The beauty industry may have long overlooked women of colour, but progress in 2017 suggests the tide is turning – with the game-changing Fenty Beauty launch ushering in a new era of inclusivity. Leading the way in the UK is London-based brand Epara – founded by Oxford graduate and ex-accountant Ozohu Adoh, it’s the first luxury skincare brand specifically targeting women of colour and is already on sale in Harrods.
Epara, which means ‘to cocoon oneself’ in the Nigerian dialect of Ebira (Adoh grew up in Nigeria), was developed out of Adoh’s personal struggle to find skincare that lived up to its promises. “I struggled for years with very dry skin,” she says. “I’d tried all the luxury skincare brands and they just didn’t work. No treatments or cosmetics would cure or cover it.”
In a bid to solve her skincare woes, Adoh began researching organic ingredients from Africa and soon started concocting her own formulas using nutrient-rich oils – think argan from Morocco and marula from South Africa as well as shea butter from Ghana and moringa from Kenya. It wasn’t long before her skin started clearing up.
“All my friends started asking me for this thing [I’d made] in a non-descript jar,” she said. Fast-forward three years and Epara’s range spans from cleansers and masks to serums and eye creams. The brand has even garnered celebrity fans – Thandie Newton swears by the Cleansing Oil and make-up artist and Chanel Ambassador Kay Montano uses the range on her clients.
As Cosmetic Physician Dr Sarah Tonks explains, the nourishing ingredients in the range are ideal for darker skin tones – which are often genetically prone to more dryness and pigmentation issues. “Any form of injury or inflammation (spots, picking, harsh skincare, UV rays) that causes redness in white skin will bring about a surge of pigment-making cells in black skin, resulting in dark spots that take a very long time to fade,” she told us.
Epara’s game-changing formulas also contain a micro-algae plankton combined with lecithin (a natural fatty tissue) that expertly targets only the cells producing the melanin, meaning your skin tone remains yours. It’s clever stuff.
In keeping with the global ‘clean’ beauty movement, Adoh’s ensures Epara’s products are giving back to the African continent too. “We believe the ingredients Mother Nature has provided within Africa are best suited for skin concerns of women of colour,” she explains. “By going to the source of this goodness, Epara is supporting local industries, co-ops and farmers”.
“Great skin,” Adoh says, “shouldn’t be denied to anyone – we all need a great canvas to work from.”