“Being told that no one would want me to touch their skin because of my gender and race, and that I’d never succeed in a profession I truly loved, may have hurt me deeply at the time—but I guess it also put such a fire under my rear to be as successful as I possibly could,” Sean Garrette, currently one of the most celebrated aestheticians of the moment, tells me. The beginning of his career—marked by a struggle to find work as a facialist and plenty of racist and homophobic comments—may have been tough, but the beauty expert’s fire emboldened him to persevere. And today, not only is the Baltimore-born skin virtuoso a respected authority of the industry, he’s also the newly appointed ambassador for Dior Beauty. Who knew all those years back that the former Fenty Beauty advisor, (handpicked by Rihanna herself, we might add), struggled at one time to get work?
“I graduated with a 4.0 from aesthetician school, I was on the Dean’s list, and I had impeccable letters of recommendation from my instructors,” Garrette says. “But it was so difficult still for me. There was a stigma. A week after graduation, all my friends that I graduated with all had jobs, and I was still looking for work for a long while.”
But his profound determination led him to zero in on what social media and skin establishments were often lacking: valuable skincare information for people of color in an industry dominated by white women. He soon cultivated a massive audience, which followed his skincare tips and regimented beauty philosophies. “I did a deep dive into my career at that point,” he adds. “There weren’t a lot of resources online for people of color and that’s what I built my platform on.” Below, the skin maven discusses the very doctrines his followers have come to know and love, as well as his favorite products for beautiful summer skin.
Everyone wants to know what your skin regimen is like. You tell everyone else what to do with their skin—but really, what do you do?
My skincare routine nowadays is, surprisingly, super simple, and almost the same in the morning and at night. I’m used to testing a lot of skincare for work, but I’ve simplified my routine. I don’t exfoliate as much anymore—when I do, it’s usually with a resurfacing pad or a mandelic acid.
In the morning, I use a gentle micellar water. There is a new Dior one that is launching in June that I’ve been using regularly and love. At night, I’ll cleanse using Dior’s On/Off Foaming Cleanser, which does a good job of cleansing without stripping, and the waterlily is incredibly calming.
Then I use a hydrating toner from Paula’s Choice, which everyone knows I am obsessed with, followed by Dior’s Capture Totale Super Potent Serum. I love it because I have super dry skin that’s also oily—these products are hydrating without feeling heavy. I will also do a retinol twice a week, and then I will exfoliate once or twice additionally. I like to do peptic serums and growth favor serums as well, from time to time. Skinmedica makes a beautiful TNS serum—it’s been a favorite of mine. I also love the Dior Prestige Le Micro-Huile De Rose Advanced Serum.
My last step in the morning is Dior’s Hydra Life Sorbet Intense Creme. It’s rich but feels lightweight on the skin and layers wonderfully with the serums. At night, I’ll finish with the SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Antiaging cream, which is a bit more heavyweight and a cream in the traditional sense—so, really optimal for the colder, drier months.
What about eye cream?
When I first started my career as an aesthetician, I would always tell clients “No one needs eye cream!” But it was really just because I couldn’t find one that showed real, visible results. I’m a fan of the Dior Prestige Eye Concentrate—I use that at night. In the morning, I use Dior Capture Totale Super Potent Eye Serum. It’s lighter-weight.
You see a lot of different skin types, and adult acne is one of the most common issues. A lot of dermatologists swear by Retin-A. What’s your take on it?
There’s no one-size-fits-all acne diagnosis; it all comes down to the client, their skin, and their end goal, as well as what works best with their skin. Vitamin A is considered the gold standard by many dermatologists, but the results are different for everyone. I’ve had a lot of clients come to me on Accutane after having used Retin-A and seeing no results, and it really can do a number on their skin if they don’t also properly care for it. Whatever solution the client and their dermatologist come to, it’s equally as important to properly cleanse and hydrate.
Speaking of managing a skin ailment vs. curing it, that’s in the same vein as dealing with melasma and dark spots. You must have gotten a lot of people in the past several weeks with more hyperpigmentation complaints as it’s warming up, right? How do you address this with your clients?
I use a variety of treatments. When I’m working with clients during a treatment, I’ll do micro needling, red light LED therapy, or a series of chemical peels. I’m someone who loves Clear and Brilliant lasers, too. But at home, I’m a fan of a great anti hyperpigmentation serum. If you do use one at home, you should make sure it contains niacinamide, antioxidants, kojic acid, and alpha rubicon to brighten the skin. And lastly, be very diligent with your sunscreen, especially for dark spots.
You’re known for being very thorough with your clients in terms of their at-home routines once you are done with your sessions. Aside from products, do you tell them to cut back on certain indulgences, like sugar or alcohol? Do you suggest supplements?
I’m someone who stays up until 3 AM, eats way too much sugar and drinks too much coffee. Often, I’m the one learning new habits from my clients and not the other way around.
But your skin is amazing!
It’s all about perspective and taking proper care of not only your skin, but also yourself. Your skin is a reflection of everything that’s going on beneath the surface, and a positive outlook is just as important as the products in your routine.
I read that you studied fashion and art at one point before your career before embarking on skincare. What and who inspires you?
I really admire [the lifestyle author] Athena Calderone and love what she does with fashion, beauty, home, and food. I’m also inspired by [interior designer] Leanne Ford—she has a unique, rustic take on modern design that gives it a warmth and richness I’m trying to achieve with my own space. My best friend, the stylist Scot Louie, also inspires me. He was styling Kehlani, and I was with them working on her skin and we became best friends out of that. I think it was also because we were two young, black creatives in this industry, and that bonded us. Law Roach is such an inspiration as well. We have similar backgrounds, and we’ve had to fight to get to where we are in our respective fields.