Petroleum jelly isn’t the sexiest product on anyone’s top shelf, but it’s definitely one of the most versatile. Maybe a tub of Vaseline sat on your grandmother’s dresser next to the Tiger Balm, ready to be slathered on rashes, chapped lips, and cookie-pan burns. Or maybe it’s still a mainstay in your bathroom, on hand to moisturize dry knuckles, save split ends, and even remove makeup. Clearly, Vaseline as a product is ambitious—and given its recent efforts to champion diversity in dermatology, the brand as a whole is no different.
Over the past several years, Vaseline has launched multiple initiatives designed to make dermatological care more accessible and inclusive. In November 2020, the brand partnered with director, actress, and human rights activist Regina King to launch an campaign called Equitable Skincare for All. Through a partnership with Medscape, the program is educating dermatologists and other healthcare providers on diagnosing and treating conditions on a wide range of skin tones. Vaseline’s also teamed up with health-tech startup Hued to create a search tool that connects patients with BIPOC dermatologists.
Why is it important to bring more diversity into dermatology? Well, only 3 percent of dermatologists identify as Black and only 4 percent identify as Latinx, currently. What’s more: Nearly half of dermatologists now feel that they are not adequately trained to treat concerns specific to skin of color. Plus, the lack of education related to skin health in BIPOC communities has led to misinformation, delayed or incorrect diagnoses, and higher mortality rates for centuries. “As a black woman, I didn’t know that I should be wearing sunscreen every day until high school,” says Vaseline partner and board-certified dermatologist, Caroline Robinson, MD, FAAD, CEO and founder of Tone Dermatology. King said the same—and as a Brown woman myself, I too, was late to the SPF game, thinking that I couldn’t burn because of the color of my skin (middle-school field-trip pictures would beg to disagree). But thanks to Equitable Skincare for All, future generations may not share the same fate.
And since one of the key factors preventing people from seeking dermatological care is their geographic distance from providers, Vaseline also spearheads a program called The Healing Project. It sends dermatologists on medical missions to impoverished or emergency-stricken communities around the world, and brings teams of professionals, sanitation and hygiene products, medical supplies, and PPE directly to in-need communities.
Moving forward, King hopes that these programs help more people of color to get yearly skin checks. Dr. Robinson hopes that as more work is done to amplify messaging around dermatology, more students of color will be interested in the field. We all know Vaseline, the product—but who knew there was such a thing as Vaseline, the mission?
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