For years, hair and makeup products tended to exclude women of colour. Here, beauty columnist Funmi Fetto reveals how she faced up to racism in an industry that is finally undergoing its own makeover

by Funmi Fetto

If you had told my teen self, I would be a beauty journalist and that I would write a book on beauty, particularly one geared towards women of colour, I would have called you a false prophet. “You can’t be what you can’t see” is a hackneyed phrase, but in my case rang true. I loved magazines, but I always skipped the beauty pages. The voices behind them did not speak to me. The faces on the pages did not look like me. The products were not geared towards me. I had no place there. Growing up, I had always heard my Nigerian parents and their friends say: “This is not our country.” And so, despite being British, I parked any expectation to be included in the beauty industry. It never occurred to me that I could be a part of this world, let alone driving change from within.

When I started writing about beauty, almost 15 years ago, it was nothing to do with race. My reasons were pragmatic. I was a freelance fashion writer, work had dried up, so I turned my hand to writing everything and anything because at that time, in the timeless words of Gwen Guthrie, Ain’t Nothing Going on But the Rent. And I was irked by the way beauty was written – fluffy and asinine, as if for one-dimensional airheads. I made a conscious decision to go against that. Unconsciously, however, my foray into the beauty world was driven by my blackness and the industry’s rejection of it. My route to realising that was surprising, even to me.

‘Watching this British-born black woman navigate a very white world blows my mind’: Pat McGrath, the world’s most influential makeup artist.

 Photograph: Rabbani and Solimene Photography/WireImage

In February 2017, to coincide with Black History Month in the US, CNN launched a project inspired by WEB DuBois’s The Souls of Black Folks, a literary classic that talks about race and ethnicity in America. Du Bois wrote about the first time his skin colour made him realise he was different. CNN chronicled several high-profilepeople of colour revealing their own personal “moment”. It was called “The First Time I Realised I Was Black.” I pondered this, wondering what my answer would be.

I was born in St Thomas’ Hospital, London, and grew up by the Albert Embankment. We were not posh. We lived in a council house that happened to be in Zone 1. In the early 80s, when I was five, we moved to Lagos, Nigeria. I do not recall a single conversation there where anyone discussed being black. There were conversations about politics, which we studied in school. There were conversations about class, a residue of colonialism. And there were conversations about skin tone. (Centuries of being brainwashed to believe the fairer-skinned are superior and should, therefore, be more favoured – particularly if their facial features mimic Eurocentric ideals of beauty – has had a rippling effect. Ever wondered why the bestselling black female artists are Rhianna and Beyoncé?) But this was the closest we came to discussing “blackness”. Which was why, when I returned to London five years later, I still did not consider myself “black”. But goodness, I soon found out just how “other” I was.


At school, a mixed comprehensive, I was the “African”. Children spat out the word in repulsion. Teachers would speak to me slowly as if English was not my first language. Someone once called me “Black Attack” because of my dark skin. I had short hair (I needed a hairstyle with minimal upkeep because I had attended a boarding school in Nigeria.) My TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro) became a taking point. I remember someone sniggering that I looked like Kunta Kinte, the central character in Alex Haley’s Roots, viciously taken from his African village and sold into slavery. At swimming classes, I was the girl who “didn’t need arm bands because her rubber lips would help her float”. I am strangely sadder about those words now than I was then. I now see the depth and layers of hate from which this ignorance stems. As a young girl, I could not articulate my feelings beyond thinking: “This white boy is really horrible to me and thinks he is really funny.” Even so, these experiences made me feel “different”, but they were not signifiers of my blackness. I discovered that in something much more pedestrian: a trip to the chemist.

Cultural icons, speaking for change and representation in the industry: Edward Enninful, Rihanna, and Naomi Campbell at the 2014 British Fashion Awards. Photograph: David M Benett/Getty Images

When I hit adolescence, I begun to get interested in beauty, not as a potential vocation, but to attract boys and to tackle my confidence-crippling acne. I would surreptitiously take from my mother’s stash of lipsticks – coloured bullets she would pick up from random stalls and stores in Brixton. The quality stretched from OK to diabolical. But I did not care. I would swipe it across my lips and head into school convinced I epitomised sophistication.

