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Treating Ethnic Skin: What to Look For in an Esthetician

You're a person of color or have someone in your life who is and you're curious what to expect and look for in an esthetician when searching around or just what to use? Hi! I'm Andrea. I'm an Afro-Latina esthetician and as someone who has struggled with her skin in so many ways, I'm here to shed a little light on the subject. Growing up, I noticed my skin color only when others asked, "what are you?" or if they questioned if that was really my dad or really my mom. As I got older and was getting into makeup, I struggled to find a makeup shade that suited my skin tone and always thought I'm just hard to match. I struggled with acne but I wasn't able to do much about it and I was and still am a picker, so I ended up scarring every time too. I also ended up diagnosed with Acanthosis Nigricans, which is a skin condition that can be caused by weight, insulin resistance, diabetes, genetics, etc, in which I get dark patches. I remember buying lightening lotions to lighten my darker elbows and knees and tried to scrub at my darker patches. I didn't know how to work with my skin and my family really had no experience to help me either. When I got to beauty school and we began treatments, I remember other students just being confused as to what to do with my skin and then getting told by instructors that I was unable to get certain services due to my skin tone and as someone who loves all things skincare and was at a point in my life where I was really working on fixing my acne and scarring, it was really disheartening. All that is just to say, hey, I get it. I get the frustration and the distrust.

The amount of times as a makeup artist that a person of color has brought their own makeup, expecting me not to be able to color match or work on them or the times that I've had people ask me if I work on a specific ethnicity is somewhat shocking but also, not surprising, because I've been there.

Sometimes, people just don't understand that if you haven't been catered to due to your skin tone or ethnic DNA, you sometimes can't trust someone will do right by you or know what they are doing. Some people have had their skin permanently scarred by estheticians, just because they had assumptions about their skin due to the color or due to their features. We are becoming a much more multi ethnic society and it's important to feel like you're in good hands.

Not only do I have personal experience, but I've taken additional training to understand different ethnicities as well as transgender skin undergoing hormonal changes. I want every client who comes into my studio to feel comfortable and to feel safe, knowing I will do whatever I can for them and have the skill behind me to back it up. If I don't have the answer or feel comfortable doing a treatment, I will make sure to reach out to a mentor who does.

So, let's say you're not in Washington and can't come see me, what should you look for?

  1. You can ask, "do you have experience with ethnic skin?". If so, you could ask to see photos of clients they've worked on. (Keep in mind, some areas, like the area I work in are predominantly white and it's not common I get a person of color, so some people may be in a similar demographic. In that case, ask if they've taken additional training)

  2. Check their social media. Do they have photos of people of color? Again, like I said above, some people don't have as diverse of clients due to their location and it's nothing against them, but it's nice to see if they do.

  3. Look at their intake form. Did they ask your ethnicity? Some people don't want to pry but it's an important thing to ask. Many estheticians go off a Fitzpatrick scale, however it's a quite dated and since we are becoming more multi-ethnic, some features may put you in different spots, so this is important to get an idea of how your skin could react during treatments.

  4. Do they recommend an aggressive treatment on your first or second visit? Typically, with darker skin tones, pre-treating the skin is an absolute must. This is to lessen damage from forming, like additional hyperpigmentation. A slow treatment plan is ideal to prevent issues from arising and so usually an aggressive treatment won't be recommended for a while.

If something feels off, like you don't feel like you're being taken care of, it's absolutely okay to go see another esthetician. There are estheticians of all ethnicities who understand and can treat skin of color easily, so don't be concerned, but always make sure you are standing up for yourself.

I offer Virtual Consultations as well for product recommendations as well as for Acne Treatment for those out of town from me or looking for an alternative option to in-studio treatments. Email me: info@wisplashstudio for more information!


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