Meet Rachel Roff: a Charlotte entrepreneur in diverse skincare

Rachel Roff’s office is like something you’d find in an upscale spa in LA. Weaving through her med spa, past two waiting rooms and countless therapy rooms, Roff’s glass-paneled workspace sits inside her marketing department, complete with multiple offices and a conference table often surrounded by a dozen or more employees.

With neon lights, a bar set up and framed magazine covers boasting her product line, it’s easy to forget you’re in Charlotte, tucked away in an office park off Mallard Creek Road. But this unsuspecting locale is where you will find Urban Skin Solutions.

Roff is a 37-year-old business mogul who would rather you not refer to her as such. While Roff has created an exploding business in skin care, she said that has just been a by-product of her unwavering passion and business acumen.

For Roff, it all started as a child, with a handful of telling instances.

At 7 — the age her daughter, Rosie, is now — Roff would sort through her toys and beg her mother to let her go door-to-door in her neighborhood, selling her unwanted possessions. Roff said this desire to work and own her own business came from watching her family do the same thing.

Photo by Liz Logan

“My grandmother owned a group of nursing homes, and because of her, I knew I wanted to own my own business,” Roff said. “My mother worked her way through school, and my grandfather went to paralegal school at age 78. We are all a family of hard workers.”

“I loved to work but struggled in school,” Roff continued. “I needed to be passionate and personally invested. I just wasn’t that invested in my school work.”

What Roff did become passionate about — and rather quickly — was skin care. As a child and adolescent, Roff battled acne and skin problems, regularly visiting dermatologists and specialists. “I had a mole on my face that I spent countless appointments working to get removed and spent about a year of junior high with a Band-Aid on my face.”

Roff spent these formative years being teased and bullied for her appearance and weight, wishing she had the tools to make a difference for herself and to feel more confident in her own skin.  

Her whole life, Roff — a white woman — had been surrounded by friends and family with diverse skin tones. When she entered esthetician school, she was surprised to see a non-diverse staff of teachers and product lines.

“We were only talking about white skin problems,” Roff said, “and I knew this couldn’t help my friends and family with more diverse skin tones, which bring about their own unique problems we were not equipped to support.”

Photo by Liz Logan

And in her entrepreneurial spirit, Roff began ordering her own books and drawing her own conclusions.

After graduating age 23, Roff set out to fight for those feeling there were no possible solutions for their skincare woes. Years of teasing had placed a permanent chip on her shoulder, driving her to overcome any negativity she’d encountered. She vowed to use this fuel to help others who felt as she once did.

Her first job was with a chiropractor who happened to have a 1064 nanometer yag laser, one that was safe for all skin tones. She brought in her boyfriend at the time to try out the laser on ingrown hairs along his neck. After a successful removal, she printed out fliers and went around to barber shops promoting this solution, making her inner 7-year-old self jump for joy.

“It was intimidating as a woman to step into these all-male spaces,” Roff said. But she didn’t let that hold her back. She created a script for a radio commercial and started drawing in clients.

That move gave her the confidence she needed to write up her own business plan.

“I knew what it was like to have skin problems, and with Charlotte having such a diverse population, I wanted to see this reflected in the skin care industry,” Roff said. So she convinced her parents to co-sign on a loan and cast out on her own.

“I encountered a lot of pushback,” Roff said. “People would say things like, ‘How will people take you seriously? You’re not black.’ But I knew my intentions and my skill set, so in 2006 I opened my first spa.”

In those first few years, Roff had two treatment rooms, three employees and took all the laundry home to do herself. Now, 13 years later, Roff employees over 50 people, has a vast and spacious business and even has her own skincare line that can be found at Target, CVS and Ulta.

Photo by Liz Logan

For five years, Roff carried five different lines of skin care products in her med spa, never fully finding everything she wanted in one brand. After years of educating herself on formulas, Roff reached out to labs in Texas, Florida, Minnesota, California and Ohio to formulate her own line.

“We have product briefs, and I’ll tell the technicians what ingredients I do want and what I don’t” — things like fragrance and parabens — “and what viscosity I’m looking for, and they build them for me.” This formula has worked well for Roff, attracting celebrities like Fantasia and Janelle Monet, even landing her a spot pitching a product on “Basketball Wives.”

Now, Roff spends her time growing her business, speaking to large groups and flying to and from LA, all while raising her daughter.

“I want her to know she can do anything, no matter her skin tone. When she is upset that I’m working so much or traveling, I remind her that what I’m doing is important. When I’m with her, I’m giving her my all, and when I’m working, I know for certain I’m changing the world.”