One day, I walked into the local pharmacy with my Caucasian friends to scope the beauty offering. While my friends giggled excitedly about their finds, everything I tried either left an ashy finish or just did not show up – the pigments were not strong enough. Still, I persevered, because at that age, aren’t we all desperate to be part of the collective? I moved towards the foundations and chose the darkest shade. It was called “Biscuit”. I looked like I had white chalk on my skin. I laughed to hide my embarrassment but, at that moment, everything changed. Suddenly colour mattered, in more ways than one. This is when I realised, I was black. It was like I had turned up to a party to which I was not invited. I felt irrelevant, excluded, and ashamed. The message from the beauty industry was loud and clear: I was not valuable enough to be part of the conversation.

In the years that followed, there were a few lights in the tunnel. I remember the first time I saw Naomi Campbell in Vogue. I was mesmerised. She looked like me – as far as skin colour went at least. In truth, she fitted into what the industry sees as the acceptable face of black. But she was black and that was enough for me. It gave me hope.

There were other key moments. After years of accepting and wearing foundations that were not made for my skin, I discovered MAC in the 90s. Their Studio Fix Foundation was a game changer. This mainstream brand was arguably the first to create foundations covering a wide spectrum of hues. I would go as far as saying it changed the lives of beauty-loving black women. It was the first foundation I wore that made me feel beautiful.

The rise of Pat McGrath, the world’s most influential makeup artist, also had an impact on how I viewed beauty. Even now, watching this British-born black woman navigate a very white space and reach the top of the game blows my mind. Still, the culture of silence around the lack of products available to darker skin types remained.

There are those who may think: “It’s just beauty, what’s the big deal?” Makeup and skincare are powerful tools that have helped me cope with difficult moments in my life. In my youth, acne plagued my skin and carried on long after I grew out of my teens. It killed my confidence. The discovery of a decent facial. 

Years later, when my premature son was seriously ill in intensive care, my daily hint of blush, slick of lip colour and touch of mascara provided a sense of normality when everything around me felt scarily precarious. So, no, it is not just beauty. It holds a power that is not always tangible but trust me, it is there.

Fast forward. It is 2019. There are moments when I sense an exciting shift taking place in the beauty industry. Along with sustainability, diversity and inclusivity seem to be at the top of every agenda. Whether this will extend beyond a trend or box-ticking exercise remains to be seen, but for now it is welcome. Foundation ranges suitable for all shades are omnipresent. In fact, thanks to the incredibly successful product launch of Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, which addressed the whitewashing of the beauty industry, any brands now launching with fewer than 40 shades of foundation are seen to be slacking.

I believe the boldness in calling out a lack of inclusivity stems from cultural icons in powerful positions speaking out. From Naomi Campbell to Beyoncé to Oprah Winfrey to Rihanna to Edward Enninful… Hearing them addressing issues of race has given so many people a voice. There still exists, of course, the tone-deaf brands that do not believe darker-skinned women are their “audience” and have purposely limited their foundation colours. Thankfully, there are other foundations to cater for everyone. Preferences may vary based on texture, finish, and skincare benefits, but the market is now so vast, “the one” is lurking out there somewhere.

The issue is not really about foundations. It is about representation and equality

That said, the issue is not really about foundations. It is about representation and equality. I have had countless women of colour approach me via social media, at dinner parties, on the streets, to ask me for product recommendations. Their ages span from 16 to 80. They cover the spectrum of class. They come from all walks of life – school-gate mothers, students, high-flying executives, fashion stylists. If all these women are struggling to find products and beauty “professionals” still do not know what to do with darker skin and Afro hair, then the beauty industry, retailers, brands, marketers and, yes, even editors, are failing them. When I told a friend that I planned to write a book on widely available and easily accessible products and brands women of colour should have on their radar, she was flummoxed: “How are you going to fill that book? There’s nothing out there.” Ah, but there is. It is not perfect, but a mind shift in marketing and media could make a significant difference.

Most beauty journalism still assumes readers are white. Cosmetic brands are trying in their marketing, but most skincare brands are not – by only featuring white women in their campaigns, they also assume their audience and consumer is white. At most of the the big beauty companies, all the key decision-makers are white, which invariably informs what ends up on advertising material. I must ignore that homogeneity to discover gems. Black women not in my position do not have that advantage and assume “it’s not for us”.

This seems like a commercial misstep. A few years ago, a Nielsen report in the US found that black women spend nearly nine times more than their Caucasian counterparts on hair and beauty – mainly on niche brands targeting this demographic; brands that are generally sold in beauty supply stores in “ethnic” areas. If this survey were conducted on this side of the Atlantic, I am convinced the results would be no different. A significant amount of this spend goes on black-hair products, yet the mainstream hair industry remains the least inclusive part of the beauty industry.

