You've probably heard the news by now that Rihanna's highly anticipated Fenty Skin made its big debut last month. Team Who What Wear has been tapped into all the news updates ever since early rumors started swirling about more than a year ago, but it wasn't until July of this year that the brand became Instagram-official and started dispatching teaser after teaser. Not only did our team's Slack channel go crazy for this news, but I was also personally so excited at the prospect of skincare from the queen herself.
Now, I'm no stranger to the trend of celebrities slapping their names on skincare, makeup, and haircare lines. It happens all the time, and it's not always good. But after seeing successful launches from celebs such as Tracee Ellis Ross, Miranda Kerr, and more, I'm not at all jaded on the topic. Not to mention that as a die-hard Fenty Beauty fan, I just knew Rihanna wouldn't bring subpar skincare products to the table.
You can imagine my dismay when leading up to launch day, I started seeing less-than-favorable reviews of the brand's first three products: Total Cleans'r Remove It All Cleanser ($25), Fat Water Pore-Refining Toner Serum ($28), and Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer ($35). I saw influencer after influencer calling out the ingredients, bashing the scent, and generally piling on in ways I hardly could have expected. Even though I'm always fully ready to give Rihanna the benefit of the doubt (even when it comes to the album we've all been waiting on for years—give it to us, sis!), I knew I had to get some expert advice before making any judgments. So I flipped through my Rolodex of experts and landed on two badass female derms to get their honest opinions on all things Fenty Skin.
Here to answer my burning questions are board-certified dermatologists Jenny Liu, MD, FAAD, assistant professor for the department of dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School, and Sheila Farhang, MD, founder of Avant Dermatology and Aesthetics. Read on for their expert opinions, and keep scrolling to see what our beauty editors think too.
What are your thoughts on celebrities launching skincare lines? In your experience, are they well-formulated?
JL: I have no strong opinion. However, in my opinion, products are rarely formed with dermatologists on the team. That would be my only concern.
SF: I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all answer. I think some celebrities really put thought into their brands and focus on ingredients, formulation, production, distribution, while others shortcut for speed, profit, and mass production. People on the internet are huge critics, so celebrities have a lot of pressure to do it right. The one bad thing is skincare isn’t really regulated, so claims can be made without any research.
One of the biggest criticisms of Fenty Skin so far has to do with the products having fragrance in them. Can you outline the most common dangers associated with scent or fragrance in skincare products and any common reactions that can occur?
JL: Fragrance is one of the most common culprits for allergic contact dermatitis, especially for those with sensitive skin. Eczema-like rashes can develop and often do not go away despite treatment due to the exposure. It takes only one exposure every three weeks to keep the reaction going.
SF: Okay, people are rough on RiRi about this one. Yes, as dermatologists, we generally recommend fragrance-free products because many people (including myself) who have sensitive skin get increased irritation or rashes from products with fragrance. We usually recommend to keep it out so we are safe from skin irritation across the board. However, not everyone’s skin is sensitive to fragrance. Overall, I think fragrance just limits the number of people who can use it. I think it would be smart of [Rihanna] to create an extension of her line for those with sensitive skin.
Another big criticism is that the Fat Water Toner Serum contains witch hazel as an ingredient. What are the risks associated with including witch hazel in a skincare product? What are the benefits?
JL: Witch hazel is a common ingredient found in astringents and toners. It can cause burning, contact dermatitis, redness, and irritation of the skin. It does have anti-inflammatory effects, which may be helpful in treating bites, stings, and acne.
SF: I actually don’t recommend toners to my patients unless they have super-oily skin. Witch hazel is from a plant, an antioxidant, and used for its drying and pore-shrinking effects. The other ingredients help soothe and improve the skin barrier that may have been disrupted by witch hazel. I love that she used niacinamide in her line! It's one of my favorite ingredients to improve the skin's moisture barrier, tone, and texture.
Which skin types are most susceptible to irritation from fragrances in skincare? From witch hazel?
JL: I personally do not like highly scented products and definitely do not recommend to those with sensitive and eczema-prone skin or those who have a known history of contact dermatitis.
SF: Those with sensitive skin or eczema [are most susceptible to irritation from] fragrances. Those with dry or sensitive skin for witch hazel.
If a client came into your office and told you they were using this skincare line, would you sign off on that choice? Why or why not?
JL: I haven't tried myself so cannot say for sure, but I'm not a big fan of fragranced products. I also evaluate all products based on research, so I would need to look at that first if it even exists.
SF: Again, if someone doesn’t really have problematic skin—no acne, no drying, no sensitivity—then I’d say it’s fine. But it’s not all-inclusive. Skincare requires fine-tuning based on the person's needs and concerns.
Cleansing is my favorite part of my skincare routine, so I can be picky about the washes I use on my face. I'm a religious double-cleanser, so I was also skeptical that this wash would be able to perform as both a makeup remover and a cleanser as promised. To my surprise, it totally does double duty to remove everything from stubborn eye makeup down to dirt and debris. And even better, it's not overly oily to the point that it leaves behind a residue on the skin. I like my face to feel nice and clean, but not stripped, after cleansing, and this rich wash definitely imparts that feeling. The scent is also mild and more enjoyable than your run-of-the-mill soapy-cleanser smell.
