Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
What skincare myths did you grow up believing as a Black woman? Was it that vaseline could be used for anything? That Black people don’t need sunscreen (which is a dangerous, bold-faced lie, btw)? Whatever unintentional lies informed your childhood, you’re likely not alone. Up until recent years, disparities in the beauty industry have done a great job at perpetuating the misconceptions and misunderstandings passed down to us by our elders. That’s because many products on the market didn’t do the best job at addressing the nuanced challenges we face with our skin.
Even with recent innovations for Black folx across beauty and skin care, Black consumers are still three times more likely to be dissatisfied with their options for hair care, skin care, and makeup according to a 2022 report from McKinsey & Company. Because of this, Black consumers prefer Black beauty brands and are 2.2 times as likely to trust that their products will work best for them, the report shares.
Thank goodness for today’s brands that are doing the work, and thank goodness for hindsight — sometimes it truly is 2020. Below, Team Unbothered shares the biggest skin care myths we grew up believing, and the grand awakenings that soon (and thankfully) followed. 


“The one thing I was told about dry skin as a child was put on some lotion, vaseline, or coco butter and you’ll be fine. Wrong! As I got older, I realized everyone’s skin type is different and some products won’t work for all. You have to be very particular with the kinds of products you use, especially when dealing with eczema, so it was important for me to do my own research on what works for my skin and not follow trends or old traditions.” — Sandy Pierre, Branded Execution Manager
“When I was 13, I felt like shaving my legs was the ultimate sign of growing up. In fact, I’d studied the topic for weeks, reading online discussion boards about which way to shave, what products to use, etc. But when the day finally came, I received the worst advice possible. My mother handed me a razor and told me dry shaving was completely normal.  DRY. SHAVING? While I’m sure she meant no harm, dry shaving caused my skin to itch like CRAZY. Obviously, I didn’t know any better as a child. So each week I would go back to the bathroom and dry shave again… and again… and again. I really thought that shaving was supposed to be painful.  It would be a few weeks before I finally realized water and shaving cream was the answer. Now at 25, I have my cream, exfoliant, and (most importantly) water on deck. I’m happy to say that I now treat shaving like a mini spa day for my body.” — Jessika Hardy, Associate Producer
“If you ask my mother, I use far too many skin care products. Other than Vaseline for my lips and cocoa butter for my elbows and knees, she stands firm in the belief that skin care should remain simple and natural. Her one surefire tip: open pores with hot steam, cleanse, then close pores and awaken your skin with ice cold water. Growing up, I had other ideas and we would battle over my use of thick makeup to cover my acne, my use of toothpaste to dry out spots, and whether shaving my legs would make the hairs grow back ten times thicker. Now I’m grown, a lover of all things skin care, and I do take my mum’s less-is-more approach to skin (although she doesn’t believe me, ha!). I credit my skin’s health to only choosing products I need and paying close attention to the ingredients. I also steam my skin weekly and splash my face with cold water daily — because all these years later, turns out it works!” — L’Oréal Blackett, UK Editor
“I remember slathering sunscreen all over me, just like the kids in my class did, and my mom stopping me. She’d say, ‘Black people don’t need sunscreen!’ while taking away the bottle. I grew up believing that somehow Black folks were immune to the UV rays of the sun (maybe my mom was just leaning into the idea that we all have super powers?) Now I know that, just like everybody else, the best skin care tip is to not forget your sunscreen. My mom might have superpowers, though, because even without using SPF her whole life, her Black still hasn’t cracked. But just in case, I’m going to stick to my trusty SPF 50! — Kathleen Newman-Bremang, Deputy Director, Global
“My mom taught me about the importance of all things skin care as I neared my preteen years, from cleansing to moisturizing and everything in between. She also taught me about the benefits of routine exfoliation, but if I could go back in time, I’d probably change how I did it. Back then, I had a committed relationship with your standard facial scrub — you know, the kind with the large exfoliating grains and crystals, which I’ve since learned from professional dermatologists can be a bit abrasive on the skin. Facial scrubs have come a long way, and if you prefer them, there are much gentler versions on the market nowadays. But now being in my 30s, I’ve traded my scrubs for weekly BHA/AHA masks and my trusty silicone facial cleansing brush. Using those in combination with my favorite creams and serums has made my skin the most radiant and hydrated it’s ever been.” — Stephanie Long, Deputy Director, Enterprise