The mainstream hair industry remains the least inclusive part of the beauty industry.

At a recent beauty industry dinner, I complimented a fellow editor on her hair. She told me she had just had it done at a high-profilesalon loved, lauded, and frequented by every beauty editor I know. I had never been, I admitted. Another editor overheard and was aghast. “What! You’ve never been?” she said. In my head, I responded: “I can barely find suitable hair products from mainstream hair brands, let alone finding ‘white’ salons or stylists to cater for my hair. Most approach my coily texture with trepidation, as if a pet alien has just sprouted from my scalp. Or they view it as an unruly beast that requires bashing into submission. Or I am simply turned away. And so, for the sake of my self and hair preservation, I now stick to black-hair stylists, or those situated in so-called ethnic areas, who don’t find my hair such a terrifying aberration.”

But I did not say that, because I did not have the energy. I have had these conversations many times before. They are exhausting. So instead, I simply shrugged and said: “I don’t go because they don’t do Afro hair.” “Oh,” she mused, “I never thought about that.” Of course, she had not. This is an advantage afforded by white privilege. It is a small privilege, but a privilege, nonetheless. It is a privilege I do not have. So, despite the current talk of diversity and inclusivity, I am constantly reminded we are not there yet. While it is wonderful that I can now find a base that will not turn me deathly grey or cantaloupe orange, in order to really move forward, the beauty industry needs to start having conversations that go deeper than the shades of foundation.

How important our ancestry is, in creating beautiful outcomes on the skin….

It can shape how the skin will respond to certain topicals and treatments, we must take it into account when creating effective, and safe, skincare plans for clients. To truly understand the skin — any tone – any type – any condition — it requires we go beyond the skin’s tone or challenges. We must understand its origins.

While tone does help identify characteristics such as melanocyte size and melanin breakdown, there is much more that must be addressed when working with skin of any color — starting with a few common challenges specific to certain ancestries:• Asian skin – as this skin type is more sensitive and prone to PIH (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) (acne discoloration) it responds best to progressive peels and corrective facials performed in a series. Microdermabrasion and AHA’s should be used with caution and product selection must be kept to a minimum to determine what is most suitable to the skin.• Black skin – prone to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), keloid formation, and pseudo-folliculitis barbae (PFB). This skin type generally responds well to  more rapid progression and fairly aggressive topicals thatwill facilitate and stimulate cell turnover, brighten tone and provide antibacterial support.• Caucasian skin – Prone to premature aging, dryness and rosacea. (Micro-circulation disorder) Care plans for this skin type should be determined based on skin history and specific skin challenges.• Latin and Hispanic skin – hyperpigmentation, scarring, PIH (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation), and uneven skin tone. Progressive treatments and corrective facials are generally best to start with for this skin type, particularly if there is scarring or hyperpigmentation. This skin type tends to produce more oil which allows for more aggressive treatments with caution.

Retinol – a vitamin A derivative that converts to retinoic acid and assists in the synthesis of collagen, blood vessel formation and cell regeneration.

Mandelic acid – a safe acid that may be used successfully on all skins of color. Derived from almonds, this antiseptic acid has lightening and restorative properties.

Daisy flower (bellis perennis) extract – a gentle, yet highly effective natural skin lightener that influences different pathways involved in melanin formation, counteracting age spots and balancing hyperpigmentation.

Melanin suppressants – typically a combination of natural lightening ingredients such as kojic acid, L-arbutin, azelaic acid, L-ascorbic acid and ingredients that provide antibacterial and antioxidant support, while minimizing PIH.

Zinc oxide – provides natural sun barrier, antimicrobial, antioxidant and soothing, healing support.

Taking the above into account, though every client will differ based on skin type and condition, there are a few intelligent ingredients that work very well with skin of any color to produce beautiful results. 

To produce beautiful results for skin of any color, you must go beyond the surface.It all begins with really knowing your client and understanding the different traits of their ancestry.

“Skin Intelligence” by Patricia Moore is licensed under CC BY 4.0

 Botox Injections

 “Guide – Botox Injections” by Patricia Moore – Ref: Dr. Irwin is licensed under CC BY 4.0

What are Botox injections used for?

