Raise your hand if, at least once a week online, you’ve scrolled past a meme of a clear-skinned individual attributing their lack of pores and IG filter-free glow to downing unspecified amounts of H2O and “minding their business”? As summertime inches closer, more and more emphasis goes into not only showing off the fruits of months in the gym (or not), but also achieving the right balance of sun-kissed skin.
However, the road to a healthy epidermis takes more than social media’s succinct advice to just drink water, especially for melanin-proficient skin. Jamaican-born and New York-based dermatologist Dr. Rosemarie Ingleton has dedicated over 20 years to helping her clients—both top secret celebrities and everyday people, alike—achieve, maintain (and sometimes enhance) their best skin. If you ask her, she’ll sincerely tell you that working skin magic is her calling.
“It chose me. It really did. I did not know what dermatology was when I was in medical school. I didn’t meet any dermatologist; never been to one in my life. I was just about to graduate when they made me do an ambulatory rotation in dermatology and ophthalmology, these outpatient type specialties, and that was the first time ever that I even knew about it,” she says with a smile from her Ingleton Dermatology office in NoHo, cheeks aglow. “I’m a happy person that loves looking at people and diagnosing all the spots I can help them.”
Here, Dr. Ingleton debunks beauty and social media myths about skincare, offers a counterpoint to shea and cocoa butter leading to Angela Bassett-like skin, and why mild cleansing products (like Dove Beauty Bar) are the safest bet for moisture maintenance.
We weren’t specifically trained at how to look at skin of color, but because I’m in the skin, I’ve figured it out over the years. Some trial and error and some common sense stuff that’s common to us, but not common to the masses who don’t have to deal with curly hair and don’t have to deal with things that just aren’t part of their life. It’s really evolved into something beautiful.
I’m Jamaican, born and raised. There was no particular focus on skincare so to speak. Basic cleansing, maybe moisturizing but nothing about sunscreen. I’ve never had any real acne. I had a little bit, so I didn’t come to a dermatologist because I struggled with my skin or anything. What I found was that I had become more a creature of habit. When I find a regimen that works for me, for whatever reason, I will stick with it. I’m not one of those that needs to try every new thing that comes down the pike. I would say consistency is key. I feel like I have really great skin. I’ve been working on it for years. I always wash my face twice a day. I never go to bed with makeup on. I always wear sun protection moisturizer. There are things that I’ve been doing for a long time and I’m seeing the benefits now. My skin isn’t aging like somebody my age. Part of that is I’m black, I’m blessed with my mom’s skin. The other part is I’ve taken really good care of what they gave me. I’m hoping it will pay off and hold up for many more years.
There are some basics. You need a cleanser that is suited to your skin type. If you have super oily skin, you might need a gel-type cleanser or something that’s for oily skin. If you’re really dry, you might need a creamy cleanser, something that’s not going to dry you out even further. I am a big believer in antioxidants which are like your vitamin C or vitamin E, those kinds of products. They help you to prevent a lot of environmental damage to your skin. I think of it as armor. You’re putting on your skin armor before you go out in the morning: A cleanser, an antioxidant and sun-protecting moisturizer. You’re hitting the things that are major issues during the day. That’s when you’re going to hit pollution and car exhaust and cigarette smoke, people talking to you all day and spitting on your face. And then the sun. Those are the things that are attacking you when you’re out and we’re just trying not to allow for those free radicals to form in the skin and start breaking down your collagen. That’s the whole purpose of what we do during the daytime. At nighttime, I think whatever the skin issue is, that’s the time to target it – when you go to bed. First of all, clean your face. I can’t imagine going to bed with New York City on my face. It’s all over your pillow. Everything you encounter during the day is with you. You went to the club, it’s all on your face.
Water is fantastic. We’re mostly water and you want to replenish as much as you can. Having said that, if you have a skin issue — you have acne, you have eczema — water is not going to cure that. It’s great for you. It’s going to hydrate all the cells in your body, you’ll probably be moist on the outside and on the inside but it’s not going to stop the breakouts. It’s not going to stop your eczema from going wacko because you’re using products you’re otherwise allergic to and you won’t stop using it. Or you’re walking into pollen as you’re walking down the street and it’s not going to change those kinds of things, but it’s fantastic for your body. You have to focus on what can it do for you. You can’t use it to treat a skin condition. But for the general suppleness of your skin and level of hydration, it’s fantastic. I wish that it could be an easy fix like that where you just drink something. Coconut water and it’s like, “Woah, look at me.”
In the winter months, just switch everything up. You can use gel cleansers in the summer. Winter, once September comes, I personally change my whole bathroom stuff out. Whatever I bathe with changes, the level of thickness of my body changes. I change from lotion to cream because in the winter I need something heavier, but in the summer I can’t stand cream. I want lotion or spray or oil spray. Same thing with your skin. Cleanser in the winter should be something that’s a little milky. The way Dove is, it’s a quarter of moisturizing cream, so something like that.
It’s not true. We have to think of this [the face] as very different from this [the body]. You can bathe with coconut butter, shea butter, whatever, but the face behaves totally different. You can’t get away with certain things there. You’ll have two products. You’ll have something that’s geared for this and one that’s for this. You’re not going to break out in acne on your legs because you put cocoa butter or shea butter on your legs. But you try that on your face. That’s what people do; if it’s good for this it’s good for everything. My hair, my nose, my eyebrow, my everything. Eat it. One spoon a day. [Laughs]
I didn’t realize at the time when I was in college – I had a dual major in psychobiology – I didn’t know how much I’d be using the psychology of it. It’s immense. Without that, I wouldn’t be as good, I wouldn’t be able to relate to people, the inner turmoil that makes them pull their hair out or dig up their skin. You’ve got to understand, some people need a psychiatrist instead of a dermatologist. I have to find a gentle way of saying it’s not, I’m helping you with the skin but there’s something deeper. People don’t go to therapists because the rest of the world needs therapy. I have my list of referring people. I say, “I’ve had a lot of success with this person. Just have a conversation. Just talk.” If there’s nothing there, don’t go back.
This interview has been shortened and condensed for clarity.