I saw an influencer say that she wouldn't even put this product on her face, citing the use of witch hazel, dye, and fragrance in the ingredient list as red flags. I have to admit that I approached this one with some trepidation. I grew up in a generation where straight witch hazel was the go-to toner of all the preteens in my class, so the use of it here didn't really scare me. I was more concerned about pressing dye and unknown fragrance ingredients into my skin and risking irritation. So far, I've not experienced any adverse reactions to this product! I will say that I'm still a bit hung up on the combination of toner and serum, as those two products tend to have very different goals, so I'm still trying to wrap my mind around that part of it. But as far as ingredients go, I'm happy to see nourishing additions like niacinamide, aloe, and hyaluronic acid high on the list.
Rihanna and her makeup artist have said on the record many times that she has oily skin, so I really wasn't expecting this moisturizer to be able to keep up with the dry zones of my combination skin. I expected it to only be able to provide hydration for an hour or two, like other lightweight moisturizers, before being swallowed up my the area around my mouth, which tends to become parched throughout the day. That hasn't happened yet, and I'm so pleased about it! I knew I could count on my girl Rihanna to deliver an SPF moisturizer that would be completely transparent on my brown skin, and she didn't let me down there.
I've only worn this moisturizer indoors and under minimal makeup so far, but based on the texture and how it performs over the course of the day sitting in front of the computer under intense (sometimes drying) air-conditioning in my house, I'm inclined to believe that it would hold up well outside, too. In terms of the scent, I was already a fan of the Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Instant Retouch Primer ($32), which smells exactly like this moisturizer, so it didn't bother me. The fragrance is pretty sweet, and it lingers, so I can totally understand the criticism there. Even though I'm more into unscented skincare nowadays, the scent here is not a deal-breaker for me. Plus, the refillable packaging is absolutely genius, and I love how it closes securely. That's the kind of innovation I love to see!
Despite all of the buzz and hubbub surrounding the Fenty Skin launch, I tried to go into my personal trial with zero expectations or bias. And, honestly, I've been super impressed. Overall, the line exceeded my expectations, and this cleanser, in particular, ticks every single box for me. A little goes a long way—literally, you only need a pea-size amount—which makes the $25 price tag more feasible if you're used to a face wash that's less of a splurge. That said, you definitely get your money's worth with this cleanser. It feels so soft and silky on your face as you lather and massage it into your skin. I almost want to say it's pillow-like? It truly does remove every last trace of makeup or dirt from your face, but unlike so many cleansers on the market, this leaves your skin feeling plush, energized, and healthy afterward. There's also no residue or stickiness. Truly, nothing gets my goat more than when you wash your face and there is some kind of film left behind that makes you feel like you have to rewash.
Now, I know this line received a lot of backlash due to the scent, but personally, I take zero issue with the fragrance. RiRi is known for her love of sweet, intoxicating perfumes, so the fact that her products have a touch of sweet fragrance feels pretty on-brand for her. I don't find it overly saccharine, and I actually have really come to enjoy it. The way I see it, if you're looking for a really clinical or medicinal skincare regimen devoid of personal touches like fragrance, you're probably not going to be buying from a line like this anyway. My one and only concern with this cleanser is it contains a few coconut-derived surfactants (which are often found in clean or more natural skincare formulations) that have, historically, broken me out. I haven't had any issues with this cleanser in that regard thus far, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I would love to continue using this in my day-to-day skincare routine.
This is a really interesting product, and honestly, I wish I had something critical to say about it to make this review more interesting, but I don't! I'm actually not much of a toner girl, but I do love serums containing hydrating, plumping, and brightening ingredients. This toner-serum hybrid has most of my faves including aloe, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide, plus a few extras such as Kalahari melon, witch hazel, and baobab. I also love that you can apply it with your hands (the consistency is more viscous, like a typical HA serum, so it doesn't run all over the place), and you're not wasting cotton pads. I would say the only way this product resembles a toner is that it does, in fact, reduce shine and minimize the look of your pores. It does everything the marketing tells you it will, so again, I take zero issue with it!
Plot twist: I am obsessed with this moisturizer-SPF hybrid. Obsessed. It makes my skin look poreless, glass-like, smooth, and radiant, and it's positively dreamy underneath makeup. So many moisturizers with sunscreen feel really heavy and tacky on my skin, and I almost always end up with pimples and congestion after just a few days of wearing them regularly. But not this one! I love the refill feature with this (it feels so much less wasteful), and I'm really into the packaging and sleek pump design, in general. Even better, the formula truly does keep oil and grease at bay all damn day. You retain the luminous, airbrushed finish the entire time you're wearing it without any extra shine encroaching by 5 p.m. I've never had a moisturizer or SPF look exactly the same on my face at both 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. I mean, have you? If you only buy one product from Fenty Skin, this would be my top recommendation.