Botox injections are commonly used for:• Frown Lines• Lines around the eyes (crow’s feet)• Horizontal forehead lines• Nasal scrunch or squint lines• Lines on neck

Botox is also used in small amounts in several other areas on the face depending on the way your muscles of facial expression work. 

It can raise the outer part of the eyebrow if it is sagging, lift the corners of the mouth, and help to smooth out dimpled or cobblestoned chins. 

Generally, it is not used in the lines around the mouth, usually because it might be difficult to speak and eat.  

What is Botox?

Botox Cosmetic is an injected liquid used to treat frown lines, squint and smile lines, nasal crunch lines, and horizontal forehead wrinkles. By relaxing the underlying muscles, these lines become less deep.

Botox has been used to treat thousands of patients medically and cosmetically over 20 years. Botox is produced in a lab by a bacterium called “Clostridium botulinum”. It has been purified under very strict controlled conditions. Botox is made by Allergan, a company with a twenty-year history of making this product safely.

It does not travel anywhere else in the body. It gradually wears off naturally over a 3-6-monthperiod.  There are other forms of Botox now being produced by other companies.  None have the track record of effectiveness and safety yet, that Botox does.  Note:  I have no financial interest of any kind in Allergan.

How long do the effects of Botox last?

Most patients find that the effects of Botox injections last approximately 3-6 monthsMost patientsgo 3-4 times the first year and then 2-3 times a year after that. After the muscles have been relaxed for a while, it takes less to maintain that relaxation. But every patient is an individual, and there is no knowing exactly how you will respond.

How long does Botox take to work?

The effects are may be first noticed in 72 hours, but it may take up to 7 days to maximize the effect. You may be asked to return after the first treatment so that your provider can assess your response. The first set of Botox injections may only give a partial response. This is common and complete relaxation may be noticed after the second or third treatment.

How much does Botox cost?

Botox costs more in bigger cities with higher costs of living.  Some offices charge more than others. This variability makes the ranges in prices so wide as to be almost meaningless. Relaxing frown lines in a woman would cost between $250-600. Men, who have larger muscles, will need more – possibly $350-700. Treating more areas increases the price.

Do Botox injections hurt?

Botox is injected with a very small needle (like an acupuncture needle), so it causes very little pain upon injection. Botox does not cause irritation or inflammation. Occasionally, patients have complained that there is a mild stinging sensation.

Are there any people who should not receive Botox?

Botox injections should not be given to pregnant women, nursing mothers, or patients with neuromuscular diseases like myasthenia gravis, Lambert-Eaton syndrome, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s), or motor neuropathy should not use Botox.  Patients who are allergic to human albumin (different than an egg allergy) should not use Botox. It is not recommended in pregnancy or nursing because it has not been tested.

Are there any medical side effects?

Side effects include bruising, eyebrow, or eyelid droops (ptosis), and a temporary headache, and rare flu-like symptoms have been reported. Many of the side effects that are listed for Botox are seen when large amounts are injected for medical purposes as opposed to the small amounts used for cosmetic purposes. Very rare allergic reactions have been reported.

Cosmetic side effects of Botox?

We have all seen these – and with celebrities too frequently. Basically, these problems are due to either an un-qualified injector or a patient who insists on this look despite all evidence that it looks bad! With an expert, experienced doctor or nurse injecting, these potential problems should be rare or nonexistent.

· The frozen forehead.  Referred to as the “Oscar-Night Freeze.” We have all seen this: the face absolutely does not move. The result looks slightly robotic, not natural. In the beginning, when working with frown lines, the corrugator muscle (the muscle that operates when people frown) may need to be completely relaxed, for a while. Once the frown line dissipates, though, it makes sense to adjust the Botox dose to allow for a little movement so that the expression looks natural. Remember, the goal is no wrinkles, not no movement.

· One or both eyebrows pop up too much. With bad Botox, one or both eyebrows are elevated so much that the arch or the last third of the eyebrow sits up too high, giving the patient a chronically surprised look. In addition, odd wrinkles can occur over the lateral brow. Usually this can be prevented or fixed easily with a few strategically placed drops if it happens.

· Eyelid drooping. (known as Ptosis) This is the complication you read about most often. Most of the time, the eyebrow has dropped which makes the eyelid feel heavy. If your eyelid is truly drooping after Botox injections, call your doctor. There are prescription drops that will temporarily help elevate the eyelid, making this problem bearable until the effects of the Botox are gone.

