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How We Picked the 2020 SELF Healthy Beauty Award Winners

Every year at SELF we celebrate the best new skin-care, hair-care, and makeup products out there with our Healthy Beauty Awards. These products are things like the gentle cleansers you reach for every morning, the sunscreens you rely on to protect yourself, and the deep conditioners you repair your hair with. Whatever your skin or hair needs, we’re here to help.

This year we sorted our winners by product type and noted within each list which products are recommended for people with specific skin types, skin concerns, and hair types. The products that won made it through a selection process involving expert-informed criteria as well as an intense weeks-long testing process, and were stacked up against the best of the best in the industry.

To find our winners, we first narrowed down the 1,580 submissions we received to about 1,200 products under consideration that were launched within the last year. Then, based on the criteria we received from a panel of experts and our own editorial judgment, we further narrowed that down to 540 products to be sent out to our 70 testers. After going through the testers’ feedback, 139 products emerged as winners. In all, the process took about six months—and continued despite a global pandemic.

Here, learn more about how we selected the submissions to test, the guidelines our experts helped us create, and how we ultimately landed on the winning products.

But first, a quick note from SELF Editor in Chief Carolyn Kylstra, before we continue:

We were planning to publish these awards a few weeks ago. But days before the awards were supposed to go live, SELF's interim special projects director Rozalynn Frazier raised the issue that we had just a handful of winners from Black-owned brands and businesses. Brand ownership w

asn’t something that we’d even considered as part of our testing process. But amidst the global protests against systemic racism and police brutality, we’ve been having a lot of conversations internally about how we can better use SELF’s massive reach and influence to advance the cause of racial justice and equality. Supporting and promoting Black-owned businesses is just one of many ways we can do that.

So we pushed the awards back a few weeks to better understand how our selection process led to the end result of so few Black-owned brands winning awards. We did a comprehensive audit of all brands that submitted products for approval. We found that a tiny percent of the brands that submitted products in the first place were owned by Black people or non-Black people of color. We tested the same percentage of BIPOC-owned brands; and the same percentage won awards. What this told us is that an important first step to improve these numbers is to do more meaningful and intentional outreach to BIPOC-owned brands at the very beginning of the process. That’s something we’ll be doing next year. Meanwhile, as part of the awards this year, our associate market editor Tiffany Dodson compiled a Hall of Fame roundup of 26 of our favorite Black-owned beauty brands you should know about.

How We Chose the Winners

To start, we conducted extensive interviews with four experts in dermatology about general guidelines for people with different skin types and hair types. We went over the advice they give to patients who have dry, oily, acne-prone, sensitive, and combination skin as well as those who are looking to manage skin concerns, particularly hyperpigmentation and signs of aging (such as wrinkles, fine lines, and dark spots). We also asked them about the advice they give to those with different hair types, including fine or thinning hair, dry hair, oily hair, natural hair, and sensitive scalp.