If there was ever a man who embodied agelessness and beauty, it would be Pharrell Williams. Independent of his ambiguous aging process, people have long coveted his secrets. How does he do it? How does he appear so radiant after all these years? Look up old interviews and you’ll find that Pharrell has long had a passion for preserving his skin (raise your hand if you're washing your face with cold water because of him). So it’s certainly overdue that Pharrell entered the beauty industry (especially considering the number of celebrities that have launched brands in recent years). Last month, he quietly launched his skincare brand Humanrace, causing widespread excitement and expectation throughout the industry. Naturally, it sold out immediately. I was one of the lucky few to get my hands on the entire three-piece set and as a longtime skincare lover, I had to see how it measured up.
Humanrace is one of several "gender-neutral" skincare brands that have emerged in recent years, the common mission being to make skincare accessible to everyone. Pharrell was likely inspired by his 20-year relationship with his dermatologist, Dr. Elena Jones, who was brought on to consult the brand. “I was a part of the very early process of setting the goals for the formulas,” Dr. Jones tells me. They came up with a three-step, three-minute facial. It includes a cleanser, an exfoliant, and a moisturizer. “We wanted to make sure we made a simple routine that could be followed morning and night,” Dr. Jones adds. “It was important for us to highlight three essential steps for skin health. These are also a part of Pharrell’s daily routine. Lastly, we used clean and effective ingredients that were safe for all skin types."
It’s Pharrell’s longtime interest in skincare that makes Humanrace stand out among celebrity brands. “When he first came into my office 20 years ago, Pharrell was a skincare novice,” says Dr. Jones. “He was very curious and wanted to know the science behind everything. He has also learned a lot. He’s definitely becoming an expert around his favorite ingredients like glycolic acid, and what these ingredients do for your skin”. Knowing this, Humanrace seems positioned to be more than just another celebrity beauty brand.
One thing that sets Humanrace apart is its conscious efforts in sustainability, with a focus on reusable and refillable packaging. The containers have an almost clinical appearance and were inspired by Pharrell’s love of Japanese culture, according to a recent skincare tutorial. The use of primary green does give a rather neutral feel. You might decide to keep the containers even if you decide not to refill them; they’d make beautiful jewelry boxes.
Packaging aside, everyone wants to know how the products work. Keep reading for my first impressions of Humanrace’s three-minute facial routine.
Step One: Rice Powder Cleanser, $32
This is a powder cleanser that emulsifies into a light foam when mixed with water. It’s formulated with fruit AHAs to gently exfoliate and remove excess oil. It also dissolves makeup. Rice powder is most known for its oil-absorbing properties. The powdered texture may have been the best way to deliver the benefits of this ingredient. Don't be intimidated—it's not as messy as you might think. Just sprinkle some of the powder into your hand, then add water. It feels good upon application, although it can turn a bit chalky if left on too long. On the other hand, it could be worn as a one-minute mask. It rinses clean without any residue and left my skin feeling clean and hydrated. This is a standard cleanser that uses nice active ingredients. It deep cleanses but doesn't address more problematic issues, such as acne for example. It's nothing too fancy, but I like it. The long term results remain to be seen.
Step Two: Lotus Enzyme Exfoliator, $46
Exfoliation is by far my favorite skincare step. The Lotus Enzyme Exfoliator is a rinse-off formula that contains 8% glycolic acid. According to the brand, it also contains physical exfoliants, but it's not super noticeable in this texture. (This may mean they've avoided potentially harmful scrubbing agents used in many physical exfoliants.) It’s a smooth cream that tingles very slightly once rubbed in; I’ve been leaving it on for one minute before rinsing. Right off, my skin appeared to be smoother and more toned. I can foresee this product leading to good results, especially if your skin responds well to glycolic acid products like mine does. It's best when applied to damp skin and can be used two to three times weekly. I’m enjoying this product so far and I’m in love with the texture; it’s a very satisfying way to exfoliate.
Step Three: Humidifying Cream, $48
Pharrell has stated that he wanted to mimic the effects of a humid environment on the skin with this moisturizer. It's a rich cream that almost looks whipped, and made with snow mushroom and squalane to lock in moisture. Unlike other moisturizing face creams, it isn’t heavy or greasy at all. My skin looked and felt dewy for hours. As far as moisturizers go, this one works well. I wish the container included a spatula, otherwise, you might be tempted to use your fingers. It may also be a bit too thick to some skin types, if you're oily or combination. For me, it tends to flake up when it gets in my facial hair. Because of this, it's not yet a holy grail moisturizer, at least for me, but it's a good start.
It’s no secret that Humanrace is on the less affordable end of the spectrum. With this considered, this may not be the first choice for someone looking for long term options. Skincare enthusiasts might be less inclined to invest in the complete set. Some may pick and choose their favorites. The Lotus Enzyme Exfoliator is a standout for me. I applaud their stance as a gender-neutral brand. I like their initial roster of active ingredients. Pharrell is introducing these anti-aging staples to his audience. I think that’s pretty cool. For the price, I think I will wait to see how the brand develops; I do believe it has a lot of potential. I’m sure we'll all be eagerly waiting for what comes next.
Tang SC, Yang JH. Dual Effects of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids on the Skin. Molecules. 2018 Apr 10;23(4):863. doi: 10.3390/molecules23040863.