In Focus: Dr. Susan Taylor, Rx for Brown Skin

Tuesday, February 3, 2009
I am always looking for the "perfect" skincare regime. I've talked about it before: One of the things that most aggravates me is the "one size fits all" approach to skincare and makeup--obviously different skin-tones require different treatments.

For years I've been consistently amazed that nobody has developed a powerful, scientifically-backed line of skincare specifically for South Asian skin. Which is why I was so intrigued to learn about Dr. Susan Taylor's line of products, Rx for Brown Skin. Released in 2007, the product line is the first-ever skin care line for women of color, scientifically formulated by a dermatologist. Although it is not only for South Asians, it was formulated with South Asians in mind.

Dr. Taylor's resume is impressive: Harvard-trained, featured as a medical expert in numerous magazines, newspapers and national news programs such as the Today Show and Good Morning America, Founding Director of the Skin of Color Center at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, board member of the American Academy of Dermatology, former president of the Skin of Color Society.

And while all of that is fine and good and great--what really matters is this: Her products work. I have been using her "Bright and Even" line of products for a month now and I am hooked. I hope this goes without saying but I would never, never recommend a product that I haven't personally tried and fallen in love with.

Here's my interview with Dr. Taylor. Like I said last week in introducing the "In Focus" feature, there are so many South Asian women doing so many amazing things and I am psyched to get to profile them--while Dr. Taylor isn't South Asian herself, she is creating amazing products for us nonetheless. Feel free to leaver her any questions in the comments section. Rx for Brown Skin is available through Dr. Taylor's website, as well as at Sephora. What is your ethnic background?

I am African American--I'm actually a mixture of African, Delaware Indian, and Scottish.

How did you become interested in skincare?

During my 4th year of Harvard Medical School, I took a dermatology rotation and fell in love with the field of dermatology. Then while practicing dermatology in Philadelphia, I specifically became interested in skincare since so many of my patients were not happy with the products that were on the market and which they were using.

Your website explains the need for a specific regimen for brown skin--but what exactly is it about brown skin that makes its needs different from white or other skin?

Most notably it is the melanin pigment in brown skin that makes it different from white skin and hence, the need for different skin care. On one hand, melanin can protect brown skin from premature aging from sun exposure as well as from certain types of skin cancers. On the other hand, melanin can lead to troubling dark marks, discolorations and uneven skin tone. So for example, an ordinary acne pimple that resolves in 1 week can leave a dark mark that can last 1 year.

Are there particular ingredients in the skincare/makeup we see at department stores that don't work on us? Meaning, are we buying promises that will work on white skin but really do nothing for us? What are the ingredients we should look out for?

Today, most skin care companies have placed a heavy emphasis on products that speak to the anti-aging needs of the white population. Brown skin ages differently from white skin. We are less likely to develop fine lines and wrinkles, red blood vessels and sunspots and hence are less likely to need those products.

As you note on your blog, hyperpigmentation is of enormous concern to brown skinned ladies. What products from your line do you recommend?

I recommend the Rx for Brown Skin Power Pack which consists of Absolute Radiance Intensive Exfoliating Serum (designed to be used twice a week at bedtime) and Naturally Flawless Advanced Botanical Brightener (which is designed to be used twice a day). Naturally Flawless works 24/7 and contains 7 proven botanical brighteners, 4 potent antioxidants and 2 powerful hydrators. Absolute Radiance consists of a potent blend of alpha hydroxy acids and has been clinically proven to decrease dark marks in just 30 days.

Next to hyperpigmentation, the other biggest beauty issue I hear about in my cohort is under eye circles. We have all tried everything from Hylexin to the newest drug-store roller-ball applicators promising to banish our circles--nothing works. I think that most of the dark circles on Indians are genetic--would you agree? If this is the case, is it even worth trying to treat or is covering-up the only way to go? Do you have products in your arsenal to combat undereye circles and if so, how do they differ from the products in other lines?

In many women with brown skin, undereye circles are due to the combination of poor circulation of blood in the vessels under the eyes as well as too much melanin pigment. Circles can be a very, very difficult problem to treat. My Bright and Even Eye Cream contains technology to lighten the melanin induced dark marks and improve circulation.

