Behind Motown Legend Smokey Robinson's Skin-Care Brand

Smokey Robinson and Frances Glandney - Publicity - H 2016
Courtesy of Skinphonic

He and his wife, Frances, launched Skinphonic with his-and-hers regimens for people of color.

If you're a "person of color — and I don’t just mean black people," says Smokey Robinson, then his latest creation is for you. The iconic Grammy-winning R&B and Motown singer has launched a skin-care line with a musical moniker, Skinphonic, and the goal of improving hyperpigmentation for anyone it plagues.

A "general friendly discussion" with a friend about skin care led Robinson, 66, and his wife, Frances, to the conclusion that "nothing had ever been done specifically for people of color, so we decided we were going to work on that and contacted some doctors we know. That’s how the ball got rolling." It was originally a personal journey to create a product just for the two of them, but after a couple years of research and development, formulation and acting as guinea pigs, the results were so effective they decided to share them with fans of all skin tones and ages. "A lot of white people in our friend circle have been using it," says Robinson, "and it works great." Likewise, Frances says her daughters are believers.

Unlike many men who ignore their skin, Robinson says he’s been experimenting with products for years in order to care for his complexion. "I'm an outdoorsman," he says. "I run, I play golf, I do a lot of things that keep me in the sun. I travel a lot, I’m on planes, and that’s not good for my skin." Neither over-the-counter products nor dermatologist-prescribed formulas ever gave the Los Angeles–based couple the results they desired — and "I had tried and tried and tried everything on the market," says Frances, whose main concern was hyperpigmentation. This trio of products, Robinson says, "is a skin healer. The other stuff was masking, covering stuff up, but Skinphonic [products] are healers of the skin, they’re very simple."


A photo posted by Alicia Herron (@skinphonic) on

Though the ingredients were carefully selected and formulated, the ease of use and simplicity of the regimen was key for Robinson. Men, he says, "don’t like regimens. Women will get up, put this on at four o’clock, then wait 10 minutes and wipe it off, they’ll do that. Men, we don’t care. Give us something very simple and we can do it." Unsurprisingly, he says, his own routine consists only of the Get Ready Twice Daily Cleanser in the morning and night, the AM Hydration cream (which features tea tree oil, marine plankton and algae, and almond, olive, avocado and grape seed essential oils) and "hero" PM Treatment Complex, a brightening formula with retinol, vitamins C, E and B3 (three-piece kit, $89.99).

The men’s products — named "Get Ready Cause Here I Come" — are not only in different packaging from the women’s, dubbed "My Girl," but they were made especially for guys' thicker skin. Both target hyperpigmentation in a big way, and address antiaging, softening and even skin tone. Frances, who says she has not had plastic surgery or needles in her face to this point, saw 90 percent of her brown spots from "sun worshiping in Palm Springs every weekend until I baked myself to death" disappear; the same went for a friend with pregnancy mask (aka melasma) after using the My Girl regimen.


A photo posted by Alicia Herron (@skinphonic) on

Coming up next: his-and-hers eye serums "for lines under the eyes and bags and brightness," says Robinson, and refining night serums, which Frances likes to use as a mask during her monthly facials. And after that, expect an SPF (both Robinson and Frances are devout SPF users; she prefers non-titanium formulas that are lighter and nongreasy).

While plans to continue expanding the line mean more products to choose from, Robinson is resolute in keeping it basic for the men, at least. "I think it’s changing over," he says of guys paying more attention to their skin health. "But I don't think it's where it's gonna be or should be. We want to be part of the thing that makes guys change over, and that's why it's not 14 steps a day or five steps. It’s simple, so guys are willing to do it." And when it comes to women, both Robinsons say the goal is to improve one's skin so less makeup is needed. They're certainly on trend with the natural beauty movement for which Alicia Keys is the unofficial face.