I Tried Fenty Skin For a Month - Here’s What Happened
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and in the end: I HAVE THE RECEIPTS.
Rihanna: Queen, icon, mogul. Need we say more?
In yet another highly anticipated launch from her fashion & beauty empire, on July 31st RiRi bestowed upon us her latest venture: Fenty Skin. Immediately, reviews began pouring in from beauty vloggers and bloggers everywhere, all of whom had been sent a package of products to try prior to launch (hey Fenty: call me maybe? 📞).
Of course, curiosity got the best of me, so I dove right in to view early results from across the internet. As I'd hoped, the majority of the feedback was positive: reviewers raved about the smooth application, lack of (most) harsh ingredients, and ultra hydrating effects. However, the negatives weren't far behind, particularly about the brand’s inclusion of one increasingly controversial ingredient: fragrance. Oof. That one stung, especially since Mirra always advocates for fragrance-free, sensitive formulas.
Tiara Willis, the popular NY based esthetician who specializes in makeup for women of color, detailed her skin’s reaction to Fenty’s formula on her Twitter:
Despite the backlash, Fenty stands by their choice to include fragrance, noting it was done to create a “luxurious” experience using scent. That wasn’t the only ingredient people were taking to task, though: others also called out the skincare brand's questionable choice to include witch hazel, a well-known irritant that contains pore-minimizing tannins and skin-damaging ethanol (I actually found out this was included after I'd already began application - but we’ll get to that in a bit).
Again, Fenty Skin directly addressed the criticism, taking to Twitter to state that they only use witch hazel distillate (listed as “witch hazel water” on the label), an alcohol-free liquid extract made from the witch hazel plant which gives you the skin benefits of witch hazel, just without alcohol. Interesting.
Despite the skepticism, I still wanted to give Fenty Skin a fair shot on my own, so when my products arrived I gave it a month to see how it works IRL.
That was 4 weeks ago, and since then I’ve been busy gathering my thoughts to compile a REAL, HONEST review of Fenty Skin's signature line of "Start’rs": the Total Cleans’r Remove-It-All Cleanser, Fat Water Pore-Refining Toner Serum, and Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen.
But before I divulge, a quick reminder:
This was MY experience using these products. Everyone’s skin is different, so if you had better/worse results than me, that’s ok! No hard feelings - just my opinion.😇 Alright, let’s dive right in!
To better understand my experience using Fenty Skin for a month, I need to first explain what I was working with when this all began.
Just like my feelings, my skin moods can be a bit sensitive. In fact, I found out just how sensitive my complexion can be about 10 years ago, when I had a bad allergic reaction to Proactiv’s 3-step toner (you know that one scene of Will Smith in the movie "Hitch"? That).
In a haze of Benadryl and ice packs, I realized something I never knew before that day - my skin doesn’t exactly love witch hazel. Since then I've managed to avoid it like groups of more than ten people, and I'm happy to report that I haven't had any more reactions like that. That is... until this experiment.
Too excited to stop myself, I eagerly tore into my Fenty Skin package upon arrival, never stopping to question whether I should do my due diligence and comb the ingredients list first; this was partly because it’d been so long since I’d needed to do so, and partly because I trusted the brand enough to assume their products were gentle enough for everyone. Bad technique, bad technique!
Now, I wish I would have seen witch hazel listed on the Fat Water toner serum prior to applying it all over my face and neck for three weeks straight… but, as they say, chic c’est la vie. Let’s talk results.
On the first day, I was fighting off hormonal acne and healing some redness from the summer heat. Anxious to start, I lathered on the first product: the Total Cleans’r. Much to my delight, it was everything I wanted it to be and more: moisturizing, smooth, refreshing, and I have to admit that the cherry-coconut fragrance did enhance my experience. Ahhhh.
My favorite part of the cleanser formula is the Ginkgo Biloba extract, which they say helps heal your skin and control oil - I found both to be true in my case, leaving my face feeling moisturized but still fairly matte.
Rating: 7.5/10. Although soothing, the inclusion of fragrance is a bummer, and the formula struggled to fully remove makeup residue.