Can you describe your entrepreneurial process for us? How did you come up with your line and how did it become what it is today?

Having a clear vision of the products that I wanted to create, believing that what I was doing would make a difference, working incredibly hard, not being fearful of failing and being guided by a higher power have brought me to where I am today. My partner and I formulated a business plan, I worked with chemists on the East and West Coast to formulate the ingredients and we met with several retailers to carry the product line.

Take us through a day in your life, from when you wake up in the morning till when you go to sleep at night.

Up at 6 am, check the weather on TV and then turn on CNN, shower and dress by 6:45 am. By 7 am my mother has comes over to help. I get my 2 daughters up (ages 12 and 16), feed everyone breakfast, walk the dog and drive the girls to school for an 8:15 am drop-off. Stop by Starbucks for coffee and drive downtown to the office (Society Hill Dermatology). During the drive I discuss Rx for Brown Skin business with my partner and formulate a to-do-list for the day. I see between 35-60 patients from 9 until 4. In between patients, I check in with the Rx office for any late breaking developments. After patients, I spend 2 hours on paperwork, conference calls, Rx work etc. I am home around 7, my housekeeper fixes dinner (thank God for Avril), we eat dinner, I might have a soccer or gymnastics drop off or pick up, I read the newspapers (New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and Wall Street Journal) check homework, finish work and sometimes participate in a conference call. I watch the 10 pm news, read a few pages of my book club book, talk to my husband, say my prayers and then "fall into a coma". Before I know it, it is 6 am again.

I hear you. I have been known to try to reason with my alarm clock. What advice do you have for somebody trying to break into the skincare/makeup/beauty industry?

Don't let anyone tell you that you cannot do it and be successful!

What's next up for your line? Are you considering doing a line of makeup for brown skin?

Two spot treatments: one for acne and one for dark spots. A line of makeup for brown skin is definitely in the line up.

What are some of your favorite products from other lines? What's in your makeup bag?

For foundation and powder: MAC. For mascara: Dior Show. For blush and eyeshadow: Bobby Brown and Dee.

What's the number one mistake brown girls make in terms of their skincare regimes?

Not having a daily skin care regimen: cleanser, toner, moisturizer, sunscreen.

I have read many times that toner is an unnecessary step. Do you disagree?

In today's beauty landscape, toners have been formulated with ingredients which are beneficial to the health of the skin. They no longer contain alcohol or just witch hazel. So by applying a toner, you are adding another layer of ingredients (ie. antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, hydrators, oil absorbers etc...) to the skin.

In light of the current economy, do you have any suggestions on where to scrimp and where it is still worth splurging in terms of skincare?

Splurge on cleansers and moisturizers. Scrimp on sunscreen (an SPF 30 with UVA protection is essentially the same at any price point).

How have your children influenced your line? Your work?

I think universally, children are central to everything that we do. In regard to the line, my children have helped me test products that I was formulating and they offer their opinion on marketing and strategy. The oldest goes in as a mystery shopper to make sure the Sephora staff is up-to-date with the products.

What one talent do you not have that you wish you had?

I wish I could sing!

What are you reading right now, or best movie/book in recent memory?

I am reading "Eat, pray, love." The best book is "The Leadership Moment: Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for Us All," by Michael Usse.

If you are interested in more of the science behind the line, and it's formidable blend of ingredients click here. Dr. Taylor is currently offering $15.00 off a purchase of the two best-selling skin brighteners. Click here for more details.
TJG said...

I'm always on the look out for a tailored product for my skin too! Do you know if the lightening products contain hydroquinone?

Sheetal said...

Enjoying these interviews! I would love to hear more about the process of making skin care for us. Is it animal tested? People tested? Does inspiration for ingredients come from Asia?

Kyla said...

I got a free sample of a scrub from this line from Sephora and loved it, but forgot about it afterwards. Will check it out again!

shona said...

Yes yes yes! I need a "system", not hodgepodge, and I am looking for something new. Thanks!

meena said...

this line sounds promising--anyone know where we can get samples to try?