 “My brow feels like an elephant sat on it.” This is the result of over-Botoxing the forehead, specifically the frontalis muscle, which goes all the way across the forehead and is used to raise the eyebrows. Too much Botox relaxes the forehead too much, which results in a heavy feeling. When the forehead comes down, so do the eyebrows. Since some of us raise our eyebrows to make the eyes feel more open when there is excess eyelid skin (called hooding), then dropping the eyebrows makes the eyelids look worse—or more hooded.

If the doctor does not correctly perceive how much the patient uses this muscle, then too much Botox will make the forehead feel heavy.

Hospital stays and bootleg Botox. 

There have been several legal cases where doctors bought bootleg or illegal Botox. This is Botox that is used primarily for research purposes with animals. This type of Botox comes very concentrated, and the doctors involved in these cases tried to dilute it themselves. In one case in Florida, a doctor diluted it incorrectly and landed himself, his girlfriend, and a patient—the doctor injected all three of them—in the hospital for months. In another case, a doctor was diluting Botox and then putting it into Allergan Botox vials. The best way to protect yourself is to make sure your doctor has a long and excellent reputation in your community. And do not go for cheap “Botox specials”—it could be cheap for a reason! Never be injected outside a doctor’s office or a medical setting. Remember those “Botox parties” held in offices or homes? Not a good idea.

Does Botox interact with other drugs?

Very rarely. It is always important to let your provider know if you are taking other drugs.

How can I tell good Botox work from bad?

With Botox, there is the great, the good, the ugly. Great Botox is customized to your individual face, taking into account factors such as which facial muscles you use the most, your facial muscle balance from side to side (we all have asymmetries), your job, your social life, and the look you want (for example, natural or high glam (my word for frozen). Great Botox requires steady hands, the eye of an artist, and the passion to get it perfect. Great Botox injectors can be hard to find.

Good Botox is where you get the standard four or five shots into your frown lines and you go on your way. It works perfectly well, but there is not much customization. And the range of looks that these injectors can accomplish is limited. But if you have only some frown lines, good Botox injections can work just fine for you.

Ugly Botox is all too common. You have seen it on television: it’s that completely unnatural frozen look, or worse, where the poor person almost looks like she’s had a stroke, one side of her face completely different than the other. The point is Botox is not a cookie-cutter procedure. In the hands of a good injector, it can create a marvellously natural look that makes you more refreshed- and relaxed-looking. In my opinion, the goal of Botox is no wrinkles, not no movement!

Finding a good Botox Doctor or Nurse.

First, look at your friends and ask them for recommendations. If you like the way your friend looks, chances are you will like her doctor! Next, schedule a consultation if you can, and find out how many years the doctor or nurse has been doing Botox injections (at least five years is adequate). Avoid offices that advertise; offices advertise because they are not busy enough. Good doctors are busy. You can always check on the Allergan website, which has a list of Botox providers in your area.

Here are some ideas. When you or anyone else are persistently having problems with skin care products, there is a very high likelihood that you have become allergic over time, to one or more of the chemicals often used in skincare products – not the active ingredient.

Most skincare companies put a lot of chemicals – preservatives, fragrances, formaldehyde releaserscarcinogenic properties etc. – in creams, gels etc. AND…….it can sometimes be devilishly hard to identify which ones might be bothering you.

Try to find a Dermatologist in your area who specializes in allergic contact dermatitis and does what is called “patch testing.” These are small discs put on your back for 72 hours and will help identify which specific things might be causing the problem

Stop ALL products (yes even the sunscreen), for 3-4 weeks and let your skin rest until it is good again. Once you are back to normal, then add products back one at a time a week apart so you can identify which specific ones are bothering you.

In lieu of that, another strategy is to do an “elimination” diet for your skin. Find a Qualified Skin Care Specialist who will recommend suitable cleanser and one moisturizer.  

“REACTIONS” by Patricia Moore is licensed under CC BY 4.0

“For Men Who Care About Their Skin” by Dr. Irwin is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Here is how to fight face-mask breakouts, straight from the pros

Souzan Michael Galway July 17, 2020

It’s been a few months since face masks became a regular part of our lives. Whether you’ve made your own thanks to the many DIY tutorials available on YouTube, bought a few cute cloth options from Etsy or gone the disposable route, face masks have definitely become a large part of the “new normal” that everyone keeps talking about. 

