“Skin health is a reflection of body health,” Is the beauty industry addressing wellness?
At the Uncover skincare launch, an insightful panel moderated by Mimi Onalaja delved into the skincare industry and the relationship between skincare and mental health. The panellists Hilary Rodriguez, Onyeka Michael, Nicole Chikwe, Ezinne Alfa and Jade Oyateru, a co-founder of Uncover, are knowledgeable on skincare and the skincare industry.
Firstly, the panellists shared what they learned on their skincare journey.
Nicole said she used to wake up and make a beeline for the mirror; looking for new spots or blemishes and any new ones would ruin her whole day. Now, she has come to realise that skincare is a journey. “Be patient with your skin; it’s an organ, and it changes as it has needs. You have to work with it because it’s your friend.”
Ezinne says, “Your skin keeps changing; you owe it to yourself to do your own research to find out what works for you.”
Unlike Ezinne and Nicole, Jade grew up with unproblematic skin. “I determined good skin by the fact that I wasn’t breaking out.” After having children and during pregnancy, hormonal changes made her skin start acting out, and make-up made it worse. “I started researching and understanding skincare, and I realised that even when I thought I had great skin, it wasn’t healthy.” She started to see skincare as a holistic approach. Diet, sleep, stress and the state of your mental health, as well as products, play a role in the state of your skin. “Skin health is a reflection of body health sometimes; we’re not just preaching.”
The panellists also shared practical ways to help yourself out of skincare lows.
Hilary says, “You need to have realistic expectations for your skin. My skin is not flawless, but I see how far I have come. Skin is skin, an organ, and it’ll change and have issues. Normal skin has pores, texture, and imperfections. When you understand that, you’ll be more confident. What is ‘flawless’ skin is subjective.”
Nicole says affirmations really helped her embrace herself and her skin. “I reached a low point where I couldn’t continue talking about skincare because my skin got so bad. I wasn’t comfortable talking about skincare because nothing seemed to be working for me. Affirmations helped.”
She would affirm herself every morning and say, “I am the pie-in-chief of the premium pies; spots do not take away from my beauty. What you’re feeding yourself is what you’re going to feel about yourself.”
With their insight into the industry, the panellists answered, do skincare brands feed into our skin insecurities and uphold unrealistic beauty standards?
Onyeka highlights the problem of bleaching and ‘toning’ and the colourism in the beauty industry. Hilary says she has had clients who request skin-lightening products and processes for themselves and even their children.
Jade grew up experiencing colourism. She believed that fair skin was better because society lauds light skin as better. But, she says, “Real is beautiful. No flawless human being exists, so why should skin be flawless?” As the COO of Uncover, Jade says they hold themselves ethically responsible as a brand to project realistic expectations.
Mimi says there’s always something we’re expected to aspire to. Something is in today and out tomorrow, and we are expected to change accordingly.
Nicole was bullied online for her looks. “The things they bullied me for are now admired. Beauty standards are changing all the time; one day, it’ll get to you.” As Ezinne succinctly said, “We can’t depend on the industry to change.” There are a handful of dermatologists in Nigeria; Jade says maybe 100. Because professional help like consultations and scientific perspective is not very accessible, we must avoid herd mentality and make it our responsibility to find what works for us.
Onyeka says, “People are starting to embrace black skin more. At some point, the only skincare products available were skin-bleaching products. It is a woman thing to look for beauty, and at the time, all they could find were the harmful products on the market.”
Brands like Uncover that cater to African skin are reshaping the narrative and providing healthy skincare products. Nicole says she especially loves the affirmations they feature, a daily reminder that you are energised, smooth, cool, protected, spotless, radiant and balanced as you use the products.
The panellists agree that the growth they want to see in the Nigerian skincare space is primarily regulation and enforcement.
They also agree that the link between mental health and skin health is very real. The founders and panellists shared personal stories of how their skin health reflected on their mental health at times when they were unhappy with their skin.
The Uncover brand believes skincare and self-care is a holistic approach to wellness. They seek to uplift women through their affirmations while catering to their skin needs with products crafted especially for black women and women of colour.