Anonymous said...

ohhh new products! How dare you tempt us in a recession?!? Haha.

Dhrumil said...

First off, totally respect female entrepreneurs and anyone creating products for all the beautiful brown women out there.

That beings said, your skin is your largest organ. Be careful of anything you put on it because it will immediately be absorbed by it and make it's way into your blood.

The cosmetics/makeup industry is highly un-regulated here in the US. Many of the ingredients found in products in the states are banned in Europe.

In may European countries the government pays for health care, so they are much more cautious of what they allow on the market. The more hazardous the products, the higher the health care costs.

A lot of the ingredients that are placed in products here in the US have little to do with what's healthy and more to do with what's cheap.

Check out to cross check the safety of what you're putting on your skin.

I want to see you all continuing to look healthy into your later years.

Big ups to Dr Susan Taylor. Deepa, thanks for the fantastic blog.

wanna be green said...

dhrumil--from what I gather on her site, Dr. Taylor's products are all natural and organic where possible, containing stuff like pomegrenate. Am I off? Are there product lines you recommend? My new years resolution is to be more green so I am chomping at the bit of your comment.

Dhrumil said...


First off, everyone has to do the best they can with what they have. I just want to be clear on this because I don't ever want to come off as attacking someone's business. That's not my goal at all.

You are much better off using Dr Taylor's products than Revlon and Maybelline. Her products do use a lot of natural and organic ingredients. For that I applaud her and her company.

One concern I have would be the "Protect and Defend Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF 15"

It has a few ingredients that are known to be pretty toxic and cancer related:



Alternative Sunscreens:

Let me be clear, these ingredients are found in many many other products. That's the challenge we face as consumers is that there just aren't that many options. But the more we educated ourselves, the more we can push the industry to find better (more natural) solutions.

The companies that I know personally and have researched are:

There are many other ones out there too. Most important, stay away from these companies:

Opal said...

I also got a free sample of a serum from this line and really liked it, vowed to get more, never did. To the posters above: Do you know specific information about this line, or information about cosmetics in general? How do you know so much about this stuff???

For Dr. Taylor: What would you suggest for "ashyness" around the mouth area, and cracked, blackish lips?

Bonita said...

She got me with the example of acne scarring--my zits leave scars now even when I don't pop them and I don't know what to do! Will try this product.

Hema said...

I am skeptical that a line for ALL "brown skin" would really be formulated for South Asians? Just as we have different needs from white skin, we have different needs from black skin too right?

Pooja said...

I've been waiting for something to address hyperpigmentation in non-white skin! I hope this is it...

Nimisha said...

i've always wondered about anti-aging products. we still need SOME anti-aging ingredients even though we have more melotonin etc right? is it just not the same ingredients found in mainstream skincare?

Tasneem said...

I have tried everything to get rid of my racoon eyes. I give up and nobody is gonna convince me that any product works. I wish people would stop lying to us! Great concealer: that's the way to go.

Shilon said...

You can get samples of the products at Sephora, either online or in the stores. The Rx Body Butter is paraben free, and most of the products are packed with botanical and natural ingredients. For hyperpigmentation, dark marks the Absolute Radiance and Naturally Flawless really work. I've been using them for about 3 months, and my skin is gorgeous - uneven skin tone has faded and my skin glows. Would highly recommend it...

Sheetal said...

I've really liked the Bright line of products but found the other one--can't remember the name--to leave a bit of a residue. Will vouch for the hyperpigmentation products for sure though, nothing else has been as effective and it's not too expensive.

Anonymous said...

I need a housekeeper. Then I can create a skin care line too! And I guess I need a Harvard degree too. I gotta make some money so I can buy some of this stuff.

Anonymous said...

I like your information about skin care

zebramix said...

Hello, my name is Jason. I am a black guy living in Stockholm Sweden. I am very curious to know where i can purchase the rx brown skin products in Europe, any information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.

Anonymous said...

This whole line RX for brown skin has been discontinued.

Anonymous said...

I ran across this blog and was interested in the product line. I also found the company website and it is still active. That means it was not discontinued as stated by the previous poster/posting. Here is the site I located:

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