The Truth About Celebrity Skincare Lines, According to a Dermatologist


Celebrity-created skincare lines seem to be all the rage in the beauty industry as of late. Starting with the Fenty Skin rollout by Rihanna, then Pharrell's Humanrace, and Jennifer Lopez's JLo Beauty, it seems like skincare is every major celebrity's next move. Beyond the influence of their star power and their seemingly flawless skin, you can’t help but wonder if these skincare lines are actually packed with useful ingredients. Celebrities have access to renowned dermatologists, estheticians, products, and treatments that help them achieve youthful, supple-looking skin that rightfully leaves consumers wary of the skincare lines they debut. 

We tapped New York City board-certified dermatologist Camille Howard-Verovic, D.O., FAAD, also known as DermBeautyDoc, to provide her unfiltered thoughts on the ingredients and efficacy of some of the latest celebrity skincare brands. When analyzing celebrity skincare lines, Howard’s rule of thumb is to not only focus on the ingredient list but also to look to see if they partnered with an expert to create the line, “To sell a product, you often need to have some type of presence, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” she says. “Yet, you still need a great ingredient story that makes sense. With skincare, it becomes a little bit problematic if we're just using a face to sell a product and not really thinking about effectiveness.” Ahead, Howard shares everything you need to know about Fenty Skin, Humanrace, and JLo Beauty.

Meet the Expert

  • Camille Howard-Verovic, D.O., FAAD, also known as DermBeautyDoc, is a New York City board-certified dermatologist.

Fenty Skin

The Products: Total Cleans'r Makeup Removing Cleanser ($26), Fat Water Pore-Refining Toner Serum ($30), Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer SPF 30 ($38), Instant Reset Overnight Recovery Gel Cream ($42), Flash Nap Instant Revival Eye Gel Cream ($34)

Howard's Star Product: Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen ($38)

There was a large discussion around fragrance in regards to the Fenty Skin products. What are your thoughts on fragrance and skincare?

"Everyone kind of overreacted with the fragrance. There is something called allergic contact dermatitis, and it usually occurs when one's skin has an allergic reaction because of a particular compound. Anything can cause allergic contact dermatitis to any one individual—for instance, poison ivy. But many people don't have allergic contact dermatitis, and people are okay with fragrances and other contacts. So I would never say skincare is bad because it has fragrance in it. If you have a known history of allergic contact dermatitis or have skin sensitivity, then perhaps you should stay away from products with fragrance. The biggest thing is not to be fearful of fragrance. It’s what works for you."

Fenty's Fat Water Toner Serum contains witch hazel. What are your thoughts on witch hazel in skincare?

"I am a big believer in the skin being dynamic. It's impossible to say one particular thing is bad for every single person. The demonizing of one ingredient is something in the skincare world we need to stay away from—there are so many other factors that go into product formulation. Toner is interesting; you don't need it, but it’s nice to have. Toner can be a good chemical exfoliant in your routine. So, maybe you'd like a gentle chemical exfoliant, like glycolic acid or salicylic acid, or lactic acid. Some toners are good for hydrating, like having a little extra layer of hydration before you put on something more occlusive." 

Fenty Skin includes fruit-based ingredients like Barbados cherry, ginkgo biloba, and kalahari melon. What are your thoughts about food-derived ingredients in skincare? 

"There are two buckets. One bucket is proven skincare ingredients, meaning you can find an abundance of literature documenting its benefits. If you type it into PubMed, you can find so much literature suggesting and proving it's great to use in skincare. Then you have something called the ingredient story, and that's the other bucket. There you have all these obscure ingredients without a ton of support—but the packaging looks good, and it has a story behind it. Usually, products tend to have proven ingredients mixed with ingredient stories. In medicine, we don't want to look at one story or one clinical study. In order for us to say something is effective, it has to be evidence-based. Take the ingredient story items with a grain of salt, but that doesn't mean they're not effective."

Fenty Skin has only three products in its lineup. Are three products enough for a skincare routine?

"I love simplicity. I definitely think we've moved away from simplicity and into complexity when it comes to skincare, and that can be more detrimental than beneficial. You don't need so many things; only the effective ingredients to treat your specific skin type and texture. But, you don't need 20 skincare products to achieve hydration or cleansing."

SPF, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid are three highly-recommended ingredients in skincare. Can you share your thoughts on the big three? 

"SPF, love it and need to have it during the summer, spring, winter, and fall. Inside and outside. It's something you should incorporate into your routine, just as you wash your face in the morning. Hyaluronic acid is a nice ingredient. I feel like it's a little overused in every[day] skincare, but it helps trap in the water to the skin. Niacinamide is a wonderful compound because it's anti-inflammatory. It helps to brighten the skin a little bit, and you can get it in so many different vehicles—creams, moisturizer, toner, wash."

