Morehouse grads and lifelong friends Patrick Boating II and Blake Rascoe founded Ceylon—a new skincare line for men of color—for one simple reason: a lack of options. As Black men, their choices were limited when it came to quality products that addressed issues like acne scarring, ingrown hairs, razor burn, hyper pigmentation, and eczema. Their choices sucked—think cheesy packaging and harsh formulas that wreak havoc on darker skin tones, causing inflammation and discoloration.
“Our experiences weren’t particularly unique among men of color; that helped support our belief that we could build something that could effectively solve this for people like us.”
Higher melanin levels give men of color more protection from UV rays, but it also makes them more prone to inflammation and dark spots. Ceylon solves pigment problems with their Detoxifying Facial Wash, Hydrating Toner, and Clarifying Moisturizer. “We knew that our experiences weren’t particularly unique among men of color and that helped support our belief that we could build something that could effectively solve this for people like us,” Blake shares. “We focus on educating [this audience] about how to take care of their skin, which is just as important as providing effective products.”
“There’s a very popular misconception that ‘Black don’t crack.’ That’s flat-out wrong.”
Infused with soothing ingredients like Tea Tree Oil and Witch Hazel, Ceylon offers a safe, melanin-positive routine. Affordably priced, the three-part regimen is available on the brand’s site for $34.95. Here, the founders talk changing the grooming game and what men of color should know about skincare.
CASSIUS: What’s the biggest misconception when it comes to men of color and skincare?
Patrick Boating II: There’s a very popular misconception that “Black don’t crack,” which is to say that people of color are less susceptible to a lot of the dermatological problems out there. That’s flat-out wrong. In fact, recent studies have shown that African-Americans and Asians are overrepresented in eczema diagnoses. It might be comforting to hear that you are less likely to experience issues with your skin; however, it is important to take appropriate steps to maintain or improve its overall quality.
Blake Rascoe: The second is that products formulated for “all skin types” are appropriate for skin of color. The vast majority of products out there don’t actually account for the ways in which skin of color reacts to different ingredients or might need special attention. This is doubly true for men’s products, many of which lack any specific benefits other than being wrapped in black or grey packaging with “men” written on the front.
C.: How have your personal skincare struggles influenced your desire to launch Ceylon?
P.B.: A few years ago, I moved to Mainland China for a job working with the U.S. State Department. Due to the stressful environment in a big, bustling city, as well as the extensive air and water pollution, I ended up having difficulty keeping my skin clear and healthy. I was experiencing daily breakouts and routine acne scarring. Despite trying hundreds of products, nothing seemed to help clear up my skin.
B.R.: While in high school, I was a three-sport athlete. The rigorous schedule and constant sweating made it difficult to keep my skin clear. I began using an over-the-counter skincare product recommended by my dermatologist at the time to help combat acne. Over time, I discovered that while the products made my skin relatively clear, they also ended up bleaching my skin leaving me with a pale, washed-out complexion. It took many months for my skin to recover and achieve its natural color again.
“We’ve seen products in the past that are made for people of color but not developed by people of color. That’s no longer acceptable.”
C.: Describe the steps you took in bringing Ceylon to fruition.
P.B.: From the beginning, we knew we wanted to build something that spoke directly to our personal experiences. We thought about how to build the kind of products that we would have liked to have when we started learning more about how to take care of our skin and knew that if Ceylon could be the answer for us, it could be the answer for many others. Our mindset helped us to construct something easy to use, relatable and efficient. While synthesizing our experiences from hundreds of different products we’ve personally tried, we also wanted to take a relatively grounded approach when it came to ideas of aesthetics, textures, use cases and other areas of interaction that are often under-explored in product development. Once we had a clear concept for what Ceylon should be, we worked with our manufacturer to build several prototypes. Afterwards, we tested those prototypes with a sizeable sample group of people across genders, skin tones, and skin types. We stuck to what worked and got rid of what didn’t.
C.: How did you finalize the final product offering of just 3 SKUs?
B.R.: We know that the most effective skincare routine incorporates a simple, 3-step process: Wash, Tone, Moisturize. Therefore, it made sense to launch with 3 SKUs in a single set. Not only do we give our customers an opportunity to use great products, but we also make it easy to establish a simple routine that can be built upon going forward.
C.: With the men’s grooming market showing continued growth, why do you think it has taken brands so long to create products for this underserved market?
P.B.: We aren’t particularly surprised at how long it has taken for something like this to be created. If you consider most of the large companies in the market (L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Procter & Gamble, etc.), it would be difficult finding enough men of color in decision-making positions who might be able to advocate for directing resources to create something like this. We’ve seen products in the past that are made for people of color but not developed by people of color. That is no longer acceptable. Without any ability to empathize with or recognize the scale and depth of the problems we face, how can there be an expectation for the creation of brands that truly serve us?