Influencer Sean Garrette is breaking barriers for Black men in skin care

One look at Sean Garrette’s skin, and there’s no questioning why Rihanna chose him to be the sole Fenty Skin ambassador. Glass-like, poreless and baby soft are just a few of the descriptors that come to mind. But, there’s more to the esthetician-turned-influencer than what he calls “doll skin.” Garrette is breaking barriers in the skin-care world, specifically for Black men, at a time when diversity and inclusivity are finally at the forefront of conversations among brands and the beauty community overall.   

A New York transplant via Maryland, Garrette is no stranger to beauty and skin care; he credits his grandmother’s vanity of creams, lotions and fragrances for kickstarting his passion. “After suffering from adult acne when I turned 21, I found my true love and obsession with skin care,” he said. Upon resolving his own skin issues, he felt the motivation to help others struggling with skin concerns. “I’ve been treating clients with inflammatory skin conditions like acne and hyperpigmentation for the last three years,” he said. He’s also been educating his followers across platforms, from Instagram (76,000 followers) to TikTok (8,000).

Breaking barriers
In 2020, the beauty industry — and the rest of the world — got a wake-up call as consumers demanded more inclusivity. Suddenly under a microscope, brands and conglomerates across categories scrambled to embrace diversity. “Oftentimes Black people, especially Black men, are forgotten about within the skin care industry. Fenty Skin was really the first big brand that included us, and Rihanna set the tone with how to do representation here,” he said. While makeup brands have slowly offered more representation, the skin-care industry has been more hesitant to go there. Garrette has been working to change the environment. “I’d like to think people who follow me know me for being authentic and inclusive, when it comes to skin,” he said. 

The category finally picked up some steam in July 2020, when Rihanna launched her first official campaign for Fenty Skin featuring familiar Black male figures like A$AP Rocky and Lil Nas X, along with a diverse group of women. Garrette was subsequently named the official brand ambassador.

His skin-care philosophy
Garrette’s skin-care philosophy is that it should be effective, enjoyable and as uncomplicated as possible. But for many people, that’s not easily achievable, considering the vast number of products — all with long ingredients lists — on the market. “As an esthetician, I always preach to my clients about educating themselves on their unique skin, and keeping their routine focused on products and ingredients that target their specific issues and concerns,” he said. He added that products need to be safe and that brands need to be transparent in how they speak to the consumer. “[Skin care] is about people’s health, and mental health, as much as it is about beauty. So I take it very seriously,” he said.

According to Garrette, skin tone is a major factor in getting skin-care right. As a Black man, he’s passionate about educating people with darker skin tones about protecting and caring for their skin, the right way. “There are a lot of misconceptions about how to treat dark skin tones, and I love that social media allows for a bigger platform to educate on this topic, in particular,” he said. Taking advantage of that opportunity is a mission that he shares with Fenty Skin, which led him to work with the brand. 

A Rihanna-approved approach
“As Fenty Skin Ambassador, I’m a global educator for the brand through dynamic social content that explores the diverse aspects of skin care: [highlighting] the unique formulas and the versatility of the globally sourced ingredients, and really just supporting everyone in their skin-care journeys,” Garrette said. 

He said that, in addition to respecting the artist-turned-entrepreneur, he found himself intrigued by Rihanna’s approach to skin care and product formulation. “It was a no-brainer to join her in this mission of delivering healthy, beautiful skin to all — it was already what I preached to my clients and followers,” he said.

Formula bests ingredients, always
True innovation comes from the right formulation, Garrette said; ingredients need to work together to ensure a product delivers on its claims. “When reviewing new products I’m always looking at how the product can benefit me or my audience, and if the product or brand is offering anything new and exciting to the market,” Garrette said. And ingredients are just the tip of the iceberg. “Ingredients give you a glimpse into what the product does and what it offers, but the formula is truly key,” he said.

His No. 1 skin-care tip
No skin-care routine is universal — but Garrette’s top recommendation for anyone is to focus on protection. “It’s so important that people know that SPF is not just for the summer, or only when you’re at the pool or the beach, or just for people with fair skin tone,” he said. “Whether you have dark skin or light skin, whether you’re indoors or outdoors, whether it’s raining or sunny — everyone needs to wear sunscreen, every single day.” 

As for what’s next, Garrette said he’ll continue to focus on making skin care accessible and approachable to those who are often overlooked by the industry, particularly Black men. And he hopes to encourage others to speak up about skin care by sharing their experiences and their knowledge. 

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