Celebrity-backed brands are a dime a dozen: Ryan Reynolds and The Rock both own liquor companies; Robert DeNiro co-founded the trendy restaurant chain Nobu; Dr. Dre founded Beats by Dre and then sold it to Apple for $3 billion dollars. What am I getting at? Well, usually the celebs that sign on with these brands, or buy them outright, know little to nothing about the given category. It's an investment — likely with a high potential return. (Who wants to act or perform forever? This is retirement money we're talking about.)
In the skincare space that's less true, but, experience rarely equals expertise. Celebrities known for getting dolled up for roles or premieres don't automatically know the ins and outs of cosmetology. But a nail polish brand by Harry Styles, for example, doesn't feel super far off given he paints his nails pretty regularly (no matter if he's headed on stage or not). This same thinking made Pharrell Williams' foray into face and body products — through his product company, Humanrace — feel pretty expected. The man's been applauded for his wrinkle-free face and envy-inducing complexion for decades. Why shouldn't he let fans in on his secrets? And for $$ in return, of course.
He developed Humanrace's three-step skincare routine with the help of his long-term dermatologist, New York-based Dr. Elena Jones, MD. Long-time Adidas executive Rachel Muscat — first with Yeezy and then Pharrell — serves as co-founder and president. As you can see, it isn't just Pharrell OK-ing someone else's ideas. He's pulling back the curtain on his good skin if you will. (It's due to more than just great genes.) Plus, there's an air of heady altruism throughout — and if you're familiar with Pharrell, you're aware of this in everything else he does. Hell, he's named the whole thing Humanrace. Like Muscat told Highsnobeity, "if the product wasn't true to the person or the brand that you're working with, it just won't resonate with the consumer."
What is Humanrace?
Humanrace is Pharrell Williams' product company. He's particular about calling it such because it sells all of his creative endeavors: sneakers, clothing, ceramics and now skin- and bodycare. He co-founded it alongside frequent collaborator Rachel Muscat with consultation from his personal dermatologist, Dr. Elena Jones, MD.
When did Humanrace launch? Is Humanrace Sustainable?
Humanrace launched in 2020, earning Pharrell a spot on several year-end best-of lists for skincare, sustainability and broader product innovation. In the two years since launch, Humanrace has furthered its mission of moving away from single-use plastics and water-based products in favor of post-consumer plastic waste vessels, recyclable paper refills, soap-free formulas and vegetable dyes.
The green vessels that the formulas arrive in were custom made without molds. No, not the molds that slowly appear on old cheese, but rather the molds that most skincare brands use to package and deliver their products. If you look closely at the skincare products you already own — if you own more than one or two — you'll see that the vessels aren't very different. It's because they're sourced from the same companies. Humanrace dedicated a chunk of time pre-launch to developing these containers to their own specifications so that they could be refillable. You don't just toss the bottle once the moisturizer's gone, for example. Refills are sold for a fraction of the full-price item, and there's a subscription option available so you never have to manually re-order.
Plus, staying in line with Pharrell's motto of skincare for everyone, the green packaging comes complete with product names written in braille and intuitive press or shake applicators.
Sure, Pharrell's better known for his beats and sneakers than he is bar soap, but he says the expansion into skincare felt natural. "For me, any category that we step into we want to make it better than the way we found it," he told Highsnobiety. "There are a lot of innovators in the [skincare] space doing great things, and they’re doing it their way. I guess it’s the same reason why I enter any platform or artistic discipline. It’s because I feel like maybe I might be able to offer a unique point of view that doesn't exist."
His products rely on ingredients he's used for years, repackaged in reusable green (a reference to the environment) vessels.
The Humanrace Three Minute Facial Routine
The Three Minute Facial Routine, sold as a set at retailers like Ssense, features three products: a Rice Powder Cleanser (step one), Lotus Enzyme Exfoliator (step two) and Humidifying Cream (step three). Together, they retail for $100 dollars; separately? $126 bucks.
They're packaged as the "Three Minute Facial Routine" because Pharrell believes your morning routine should be easy to use and quick to complete — hence the name. The products are clean, green, vegan and ingredient-driven, meaning there's no need to leave time between products for your skin to rest or recover, redness to dissipate or the formula to dissolve.
Remembering which order they go in is easy, too, because the size of the packaging shrinks as you go. The cleanser, for example, comes in the biggest bottle, while the cream comes in the smallest.
