There has been a lot of speculation on social media around the skin care brand, Urban Skin Rx — known to recognize, represent and advocate for accessible clinical skincare for diverse skin tones.
Questions surrounding the ownership of the brand have been circulating on the internet with some questioning whether or not the brand is Black-owned and if it was actually stolen from a Black woman. There have also been rumors that a black female chemist was forced out of her position within the company.
Adding to the drama, in January 2022, Urban Skin Rx was called out by social media influencer @longlegzk for leaving a comment which undermined cultural appropriation, according to Blavity. The brand immediately denied having anything to do with the comment, emphasizing that an outside agency was responsible for the insensitive response.
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“First of all honey we ain’t trying to steal nothing from you OK is that a problem that we could have braids,” commented the brand’s TikTok account under a user’s post. The influencer was quick to point out the discrepancy between the comment and the brand’s main target audience being people of color.
“Why would a brand that markets and caters and targets the urban population not understand the magnitude and impact of cultural appropriation,” the digital creator said in a TikTok video. The influencer pointed out that Urban Skin Rx was one of the first brands to collaborate with her on TikTok. She also expressed her disappointment as she appreciated their products. “I work with Urban Skin Rx, and I’m very confused right now,” she added.
To bring clarity to the tumultuous stories floating around on the internet, Founder and CEO, Rachel Roff, wants to debunk some of the myths behind the Urban Skin Rx brand and wants to bring clarity to what the brand is all about.
Is Urban Skin RX Black-owned?
Rachel Roff: As over 51% of the company is not Black-owned, we never communicate or position the company as Black-owned. However, we do have significant Black ownership with several members of our board, our Founding Medical Director, Dr. David Henderson, and our employees, all of who have an equity stake in the company.
Was it founded with a Black derm?
RR: Urban Skin Rx was not founded by a dermatologist. However, it is partially owned by Dr. David Henderson, an accomplished African-American MD who has been with the company since 2007, a year after I started our Medical Spa Urban Skin Solutions, and has also been with the company since the beginning of the Urban Skin Rx brand of clinical skincare solutions when it was founded in 2010.
Is there a reason we haven’t heard from him?
RR: Dr. Henderson is an internist, and his background was important for the 14 years that we grew the medical spa. His involvement allowed us to offer laser treatments, develop a medical weight loss program, and have an onsite pharmacy. His background and experience are less relevant as the company has transitioned into skincare only and now he is a silent partner.
Is it true that the Black woman chemist, who played an integral part in the formulations, was forced out?
RR: Unfortunately, that rumor has no truth to it, and we are unsure where it originated. Like all skincare companies, we work with outside companies and labs to help finalize our formulations.
People have said that you stole the business from a black woman who started the company with you. Can you speak to that?
RR: I have also heard and seen these rumors online and would love to set the record straight and discuss the history of the company as it is something of which I am really proud. I founded Urban Skin Solutions Medspa in 2006.
According to NC law, all medspas that offer medical services must have partial ownership by a physician. So in 2007, I was thrilled when Dr. Henderson became my partner and received a minority stake in the brand. In 2010, I launched Urban Skin Rx and Dr. Henderson also had a minority stake in this brand as we had a pharmacy at the medspa that made prescription versions of the product line.
In 2013, I started personally treating a female client, who proposed to me that she could help take my brand to another level with the celebrity and PR relationships she had. I had already seen the impact that celebrity clients had on growing my brand, so I decided to move forward. We were partners for a little less than 24 months from 2014 to 2016. She breached her contract severely and did not deliver on her contractually obligated deliverables. We parted ways and, under the advice of her attorney and the evidence brought forward, she signed an agreement to end the partnership and I was given back her minority share stake in the brand.
I continued to work hard, and the brand grew significantly after that. Two years later, in 2018, I launched at Target. Since the brand’s growth and success, we have seen false negative narratives shared about both me and my brand as it relates to the treatment of Black women. However, this is simply NOT true and NOT at all what I represent and who I am.
It goes against my core beliefs and values, as my mission has always been to contribute to an inclusive and equitable world, especially for the Black community and Black women. Creating an equitable and inclusive corporate team is one of the most important missions of Urban Skin Rx. Assuring that all team members are paid equally regardless of representation in senior-level positions within the business, as the communities we serve are equally important in ensuring that all team members are paid equally regardless of race, age, or sex.