Since some cities, have recently passed a bylaw making masks mandatory in indoor public spaces until at least September, if you are not already accustomed to mask life (to which we must say: ugh), you are about to be. 

And while the pros of wearing a mask are hopefully obvious (they save lives, they’re not actually uncomfortable, they mean you don’t have to put on lipstick in the morning and—once more for the people in the back—they save lives), now that we’re wearing them so often, many of us are also experiencing a con: mask-induced breakouts and minor skin irritations due to prolonged wear. 

So, if you have noticed an increase in breakouts and pimples around your mouth, nose,and chin area, you are not alone. We reached out to the pros to learn more about maskne, including, most importantly, how to treat and prevent it. 

What is “maskne”? 

“Maskne is technically known as ‘acne mechanica,’” says Dr. Monica Li, dermatologist and clinical instructor in the Department of Dermatology and Skin Science at the University of British Columbia. “It’s acne that arises at sites of friction, pressure, occlusion or rubbing, causing irritation and inflammation of the hair follicles.” Before the days of COVID-19, you might have noticed acne mechanica along your hairline after a hot, sweaty day in a baseball cap, for instance. It’s also often “seen in athletes who wear sporting equipment such as helmet straps,” says Dr. Li. “Acne mechanica [is also] due to…increased heat and moisture underneath the masked area, which causes pores to clog, adding to acne flare-ups.” 

Are hot summer days making it worse?

“The enclosed area of the mask against our skin unfortunately produces a microenvironment of warm moisture,” says dermatologist Dr. Carl Thornfeldt. When combined with summer’s hot, humid weather, “these super-hydrates the stratum corneum (the outer layer of the skin) and dilates the pores and sweat glands.” This increased oil and sweat production clogs our pores, resulting in maskne. 

What other types of skin issues can we expect to see? 

Because maskne is typically inflammatory in nature and caused by those aforementioned clogged pores, it usually presents itself in the form of whiteheads. However, since it is2020 and the worst-case scenario is never out of the question, it can “evolve to become pustular and cystic lesions,” says Dr. Li. 

If you are noticing things like rosacea or contact dermatitis, you might have a slight allergy to the fabric or dyes in your face mask, which may be worth a virtual consultation with a dermatologist. 

Already breaking out? Here is how to treat maskne.

Turn to the trusty acne-fighting ingredients that you would use for any other breakout. Ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide and retinoids are common in over-the-counter and prescription skincare products and can save the day. “These ingredients can be found in both cleansers and moisturizers,” says Dr. Li. “Keep in mind, though, that acne treatments can dry [out] the skin, so it’s about finding the fine balance of tolerating these ingredients [while managing] the ongoing irritation that can come from mask wear.” Finding this balance is unique to your skin type and lifestyle, of course, but incorporating these products into your nighttime skincare regimen a few times a week (not several days in a row) is usually the safest bet. 

“The use of gentle cleansers and moisturizers can help to repair and restore skin-barrier integrity, which may be compromised due to friction from use of facial masks and coverings,” says Dr. Li. Of course, if a breakout is severe or does not go away with treatment, reach out to your dermatologist or family physician to see what is going on. 

Is there any way to prevent maskne while wearing a mask?

So, you got your last breakout under control and now you want to prevent it from happening again? Great! The most important step you can take is to practice good hygiene. This means washing your face in the morning and the evening and washing your mask regularly (if it is a cloth mask). You want to make sure your skin is always coming into contact with a fresh, clean mask. 

When it comes to your summer skincare routine, opt for lighter textures like gels and lotions rather than thick creams, which can further clog pores. For those who had acne-prone skin before the recent use of masks and facial coverings, you already know that skincare products containing topical salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide or retinoids (such as retinol, tretinoin or retinyl acetate) can help to unclog pores and reduce oiliness of the skin, says Dr. Li. But, as mentioned above, it is about striking a balance between gently exfoliating the skin to prevent a buildup of skin cells and debris and not further irritating the skin by overusing chemical exfoliants. 

Does wearing makeup under a mask have an impact?

Sure does! “Wearing makeup can further occlude facial skin under a mask and contribute to acne development,” says Dr. Li. Not wearing makeup like foundation and concealer on mask-covered skin is an easy way to help prevent breakouts. If you absolutely must wear makeup, “choose mineral-based products rather than oil-based ones, as the latter are more occlusive,” says Dr. Li. “Consider alternatives such as tinted moisturizer or tinted sunscreen,” she adds, rather than a full-coverage foundation. 