Next I used the Fat Water Toner Serum, and the name suited the product well: the consistency was perfectly fat, perfectly watery, and not at all sticky. It soaked right in to my skin barrier, disappearing effortlessly and sheer.
Pro tip: a little bit goes a long way, and it comes out quick in the spout, so beware - too much will leave your skin looking overly shimmery!
Australian lemon myrtle helps provide the pore-refining elements this toner needs in order to do its job correctly, which is another nod to Rihanna's desire to include ingredients from around the world in her products.
Rating: 8/10... at least for the first few weeks.
Last but not at all least, my personal favorite of the signature trio: the Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer. Y'all, when I say I swooned...
This one had me at 'hello' for one big reason - it doubles as a broad spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen, providing lasting hydration and protection from harsh UV rays. It’s creamy, dreamy, and smells just as amazing as the other products, with an extra kick of citrus (a refreshing pick-me-up for your morning ritual).
In true summer fashion, the formula includes Kalahari melon, an antioxidant-rich extract that doubles as a hydrator to replenish skin. I personally used two pumps of product to cover my entire face and neck, but you could easily get away with one - the formula spreads quickly and soaks in well, leaving a final result of lavish skin ready to take on the day.
Rating: 9/10. Again knocking a point for including fragrance, but all in all this product is ah-mazing.
I followed this same ritual every morning and night for just over a week, and my skin was already glowing brighter than I’d ever seen! Most of the weeks' blemishes had diminished significantly, even the stubborn ones, and the smaller bumps appeared to be shrinking. ‘SCORE!’ I thought, continuing to lather it on as the positive results remained consistent with each use.
Then, around the two week mark: it happened.
I first noticed my skin turning red, my forehead felt tight, followed by all around itchiness/puffiness. I was confused, and nervous - I mean, Hitch 2?? Could it be? Everything had been going so well, I didn't want to jump to conclusions just yet.
However, after a few more days of discomfort and worsening redness, I knew enough was enough. I reluctantly grabbed each bottle to check ingredients for some sign of the culprit... that’s when my heart sank.
There it was, second from the top on the Fat Water toner bottle: my sworn enemy, WITCH HAZEL. Ugh!! I felt disappointed in myself that I hadn't checked the formula sooner, and slightly more miffed that a gentle formula would include an irritant like that. Still, I found the argument that it was only “distillate”, not pure witch hazel, to be compelling enough, so I switched to once a day to see if anything improved.
Sadly, my best efforts were in vain, and by the next week my skin was clearly throwing in the towel for me. I knew it was all over - while I loved the calming ritual and relished in my sumptuous morning cleanse, the redness and itchiness only got worse, and I knew it would only be a matter of time before my skin reacted aggressively. I love you, Rih, but it's the end of the road for us.💔 I immediately stopped application and only used the moisturizer once every other day to get my fix. That turned into once every few days then, finally, not at all. The time had officially come.
Once my skin calmed down, I was left questioning whether distillate instead of pure witch hazel really made a difference - can you get around the irritation, or is it always inevitable with sensitive skin like mine? Fragrance could also be to blame - I hadn’t used something so smelly and strong, after all, so it’s possible that my aversion to witch hazel only tipped the scales further. Either way, I wasn’t waiting around to find out what the next day would bring, and my experiment concluded.
*Strictly using the Hydra Vizor moisturizer for one week
While the promise of clean beauty free of parabens, phthalates and formaldehydes was delivered and the innovative use of ingredients from around the world is applauded, Fenty Skin still has a long way to go before they can call themselves a top contender in the skincare realm.
Launching a follow-up fragrance free formula would be a good start, and reconsidering the use of witch hazel in any form - they could replace it with slippery elm or white willow bark, to name a few alternatives. With these minor tweaks and a sensitive formula addition to their collection, Fenty Skin would be well on their way to reigning supreme in the celebrity skincare game: fingers crossed we see a wider variety of products in the near future from our Queen Rih!
Overall rating: 7/10. Definitely some room for improvement in the formulas, but they have a carefully constructed, solid foundation to build on.
Have you tried the Fenty Skin collection? Share your results below!
Written by Adrianne Neal