JLo Beauty

The Products: That JLo Glow Serum ($79), That Blockbuster Nonstop Hydrating Cream ($58), That Hit Single Gel Cream Cleanser ($38), That Star Filter Complexion Booster ($39), That Fresh Take Eye Cream ($48), That Big Screen Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Moisturizer ($54), That Limitless Glow Sheet Mask ($48) 

Howard's Star Product: That JLo Glow Serum ($79)

JLO Beauty erupted on the internet during its launch because olive oil is its star ingredient. The site totes it as JLo Beauty Olive Complex, our antioxidant-rich, 4-part olive blend of squalane, fermented oil, extra virgin oil, and leaf extract. What are your thoughts on using fermented oil and olive oil on the skin? 

"There are some sparse studies on the extract of olive oil and its anti-inflammatory properties. She has green tea, which is a great antioxidant. There are cannabis extracts and peptides. When she said olive oil, it reminded everyone of the oil we all have in our kitchen, but it’s a part of her ingredient story. She probably had some scientists and formulators on her team that can extract specific compounds from this oil that they need to create the skincare products."

This line consists of about eight products, including an eye cream and face mask. Are eye creams necessary in a skincare routine? What about face masks?  

"Eye cream is up for debate. Sometimes they're more of a marketing gimmick. If someone has sensitive eyes, I will recommend a hypoallergenic cream that is very gentle around the eyes. Your moisturizer can do the same thing. Masking depends on what your skincare concerns are. A mask can be good for some people who want to diminish redness, or with dry or dehydrated skin."

JLo Beauty’s Complexion Booster consists of vitamin E, a vitamin I feel has been thrown around a lot on the internet when it comes to skincare. So what exactly does vitamin E do for the skin? 

"Vitamin E for the skin really is about its antioxidant benefits. So when you think about antioxidants, you think about your vitamin E and green tea extracts. That’s the same line of thinking for anti-inflammation. Vitamin E in PubMed has enough research backing it. It is a powerful antioxidant."


The Products: Rice Powder Cleanser ($32), Lotus Enzyme Exfoliator ($46), and Humidifying Cream, ($48).

Howard's Star Product: Lotus Enzyme Exfoliator ($46) and Humidifying Cream ($48).

Humanrace’s cleanser has rice particles in it, what are your thoughts on this cleanser? 

"The rice powder cleanser is interesting—it's not necessarily a mechanical exfoliator because the particles are very fine. The Korean beauty industry has been using rice powder cleansers for a very long time. You can also get hydroxy acids from fruit, and he had that in his ingredients. A lot of the fruit enzymes can also give you a very mild chemical exfoliation. You can tell he worked with a dermatologist because the two to three times per week usage recommendation is the same usage we follow in the office." 

The line also packs some interesting ingredients like snow mushroom and squalene. What can you tell us about those? 

"A quick PubMed search of snow mushroom shows a lot of the studies are from journals of molecular studies, so they're looking at the production, obstruction, and activity of it. But I don't see any human studies. It has a bioactive component, and it shows it has some antioxidants and anti-aging components. Squalene is naturally in your skin, but it's an organic compound like a lipid. It’s already produced by your glands, and I found that skincare companies started utilizing it to help with moisturizing your skin and keeping it nice and nourished."

The last step is the humidifying cream that is supposed to mimic the effect of a humid environment on the skin. I'm most interested to know what role humidity plays on the skin. 

"It's actually really important. I have humidifiers all over and having a baseline humidity level in your environment is good for your skin. This also allows your skincare to work better. It was clever naming it a humidifying cream. He does have some good ingredients in the cream like glycerin. That’s a great humectant."

Final Thoughts

Howard's preferred line out of the three is Pharrell’s Humanrace because it was well-researched, and a dermatologist assisted in creating the line. She believes Humanrace’s focus is to give consumers more of a glow and healthy skin tone. Howard thinks JLO Beauty’s focus is more towards anti-aging, hydration, and nourishment. For her, Fenty Skin has an elegant SPF. 

The most important takeaway here is no skincare line fits all, and we need to choose our products based on our individual needs. There’s a common misconception in the beauty industry that products and product lines have miracle ingredients that will magically cure your skin concerns. "I'm here to tell everyone that does not exist. There is no miracle product," she says, "What works for somebody else may not work for you, and what works for you may not work for someone else."

According to Howard, skin is dynamic and is always moving from a molecular standpoint. Howard explains that our skin cells move from the bottom layers to the top and slough off; therefore, there is no one month that we’re replicating the same conditions of the previous month, which is why we need to pay attention to our skin. Through marketing, we’re often conditioned to believe we need the whole line to get the best results. Howard says, "Listen to your budget and try to get the most bang for your buck in your individual skincare concerns. You don't have to use everything from one line. You can choose products from multiple lines and mix high-end and drugstore products."

Bottom line: It’s important to do your research on ingredients, identify your skin concerns, and choose products that align with your needs. If you’re thinking about trying these celebrity skincare lines, there's no need to break the bank. Find the product(s) that you believe will leave your skin happy, healthy, and hydrated.

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