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Vaseline Is Leveling the Skin-Care Playing Field

Vaseline isn't just another product on the shelf; it's a cherished staple in the Black community—a trusted ally found on our nightstands and in our bathrooms, ready to rescue our lips or battle ashiness. But what truly strikes a chord now is witnessing this iconic brand reinvesting in the community that has unwaveringly supported it for generations.

During this year’s SXSW, in Austin, Texas, Vaseline joined forces with Black Future House to unveil its Mended Murals initiative. This groundbreaking effort spans across multiple cities, shedding light on the vital role of skincare for people of color while striving to enhance access to skin health resources. Through partnerships with local artists to revitalize murals and by providing support to community clinics, Vaseline isn't merely paying lip service; it's taking tangible steps forward.

And this is just the beginning of their commitment. Vaseline has a clear mission—to level the playing field in skincare. By 2025, they aim to assist 15 million people of color in accessing better skincare options through their Healing Project initiative.

Left to Right: Elaine Welteroth, Dr. Adewole "Ade" Adamson, Ernest Shaw Jr., Tiffany Yizar, and Kevin Tolson
Left to Right: Elaine Welteroth, Dr. Adewole "Ade" Adamson, Ernest Shaw Jr., Tiffany Yizar, and Kevin Tolson
Courtesy of Vaseline

At Black Future House, Vaseline led a panel discussion linking the campaign to their ongoing efforts. Named "The Future of Skin Health Equity Panel," the panel was moderated by award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author, Elaine Welteroth. The panel featured esteemed experts: Dr. Adewole "Ade" Adamson, a dermatologist and professor at the University of Texas, Austin, renowned for his research in health equity; Tiffany Yizar, Unilever's senior director of research and development, focusing on products tailored for Black and Brown consumers; Ernest Shaw, a celebrated muralist capturing Afro diaspora experiences; and Kevin Tolson, Unilever’s head of personal care strategy for North America and a Vaseline alumnus pivotal in shaping the brand's mission, culminating in today's campaign.

"To set the stage, let's consider this: in Austin, there are only three Black dermatologists," shared Adamson. "I stand as the sole Black male dermatologist in central Texas. If we broaden our scope nationally and look at the number of Black male dermatologists at universities, I'm one of just 16." This shortage isn't merely about recruitment; it reflects systemic issues in research priorities. Healthcare disparities hit communities of color the hardest, leading to severe outcomes like misdiagnoses, untreated conditions, and heightened mortality rates for skin cancer. While the risk may be lower for Black individuals, when skin cancer strikes Black individuals, it often progresses to advanced stages before detection. Black people have a 5-year relative survival rate lower, about 32% from melanoma compared to their white counterparts—an unsettling disparity that is often under-discussed.

“There are real systemic challenges all the way through the chain, and this is why this campaign had to come to life,” shared Tolston. Picture this: you're scouring the internet for solutions to a perplexing skin issue, hopeful for answers. But as a person of color, what you find is disheartening. Page after page, there's a glaring absence of images that resemble you—just a collection of pictures that fail to capture your skin tone. It's as though your experiences are nonexistent online. This uphill battle for skin equity is a fight against silence and the lack of representation.

Following Vaseline's 2022 launch of SeeMySkin.com, a pioneering platform designed to bridge this gap and enable Black and Brown communities to search conditions on skins of color and connect with physicians who understand their skincare needs, Vaseline took a significant step.

"Many times, you see brands and companies doing DEI work, but they don't employ or use the voices that reflect and come from the neighborhoods and communities being served. Vaseline did that," noted Welteroth.

The Mended Murals initiative was conceived to illustrate that without proper care or resources, murals that were once vibrant reflections of culture and people in communities can fade over time. Through partnerships with local artists, Vaseline is aiding in the restoration of these murals and providing funds to support local health clinics where murals are restored. "This is an organic integration into communities, aimed at uplifting them and reinvesting resources back into them," noted Welteroth.

"My job is more than just to paint something beautiful on the wall. Those images have a direct impact on the collective psyche and consciousness of many of the people who see them. It can literally impact people's lived experiences," shared Shaw. With the addition of QR codes on the murals, the artwork comes to life, enabling the community to access resources that would otherwise be unavailable to them, and providing invaluable connections for those working in the field.

But Vaseline doesn't stop there— the brand is taking it a step further by making a $250,000 donation to free and charitable clinics in the areas where murals are restored. Harnessing the power of technology and the QR codes on these murals to ensure that these resources effectively contribute to early detection in the community.

"We've been building our foundation quietly, as we do," shared Yizar. "The big question was how do we make sure that the scientists who sit left and right to me, working on mixes for us, look like the communities that we're serving." Much of this vision came to fruition in Vaseline’s recent launch - Radiant X. A product line crafted specifically for us, by us.

Often, when brands enter our communities, the impact is superficial. However, in this case, it was about much more than creating or restoring beautiful images. It was about using those images as a catalyst to reinvest resources back into the community.

Discover the clinics Vaseline has supported in communities where murals have been restored, and submit your neighborhood mural for the chance to be restored by the original artist. For every mural restored, Vaseline will provide funds to help support a local health clinic providing accessible care in your city, addressing the skin health needs of the community.

Originally Appeared on Glamour