Fashion & Beauty

Label Magic

February 12, 2023



By Valerie Monroe

For nearly 16 years Valerie Monroe was the beauty director at O, The Oprah Magazine, where she wrote the popular “Ask Val” column. She now splits her time between Manhattan and Tokyo.

If you’re interested in feeling happier about your appearance—especially as you age—you might like reading what she has to say about it. For more of her philosophical and practical advice, subscribe for free to How Not to F*ck Up Your Face at

Can’t get enough Valerie Monroe? There’s more at

TWO SKIN-RELATED reminders you may find helpful from Dermatology Times.

When you see “clinically proven” on a skincare label, it doesn’t mean the product underwent clinical trials and received FDA approval. It only means the product was given to consumers (like you and me) to try. Nothing against us, but we are a seriously unscientific and subjective group when it comes to what we like and don’t like in our skincare products.

And do you know the difference between a product labeled “unscented” and “fragrance-free?” Unscented products, which can irritate dry skin, generally contain a chemical that covers up the (sometimes unpleasant) odors of other ingredients so you can’t detect them. Fragrance-free products contain no such chemicals. Guess which products are the wiser choice?

‘ASK VAL’ answers your urgent questions, Vol. 35

Q: I’m in my late 30s and have had two pregnancies resulting in (among other things) some hyperpigmentation on my face and some acne that has left light scarring.

I would love to know if there are any laser treatments that might help. But here’s the catch: I have a dark complexion and there never seems to be advice specific to my skin concerns. I’d welcome any thoughts you might offer!

A: To your point, when I briefly tried to answer your question myself, I came up with a whole lotta Duh. So I called on my favorite dermatologist in North Carolina, Brooke Jackson, who offered the following wisdom:

Because of the high risk of pigmentary changes in skin of color, you should approach with caution any procedure involving lasers, chemical peels, and microneedling. You absolutely need to see a doctor who is experienced in treating skin of color and who understands the potential complications.

Your concerns in particular often require a multimodal approach which should be customized to your skin type and condition. So an in-person consultation with a dermatologist who can evaluate your skin would be your first step. Need help finding such a doctor? Here are three great databases and resources to start:


One thought on “Label Magic

  1. cynthia tilson says:

    I’m so glad you suggested this approach. Another great resource is a functional or integrated dermatology medical approach. Our skin is our largest organ and often mirrors our internal health. Lots of good info here.

    And as the largest organ, what we smear into our skin, if absorbed, can impact the whole body. I like this organization for their watchdog approach to monitoring toxins in skin care products.

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