Hydroquinone’s in Nigeria and the rest of Africa, India, and some parts of Asia

I am Nigerian, my face is type 5 skin tone, but my body is type 4. I had patchy skin in 2009, I think from product I used. I remember I started to use a hydroquinone cream ending of 2009 but due to my ignorance, I did not use any sunscreen. My skin started getting darker, but I kept using the cream until Oct 2010. By then, my face and neck had gotten almost black. I resumed use of Another hydroquinone product from 2011 to early 2013 when I realised my face was even blacker. I did some research and realised I should have been using sunscreen. Now I have a black cast on my face (cheeks, on my upper lip, around my eyes, chin) down to my neck. My face and neck are obviously much darker than the rest of my body. And to make it worse, I have blackheads and whiteheads all over my face except on my forehead.

I use sunscreen religiously now (spf30) and I am thinking of having a salicylic peel and a lactic peel. Is this advisable? Also, my dermatologist says the darkening that happened when I used the hydroquinone creams was due to me not using sunscreen and not because I am allergic. I should use the product at night nd use sunscreen during the day. I do not know. How do I know if I am allergic to hydroquinone?

Dear Readers – 

I think it is important that all of you know that in many parts of the world, the use of hydroquinone’s (most common skin bleaching active ingredient) is NOT regulated.  This means that uninformed or unethical people, sometimes even doctors, can put very high concentrations of this into skin creams and not disclose that.  The highest allowed in the U.S. without a prescription is 2% and with a prescription 4%.  The EU bans it and some other countries regulate it closely.  In our office, we limit it is used to specific problems and for limited times.

Using hydroquinone creams in high concentrations or over long periods of time (years) can cause a possibly permanent worsening of pigment that is from the drug itself.  This condition is called exogenous ochronotic.

I am concerned regarding the question above that perhaps this issue could be the true culprit.  Please discuss with your doctor or get a second opinion.  One way to determine whether the hydroquinone itself is a problem, is to go off it for at least 3 months and see if you get better.  There is no blood or skin test for this allergy.

Micro-needling is NOT so great with active acne.

Why?  For two reasons because the needling often aggravates the redness and pus (inflammation) with active acne, and it doesn’t prevent scars.  Also, it really doesn’t treat acne scars very well.1. With active acne, the microneedling often causes more inflammation because it introduces tiny wounds.  Your skin is already trying to heal the acne, it doesn’tneed more to heal. Much better would be to treat the acne itself more vigorously and aggressively.  You may need your primary care doctor or a dermatologist to help you.  For example, an antibiotic gel like Clindamycin may be helpful, or a short course of an oral antibiotic.  There are many other options.2. The microneedling doesn’t prevent scars from acne.  The only way to prevent acne scars from inflammatory acne, is to get the acne under really goodcontrol.  Some types of acne don’t cause scars because it’s a more mild form.3. Microneedling doesn’t treat existing scars very well.  I know……you see all these amazing photos on the web, but often the lighting is different, sometimes the photos are photoshopped, the patient may have had other procedures also, etc.  Studies have shown that it’s not very effective.

Microdermabrasion (MDA) IS very helpful with acne.

Why?  Because it exfoliates the dead skin cells off that plug your pores.  And because it has a tiny suction device (think tiny painless vacuum cleaner) that deep cleans pores in a way a brush or exfoliant can’tAlso infusions can be done at the same time.  Microdermabrasion can be done with active acne as long as the acne is being treated with topical or oral agents.1.  Acne is caused by plugs in the pores.  For example, if the plug is very superficial you get a blackhead or white head and not much redness or swelling.  The deeper the plug, the more the inflammation, pus, and potential for scarring.  When you exfoliate and suction the pores out well, it improves the drainage of that pore and makes your topical medications, cleansers, etc. penetrate better.2. The Micro-derma tip feels like a cat’s tongue or mild scrub.  It removes the dead skin very thoroughly.  Dead skin combines with the oil in pores to create the plug.3. Keeping the pores cleaned out and using your topical medications, reduces the bacteria counts on skin.  We all have good bacteria too, but you don’t want the acne-causing one proprioni bacteria to overgrow because it creates more inflammation and more potential for scarring.

Keeping your diet healthy by avoiding junk food and inflammatory foods really helps too!

