Obagi’s SKINCLUSION initiative launched in 2019, primarily focused on skin tone diversity. Since then, the campaign has expanded to address gender, identity, physical challenges, disabilities, and more.

By Tonya Johnson

Last week, oculofacial plastic surgeon, Deborah Sherman, MD, presented during physician-dispensed skincare line Obagi’s SKINCLUSION Facebook Live event. The panel reflected on progress related to the diversity movement, how people around the world are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and skincare regimens nurturing skin while sheltering in place.

Sherman, who owns and operates the Sherman Aesthetic Center in Nashville, TN, said her tight-knit community has been reaching out in enormous ways to help others in this time of need. “It’s important for us in the field of medical practice to remember that our mission as medical providers is that we are healers,” she said. “We have to let our patients know that we care.” And her team has been doing exactly that since the coronavirus outbreak started. Patient concerns are a top priority at her practice, which shares its safety messages over social media platforms about the importance of hand washing, virtual consultation availabilities, and educational webinars.

When people are hungry for information Sherman believes that accurate messaging can help them cope during the pandemic. “We have to remind ourselves and our patients that self-care is how you get your power back.”

Obagi’s SKINCLUSION initiative, which encourages consumers to be conscious, fearless, and beautiful, also features ambassador, actor, producer, and activist Priyanka Chopra Jonas. “As an Indian woman of color, representation is something that is very personal to me,” she told the live audience. “What I love about Obagi is that it comes from an organic place. Knowing that a brand started developing skincare products for almost every skin tone 30 years ago—and that it talks the talk and walks the walk—is very empowering! Conversations like these make me really excited about the future of beauty.”


Obagi president Jaime Castle, who led the conversation, which also provided thoughts from Drs Jeanine Downie of Montclair, NJ, and Mona Gohara of Hamden, CT, explained that the physician-dispensed skincare company—which is 86% female-led—launched the awareness initiative in 2019 to elevate dialogue around diversity, especially in the beauty industry. While the initial phase focused primarily on skin tone, the project has since expanded to address gender, identity, physical challenges, disabilities, and more. “Because no one should feel isolated and alone—especially during these trying times dealing with COVID,” Castle said.


The brand has donated $150,000 to the International Cultural Diversity Organization and Harvard-based Project Implicit to highlight the need to appreciate cultural diversity and recognize unconscious bias. Through the initiative and ongoing global dialogue about diversity, the brand aims to help people make conscious choices to see the beauty in all of our differences. In addition, together with Chopra Jonas, Obagi will be donating 5,000 hand sanitizers and 5,000 care packages to UNICEF and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, who are also on the frontlines helping to contain the global COVID-19 pandemic. “At Obagi, when we see a need, we do what we can to help, and our company is nimble enough to do that,” Castle said.”

“At Obagi, when we see a need, we do what we can to help, and our company is nimble enough to do that,” Castle said.

When Obagi was in the process of launching the SKINCLUSION campaign, Downie was the first physician that the company reached out to. She and Castle have known each other for almost 16 years. Downie was the second of only two African American residents to train at The Kimberly and Eric J. Waldman Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, and one of only two dermatologists in the entire Garden State on New Jersey to own her practice, she informed attendees. “My patients want to know about SKINCLUSION because they feel included and spoken to and it speaks to their hearts,” Downie said, adding that she thinks there is a lack of understanding, “about the differences in all of us and a fear for engaging in dialogue to figure out some of those differences. Talking breaks down barriers and helps us to understand each other, so we can be more powerful together as a unit, rather than separate alone.”

During a round of “Ask the Doctor,” Gohara, who serves as a medical expert for ELLE, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, O the Oprah Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Allure and Real Simple, said she agrees with chat listener concerns that “acne is having a moment right now”, spurred by mask-wearing and stress. She also described the complexity of acne as being a “chapter in a book”, but quickly revealed her best kept secrets in 10 seconds. Most people don’t have the “bandwidth” to search for which cleansers and toners work best together, so she appreciates beauty experts who have figured out the solutions.


Castle is really excited about the amount of progress that the SKINCLUSION campaign has made during its first year, and recognized Chopra Jonas for using her celebrity platform to spread the important message, that has helped pave the way for Obagi to bring on physician-dispensed skincare ambassadors, like Sherman, Downie, Gohara, and numerous others who have joined the cause.

Chopra Jonas replied, “SKINCLUSION is such an important campaign, and so real to right now, and not just for us. Everyone can be an ambassador. You just have to keep the conversation going. Demand diversity and demand inclusion, don’t limit yourselves to just talking about it.”

Tonya Johnson is associate editor of Plastic Surgery Practice.