Step One: Rice Powder Cleanser
The Rice Powder Cleanser is part one of the routine. It's described as a "powder-to-foam" product, meaning it's completely waterless. It arrives as finely ground particulate you mix with equal parts water to activate. You use a coin-sized amount, so a slightly wet palm will do. I was truly surprised at how foamy it became once you lathered it. A little at-home, in-the-bathroom experiment, if you will. (That sounds bad, but it isn't.)
What's it like? Well, the fine print reveals the product is cruelty-free and vegan. Neither tested on animals nor made with their parts. As I mentioned before, all of the formulas are dermatologist-tested and fragrance-free — an important note for those with fragrance allergies. (They're more common than you'd think.) Active ingredients include micronized rice powder, an exfoliant that doesn't cause microtears in the skin's surface, snow mushroom extract, a moisturizer capable of penetrating the skin's deepest levels, fruit alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), fruit-derived acids that even and oxygenate the skin, triggering regeneration, and a few others.
I found the product cleared away rough patches and obvious irregularities without making my face feel irritated or raw. It felt refreshed, a feeling few cleansers deliver (without damage as a side effect). When I stepped away from the cleanser for one night and the following morning, which I did when I forgot it on an overnight trip, I noticed a significant difference in how my skin felt.
Step Two: Lotus Enzyme Exfoliator
Exfoliants shouldn't take the nuclear approach to clearing dirt and dead cells. What do I mean? An exfoliant is still a skincare product, meaning it should never do more damage than it does good. For most, exfoliating is a step you should do every two to three days. (For what it's worth, Pharrell has long said he does daily. You must "exfoliate like a madman," he told Vogue.)
The Lotus Enzyme Exfoliator doesn't rely on finely ground particulate to flush dead skin cells from your face and unclog pores. It relies, as the name implies, on chemical exfoliants and lotus leaves.
A mix of acids — 8-percent glycolic acid and 2-percent fruit AHAs — work with pumpkin, papaya and pomegranate enzymes to gently exfoliate and rejuvenate. Translated? Smooth your skin's texture and even your skin's tone. The lotus leaf, a natural antioxidant, helps protect the skin against air pollution and UV rays long after exfoliation.
I really liked the exfoliator, albeit if only because there was no fine particulate I had to grind into the sensitive skin on my cheeks and chin. I find that most material exfoliants are too harsh for my skin type. However, this one by Humanrace didn't cause any visible redness or lingering irritation. Simply put, I wasn't forced to weigh whether the pain was worth bettering my appearance.
Step Three: Humidifying Cream
I, for one, hate humidity. It's the worst, and I dread it from the time it's most noticeable (in the dead of summer) it until it's gone (in the dead of winter). Then, truthfully, I miss it... a little. Humanrace's Humidifying Cream strives to replicate "the positive effects that humidity has on your skin." Humidity delivers and locks in moisture, creating significant cushion between your skin and dryness.
The cream itself is luxe and smooth, and thick without feeling overpowering. Application calls for as much as you feel you need, so start with a quarter-sized amount and apply more if needed. How much you use is no reflection of the potency as there is no set amount you should be using or are said to need. Staying in line with the other products in the Three Minute Facial pack, the cream's packed with snow mushroom extract, a molecular hydrator capable of penetrating the skin's deepest levels, squalane, a plant-based oil that traps moisture like our skin's lipids do, and hyaluronic acid, a well-known hydrator that, research suggests, carries 1,000-times its weight in water.
I found that this formula proved far more effective — judged by the amount applied — than other moisturizers in my rotation. I felt soft to the touch and deeply hydrated afterward. Plus, I felt this way well into my day, and only by bedtime did I find that I needed retouched (that's when you're supposed to anyway).
Bonus: Body Humidifying Cream
Beyond stuff for your face, Humanrace also makes two bar soaps. Both employ similar ingredients but remain soap-free for a safer, gentler wash. These launched in tandem with the three step routine, but a new product, a Body Humidifying Cream, dropped in late March.
It comes in a vessel that's more voluminous than the rest, because you have more surface area to cover. The container itself is also cement-colored instead of that aggressive green, which helps you remember it's a part of a separate routine. You apply it just like lotion but it's far lighter — and quicker to dry. Plus, I'd argue, way more hydrating.