“Hormonal Imbalance and Skincare” by Patricia Moore is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Hormones are chemically charged and have a huge effect on bodily function.  Hormone levels, fluctuation in levels, as well as balance play a major role in determining a skin condition.

Post menopausal breakouts, and other chronic breakouts.

Common Concern in Women 

Please help. I have been dealing with this for 2 years now. I have been told its anxiety acne and menopause acne hormones. I break out on my chin line, top of shoulders, back, upper arms and chest area only. It was almost gone, but now it is back, and there is a lot of acne now. It is so embarrassing, and I am so over it. I have tried creams, oral antibiotics and gone to two different dermatologists. I believe it is more hormonal. I am done with menopause. Someone told me if I go back on birth control it will help me. I cannot take hormones because women breast cancer runs in our family. Thank you, needing advice bad.

I am so glad you asked this! Because many women suffer with post menopausal breakouts. It is annoying and embarrassing. And sometimes breakouts can cause permanent discoloration (red or white), or scars! But here is the interesting news: these are not always what you think. These “breakouts” might NOT be acne at all.

Chronic or post menopausal breakouts? Here is what to do:

1. Get a bacterial culture. 

First, ask your primary care doctor or dermatologist to do a bacterial culture. There does not need to be an open wound or pus to do this. The long, Q-tip like swab needs to be rubbed firmly and vigorously over the affected area. Why? Sometimes staph or other bacteria are present andhave tracked down into the small hair follicles. This requires 1-4 weeks of an antibiotic to get rid of the bacteria. Your doctor can tell what is growing from the culture, and which antibiotics the bacterial is sensitive to.

2. Test your male hormones.

Your primary doctor can test your MALE hormones. Yes, all women have some androgens (male hormones). Testosterone and DHE are the most tested ones. In some women, these are too high and can cause breakouts. Your doctor can help you with how to treat this, if your androgen levels are too high

3. Consider your female hormones.

Your hormones may need to be adjusted, if you are getting any kind of female hormone replacement. Progesterone is often the culprit, or testosterone.

4. Reassess your steroids. 

Steroids, especially oral steroids like prednisone, can cause breakouts. Injected steroids are the same. For example, a steroid like Kenalog in a knee or hip injection. Talk to your doctor about a plan to get you off these steroid injections or oral steroids slowly.

5. Get a yeast biopsy.

A form of yeast called Pittosporum can cause breakouts in these areas.Unfortunately, a culture cannot be used to diagnose this. A small biopsy with a special stain (PAS) is required. Oral medications like fluconazole can treat Pittosporum. Creams generally do not work, because they do not penetrate deeply enough. So, what can you do? Take good quality probiotics; and avoid sugar and junk food. Build up your gut biome by eating more vegetables. Especially raw ones.

6. Get your blood sugar tested. 

Diabetes can contribute to all sorts of problems! Please get your blood sugar tested if you have not had this done in a while.

“Chronic Breakouts” by Dr Irwin is licensed under CC BY 2.0


If this is a skin condition you are experiencing, my recommendation for you would be to see a Licensed Aesthetician  to address your concern and goal.  Getting rid of hyperpigmentation can be a long process depending on the depth of the pigment, lifestyle, and skin care choices. 

“HYPERPIGMENTATION – B.Y.O.B.” by Patricia Moore is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0


Hyperpigmentation At Home, According To Dermatologists


Hyperpigmentation, a common dermatological issue that manifests in darker patches appearing on the skin, can be difficult to tackle effectively. Persistent dark marks can appear following inflammation caused by acne, as a result of changing hormones, pregnancy, excess sun exposure, or genetic melasma. Though pigmentation in the form of freckles is now rightfully embraced, the non-uniform appearance of hyperpigmentation can be a source of insecurity for many. 

It is even trickier to deal with on darker skin tones, as patches tend to emerge with a higher pigment, and take a great deal longer to fade than on lighter complexions. Many resort to using unsafe lightening creams to eradicate the marks, which rarely work long-term and leave the skin more susceptible to harmful sun damage. 

If you suffer with hyperpigmentation, there are a few over-the-counter products, dermatologist-approved, professional-grade formulas and innovative cosmetic treatments that can target dark patches with the aim of fading them effectively – and safely. 

“How To Safely Handle Hyperpigmentation At Home, According To Dermatologists” by Twiggy Jalloh is licensed under CC BY 4.0