Real Life Talk: Tiara Chats Race and Skincare
Tiara walked through the door at SkinQ for an interview in the autumn of 2019 bringing experience, confidence, straightforwardness, and a smile. I knew the second I met her that she was going to be perfect for the job. For those of you that have seen Tiara at SkinQ, you know that the service she provides is wonderful, she takes skincare and waxing very seriously, and her attitude about it all is pretty infectious. Tiara is also a woman of color, which gives her a unique perspective into the world of skincare. I wanted to learn more about her experience as an African American practicing esthetics, and how it’s different treating darker skin tones vs lighter skin tones (or in esthetician lingo: How is caring for Fitzpatrick lll - lV different from l - ll?).
Q: How did you become an esthetician?
A: I attended and completed cosmetology school. In cosmetology school you learn about hair, nails and skincare. I found that I was most interested in skincare but decided to go into cosmetology anyhow. Once I was working as a hairdresser for a couple of years I continued to realize that I just wasn’t passionate about hair at all, and skincare was still my main interest, so I got my esthetics license in 2015. When I graduated from esthetics school I got my first job as an esthetician in St. Louis, Missouri at a popular spa chain.
Q: It seems like there aren’t a lot of women of color who specialize in skincare (although thankfully, that is changing). Tell us about your experience as an African American esthetician, and a little bit about your career path.
A: The stars were aligned for me. I felt like becoming an esthetician was my destiny and my journey has been nothing short of amazing. I’ve been fortunate enough to gain experience from many different types of spa environments. After my first esthetics job, I went to work for another small company where I focused primarily on waxing, but after that I was ready for a total change of scenery and moved to California. There I worked at a luxury hotel spa in Beverly Hills, and then transferred to another one of their locations in downtown Atlanta, where I was the Lead Esthetician. I’ve learned so much along the way, and being a woman of color in the skincare industry has been empowering and rewarding.
Q: What challenges have you faced, in the industry, being African American?
A: Here recently I’ve experienced challenges due to Black Lives Matter. Being that I’m a voice of BLM and having been a victim of racial profiling myself, it is a very sensitive subject for me. I’m finding that some clients want to talk about the subject in a progressive way to learn more for themselves and so they can also teach their children, but some want to only talk about the looting that happened around the city. When this conversation comes up I try to steer the talk towards a positive light. I speak on the strides we’re making, unity and the peaceful protesting.
Another challenge, in the past that I’ve faced, is a guest refusing a service because I’m of color. I don’t fight fire with fire, and I don’t fight ignorance with ignorance. As a child my mother taught me to “kill it with kindness” and when I encounter such people, I do exactly that. My character speaks louder than the color of my skin.
Q: What has the industry done to become more inclusive of different skin types and ethnicities?
A: Not enough in my opinion. I feel like barriers will definitely be broken, maybe sooner than later, but I feel that campaigns and marketing material, for example, lack color. It’s VERY rare to see different ethnicities on any advertising promoting skincare. I have a lot of clients that use “Black African Soap,” for example, mainly because of the wording of the product. This product is TERRIBLE for your skin! I feel if skincare companies advertised their products to all races, by putting darker skinned models on their ads, this would be a simple way for them to become more inclusive. When people see people that look like them a light sort of goes off, like, “oh she/he looks like me, so it’s safe for me to use this product.” Plus it would save a lot of people from having skin problems. Haha.
Q: How is it different treating African American skin and darker skin types vs. people who are lighter skinned?
A: Ethnic skin has a natural SPF, meaning African American skin has a sun protection factor of up to 13 and can filter twice as much sun, whereas fair skin has a natural SPF of 3. Since melanin filters UV light, darker skin is less likely to burn from the sun, but having more melanin also presents it’s own challenges. Even the smallest injury to darker skin, like a bug bite, can cause changes and hyperpigmentation issues. Acne and folliculitis are also a challenge for African Americans, and that too can lead to major pigmentation problems. It’s my main focus as an esthetician to educate you on how to protect your melanin, and how you can change it if you’re experiencing too much of it due to post inflammation.
Q: What is your specialty in the world of skincare?
A: Treating hyperpigmentation and hormonal acne I would say are my two my two main specialties, but I also like to treat desensitized skin, as well. It’s a skin challenge that is often overlooked, but really one of the first things that needs to be addressed before we can tackle other skin issues, as sensitized skin exacerbates and/or is the culprit to a lot of skin problems.
Q: Do you have any tricks up your sleeve that you can share with all of us?
A: I’m your esthetician for 1 day of the month and the other 29 you’re your own skin therapist. It’s so important that you’re using good quality skincare (PCA Skin is my fav), and that you're consistent in your routine at home in order to get the results and changes that you want to see. As we like to say, “You wouldn’t go to the dentist once every 6 months and then not brush your teeth until your next appointment.”
Q: What other advice can you give us?
A: Wear SPF every day of your life, drink TONS of water, and try to cut as much dairy as possible.
Q: Oh the dairy chat … do clients get as ticked at you as they do with me when you tell them about dairy?
A: YES, people get SO ticked when I tell them to try to cut the dairy, and I get it - it’s hard - but dairy causes inflammation within the body and can be a major trigger for breakouts. A lot of times I tell clients to try an elimination diet where they cut it out completely, observe what happens to their skin - even write it down so they can remember how their body and skin reacts daily. And then, after 2 to 3 weeks, slowly add it back in. If your body and skin feel and look better while you’re off of dairy, then you may be onto something.
But yes, when you tell a dairy-lover that they shouldn’t have cheese because it may be causing their acne…you better duck and run the other way.
Me: LOL, so true!
Q: What advice would you have for those that want to support women of color in their communities?
A: There are few things: Educate yourself on discriminations that we have experienced in the past. Educate yourself on discriminations we are experiencing now. Show up for the community - whether it’s for a peaceful protest, a virtual event that is supporting the Black community, or by donating to a non-profit organization that supports African Americans. Also, support our businesses! But most importantly, just be kind. It goes back to the old saying, “treat others the way you want to be treated.”
Q: One other serious question everyone is dying to know: if you had one superpower what would it be?
A: That I would be a blessing to any and everyone I encounter.
Me: That’s so sweet!!! Thank you for taking the time to share your perspective with us, Miss Tiara. Your advice on skincare and especially your perspective on how we can better support women of color and the African American community is greatly insightful and appreciated.
Peace and Much Love,