Why the interest in Black skin, specifically?
RR: My initial interest in clinical skincare wasn’t focused on any particular skin tone. My journey started with my own trials and tribulations with problem skin. I had severe acne growing up and a nevus mole on the side of my face, which led to extreme bullying growing up. These experiences are what led to my desire to help others with their skin concerns. I will do my best to make as large of an impact as possible to help people feel less self-conscious about their skin.
However, during my time as an aesthetic student as well as my first job as an aesthetician and laser tech, I discovered that there were huge disparities in my local community (Charlotte, NC) within the aesthetics and dermatology fields, starting with a lack of offerings of services and products for tan and darker skin. So I decided to open Urban Skin Solutions Medical Spa and Laser Center in 2006 with the mission to offer safe and effective treatments that were inclusive of all skin tones. However, we did something very different than our competitors in the Charlotte area.
We made it clear that we offered safe and effective skin and laser treatments that included tanned and deeper skin tones and, due to the fact that no one else was advertising this, within 6-12 months, our customer base consisted of mostly Black women.
As a founder with limited resources focused on growing this business, I was ecstatic. One, because I actually had a busy, booming business, which is every entrepreneur’s dream, but I was also helping to improve a horrific disparity regarding treating skin of color in the skin and aesthetics industry of Charlotte.
Many of my closest friends and family members have skin of color, and being able to help them with their lifelong struggles was gold to me. I never once planned on creating a skincare line. My long-term goal was to franchise my medical spa, but when I did finally create Urban Skin Rx, it was never with the hope of being a huge retail brand.
The Urban Skin Rx product line came about strictly to further provide solutions for the clients I was seeing in my medical spa being treated by myself and my team of aestheticians. The best results come not only from professional treatments but also from using the right ingredients on your skin daily.
Owning a global public retail distributed brand, where I am now somewhat of a public figure, is much more complicated than simply running a medical spa where each client gets to know me personally, see our diverse team, and experience our company’s mission and values in a person. I know that. Regardless of the amazing work we do to support inclusivity or the Black community, it is impossible for all clients to see the authenticity and genuineness of our mission, and I have to accept that not everyone will agree with or support a majority non-Black owned company specializing in skin care for deeper skin tones whose customers are mostly Black women. But my stance is and will always be that I refuse to ignore injustice or disparity in society just because it doesn’t directly affect me.
I opened this business at 24 years old, never thinking it would become what it is today, and although the financial stability and opportunities the success of the brand has brought me are not to be minimized, I promise you that wasn’t for one moment what made me start this company nor what keeps me showing up to work every day. What keeps me showing up is the thousands of truly amazing reviews and testimonies about how life-changing our formulas really are.
Can you explain the TikTok comment mishap?
At the time, we were using an agency to manage all aspects of our TikTok account, from creating content, postings on TikTok, community management, as well as advertising. While we could never prove it, we believe someone on their team made the comment while on our account. The influencer that the offensive comment was made to is actually an influencer we have worked with for over a year prior to working with the 3rd party agency.
Are you still using that outside agency?
RR: No. They were let go immediately.
Another critique is the tone with which the brand page responds to its critics—do you see anything wrong with the confrontational approach often taken?
RR: Transparently, the defensive comments come from me. I am active on our social media account and at times I do everything from answering comments and questions to doing social listening. This is how I keep a close eye on our brand and what is and isn’t important or resonating with our consumers and followers. Although most of the comments and reviews on social media are very positive, the ones that are negative, especially the ones that are targeted at me, are very hurtful and I take them very personally.
Most of the accusations are completely false rumors that have ignited a lot of emotions in me. It is very hard to read these comments without wanting to clear my name and set the record straight. But I agree that, unfortunately, these comments have come across in a defensive or confrontational tone.
On a personal level, it is so frustrating to see these rumors spread and people believe them without any proof. However, I fully understand that my defensive or confrontational approach isn’t professional, especially from our business page.
What percentage of USRX employees are Black?
RR: 53% of Urban Skin Rx employees are Black, of whom 46% are managers, 33% are C-Suite, and 40% are board of directors.