How Pharrell’s Dermatologist Makes His Skin So Good

How Pharrell’s Dermatologist Makes His Skin So Good

Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Elena

Dr. Elena Jones has spent the last 24 years restoring her clients’ skin on a daily basis. The board-certified dermatologist has had a notable client whom she first met when she was 20 and now, at 49, she has been called “everlasting”: Pharrell Williams. Over two decades, they have built a relationship, and in November 2020, Williams began skin care human race. She knew she needed Jones’ expertise, so she helped formulate her skin care line years before she celebrity-skin-care-line epidemic.

Dr. Jones’s secret to Pharrell’s ageless skin isn’t as complicated as you think: “You don’t need ten steps,” she says. Dr. Jones believes in three factors: simplicity, consistency, and effective ingredients. “I wouldn’t be here if she didn’t share with me her strategies and her point of view on skin care,” Pharrell said in his naked beauty podcast earlier this year from Dr. Jones. For him, it was a no-brainer to draw on his experience when it came time to create Humanrace. “Look at this super accomplished black woman who had a dream and she’s really living it … she has to be celebrated at all points in this,” he said. Dr. Jones recalls the initial conversations about Humanrace, which she and Williams began discussing about five years ago. She didn’t want to put her name on a product that already existed, so they went to work on their own journey.

As a mom and dermatologist with a robust and busy clientele, Dr. Jones is all about efficiency and smart use of your time, which doesn’t include lathering up with a handful of serums and face masks. Instead, she’d rather take that time for herself and trust that what she’s using on her skin will work, even if it’s just a two-step routine consisting of a cleanser and moisturizing sunscreen. Dr. Jones’s profession is skincare, so while many turn to skincare as her personal care routine and use a ton of products, she does just the opposite. Instead, she practices stillness and meditation throughout the day, which comes in many different forms. She sometimes seems to listen to music in her car while she is sitting in traffic; other times she’s walking seven miles from her house to do some retail therapy at TJ Maxx. She also finds joy in traveling when she has time. His ideal destiny of hers? A pristine white sand beach.

Dr. Jones has always been interested in incorporating exfoliation into her routine, so she starts her mornings with the Humanrace Rice Powder Cleanser, a gentle lathering exfoliant that detoxifies skin while increasing hydration. “The mushroom extract in it leaves my skin very hydrated,” she says. Mushroom extract is becoming a popular ingredient in skin care due to its nourishing properties. Dr. Jones rinses the cleanser off her face with warm water and pats her face dry with flat-sheet cotton towels she found in South Africa. “They’re soft and super absorbent, but they don’t dry out or scratch the skin,” she says.

Most of the time, Dr. Jones keeps her morning routine down to two key steps and jumps right into post-cleanse moisturizing because her schedule doesn’t allow for an elaborate routine, which just isn’t her thing. “I’m not really a big serum person, but if I’m being good to myself, I’ll put on a vitamin C serum,” she says. This antioxidant vitamin C from Isdin is her benchmark for those days: a mixture of vitamin C and hyaluronic acid that restores shine and nutrition to the skin. “It’s a higher percentage of vitamin C and it gives me a little glow,” adds Dr. Jones.

Most days, she only lathers up with sunscreen after cleansing her skin. He likes to go in with Humanrace sunscreen, which doubles as a moisturizer. She and the team at the brand pride themselves on working very hard to perfect the formulation of this mineral sunscreen. The SPF 30 sunscreen contains snow mushroom extract, which leaves skin smooth and hydrated. It’s also made with blue light protection, which is vital as many people sit in front of phones and computers all day. Dr. Jones takes sun protection seriously. In fact, a common problem he sees in his practice is patients with skin of color not wearing sunscreen. “We definitely have skin cancer,” he explains. “As with any and all health care disparities, sadly people of color don’t do well with melanomas. We are not surviving at the same rate as white patients. We are being diagnosed in the last stages. With all these health disparities, we have to take care of ourselves, which starts with something as simple as applying sunscreen every day.”

Dr. Jones’s favorite moisturizer, when applied under her SPF, is Humanrace Moisturizing Cream: a gentle moisturizer with snow mushroom extract and tiger leaf extract that soothes skin, reduces irritation and soothes skin. puffiness to reveal a nourished complexion.

She goes back to washing her face every night before treating her skin with one of her favorite ingredients: retinoids. “As a woman of a certain age, my skin’s collagen isn’t produced as quickly as younger skin, and retinoids help skin renewal happen faster,” she says. Dr. Jones uses a prescription retinoid, Altreno, a lotion used primarily for adult acne, but Dr. Jones loves it because it’s made with hyaluronic acid. “It’s a powerful moisturizer, but the hyaluronic acid makes it a little less irritating,” he says, adding that you don’t have to use a lot because of how powerful it is.

If you don’t use that retinoid, use Isdin’s three-in-one night serum made with bakuchiol, the natural alternative to retinol. Dr. Jones loves this plant-derived ingredient, especially since it’s safe for all skin types and has the same benefits as retinoids, such as reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation.

In the spirit of keeping things simple, Dr. Jones sticks to the basics. He loves CeraVe Healing Salve, a product that is loved by the Twitter skincare community for its affordable price and results. The blended pomade is packed with ceramides, which soothe dry skin and help lock in moisture.

Dr. Jones is a strong believer in getting at least eight hours of sleep each night, and there are sleep factors that she is very analytical about, including having the right sleep conditions. “The temperature in your room should be just right. For me, it really should be about 68 degrees, if not a little lower, and it has to be minimal or off lighting,” she says.

Dr. Jones isn’t a fan of any scrubs with large particles (like Ole Henriksen’s Transformative Walnut Scrub and Kylie Skin’s Walnut Scrub) that can irritate skin. “I have never been a fan; I have seen them cause micro tears in the skin,” he says. Dr. Jones adds that she has also seen abrasions on patients’ skin from rubbing too hard with a cloth or towel. His solution of her? Keep it simple and use your hands.

Hair is as important to Dr. Jones as skin. She sees excessive hair loss in her practice, which she attributes to seeing clients do too much. She jokes that her own hair is “fried, dyed and razored to one side.” Her honey blonde locks need as much moisture as her skin. “I don’t use heat, I use steam from the shower and minimal handling.” The only daily product she uses on her hair is oil, specifically Moroccanoil Oil Treatment, an argan-infused oil that enhances shine and improves hair softness. “It just works for me,” she says. Dr. Jones’ hair mantra is the same as it is for skin and anything else: “Keep it simple. Simplify your life and you will make everything easier.”

Cosmetic treatments like Botox and fillers are less taboo these days for Dr. Jones. One of the newer treatments he has acquired is an ultrasound technology called smooth wave, a treatment that uses ultrasound waves to tighten the skin and lift the eyebrows, jawline, and neck without having to use Botox or fillers. “I love the fact that this procedure is non-invasive,” says Dr. Jones, adding that she thinks it’s a great way to improve skin care.

Dr. Jones remembers when Pharrell first came to see her, when she was 20 years old and surprisingly serious about taking care of her skin. “I was impressed that this young man got into a routine,” he recalls. “He wanted a routine and he was going to stick to it.” Now she loves seeing more men take up skincare, including her 14-year-old son. “The world is getting more fluid and nonconformist now, right? Why not take care of the skin too?

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