tourist thing,” she said. “I learned the hard way, because over time the sun wasn’t that kind to my skin. I started to have hyperpigmentation in certain areas.” Rihanna admitted that she also held on to the long-standing belief that Black people don’t need to wear SPF, a myth she hopes to debunk with this expansion into skincare. “As a woman of colour, I am here to say, that’s a lie. We need it,” she says.

Rihanna’s personal experience with her skin inspired the formulations for her own line of products launching this week: Fenty Skin Total Cleans’r Remove-It-All Cleanser, Fat Water Pore-Refining Toner Serum, and Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen. From creating a sunscreen that doesn’t leave a white cast on skin — a common issue with most formulas on the market — to featuring native ingredients like Barbados cherry, every aspect of the line is deeply intentional and meaningful to the star.

Take the Barbados cherry, also called the Bajan cherry: While it serves as a brightening agent in the toner-serum, for Rihanna, it represents her childhood and cultural roots. “That’s something that I grew up stealing from neighbours’ trees,” she recalls. “My mom’s cousin had a Bajan cherry tree in her backyard. We used to run past the dogs to get to them… I just loved them. I started to find out the benefits [as] I got older.”

The founder has come to terms with the fact that her skin-care journey is a continuous one, and even with an established routine, there’s always the potential for unpredictable challenges — like, say, a global pandemic. “It was rough at first,” Rihanna says, referring to her time in quarantine. “[My skin] wasn’t used to being at home for that long. After a while, being consistent [with] my skin-care routine every day… My skin has improved tremendously.” 

Rihanna hopes that in sharing her skin struggles, others are encouraged in knowing they’re not alone. “It just means you’re human. I’ve had different issues with skincare at different points in my life,” she says. “You have to figure it out, and it’s difficult to navigate and get a grasp on what’s right for you.” That insight inspired her to launch with a simple routine of three products in a market that’s crowded and overwhelming. “I hate when I get to the counter, and I’m just like, ‘What does the platinum one mean? Does that mean it’s better?’ It’s so confusing. There’s so much out there. My goal is to keep this really simple and effective.”

Ultimately, Rihanna aimed to create an uncomplicated lineup that helps everyone flex their best skin and furthers her mission toward greater representation and inclusivity in the industry — even though she says that’s a given with anything she launches, and not a box she’s looking to check. “When we put out foundation as our first beauty product, it was something that I didn’t realise would impact the beauty industry in the way that it did, because it was so natural for me to go with that,” Rihanna says. “It hasn’t changed with anything that I do, whether it’s clothing, lingerie, — or skincare. My goal is always to include all women.”

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