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Bathroom Chats: With Ozohu Adoh

Bathroom Chats: With Ozohu Adoh

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BATHROOM CHATS: WITH OZOHU ADOH

With a high-flying career working in finance in the oil and gas industry, it was her own personal battles with her skin that made Ozohu Adoh turn to the world of beauty. The result is luxury skincare line Epara.

Founded with darker skin tones at the forefront, Adoh has worked hard to create skincare products that fill a huge gap in the market and – most importantly - actually work. Targeting the common issues that women of colour face – from hyperpigmentation to dryness – it’s a carefully designed range of products that have a strong focus on quality ingredients and luxurious experiences that makes it worthy of a place on your bedside table.

To get to know Epara a little better, we sat down with Adoh to talk about her beauty beginnings, what’s important when creating skincare products for women of colour and what she hopes to be the brand’s legacy.

What's your earliest beauty memory?

To be honest, and this is not unique to me but to most people of colour I know, from the earliest stages you had to moisturise your whole body. You couldn’t go out of the house looking ashy. So, after you had a shower, you had to moisturise your body. My mum would have different types of creams - some that she used for her face, some she used for the rest of her body - so from day one I knew you had to have separate types of products. It wasn’t optional, and it’s lived with me, and I’ve passed it onto my kids and I’m sure they’ll pass it onto their kids. They’ll say to me, ‘oh mum, you know some of my friends don’t use body cream when they go out?’ and I just laugh, because in my view, it’s a normal thing to do, but they don’t know it’s not the same thing for everyone.

What was the catalyst for creating Epara?

I’d been suffering from a skincare disorder and I tried so many different solutions and none of them worked for me. Nothing that was on the market at the time, unfortunately, was able to really give me what I was looking for. So, I decided to just step back and research - researching in African botanicals, since I’m a person of African descent - and through experimentation I happened upon a formulation that worked for me. I started to use it just for myself. I wasn’t really planning on building a brand or bringing any products into the market until people started asking me what I was using. And when I told them, they started to ask for it, and before I knew it, they started asking me ‘don’t you think you should start commercialising it?’ So that’s how Epara started. It was really an idea that was meant as a solution for myself in the first instance, and it really grew from there.

The word Epara has such a lovely meaning...

The idea behind Epara, the literal translation is to wrap around, which we’ve summarised as to cocoon. And the idea that I was trying to summarise with the name was that when you see Epara, when you touch it, when you open it, when you smell it, when you use it, it should evoke a sense of being wrapped in pleasure, being wrapped in luxury. So, that was the idea. I really wanted to evoke that sensation of being wrapped in luxury, in comfort, in love.

 

What was, and continues to be, the most important thing for you when creating a beauty brand made specifically for women of colour?

The most important thing is that the product be efficacious because that was really the reason why I started the brand, because I couldn’t find anything that was effective for me. It doesn’t matter what skin tone, what skin colour you are, whatever product you use you should be seeing some benefits from it. Because you need to be consistent when using it, you need to be persistent when using it, but you want to be able to see marked improvement over time. So, that remains to me the most important thing of any piece, of any skincare product we bring into the market, that what is written on the bottle lives up to its name.

Epara is tailored to women of colour. What are the main skin concerns you’re tackling?

There are two things that women of colour suffer from. One is hyperpigmentation and the other is dryness. We all suffer, regardless of skin colour, from different things, however the way it presents itself in different skin tones is very different… so therefore when creating solutions for hyperpigmentation, you have to create a solution that is quite hard hitting. That can treat the issue effectively. Historically, when hyperpigmentation was being treated with a darker skin tone, what used to happen was that they were being treated with very dangerous chemicals, things like mercury… so what would happen is that instead of treating the area, you have a general lightening to the skin. In an age where people are becoming more aware of themselves, and people are accepting themselves for who they are, accepting their skin colour, their hair colour, we need to move away from that. I do not want to be five shades lighter than I am because I wanted to treat one area.

And secondly, hydration. Generally, most moisturisers in the market usually are very water-based, and they tend not to have any oil at all. For someone like me, who has very dry skin, within 30 minutes my skin starts to feel tight. Without becoming greasy, we still need some oils, and that’s why we’re very intentional and deliberate in our products. We use very thin, penetrating oils but they give you the protection that you need.

We don’t like to pick favourites… but what’s the key product in your line?

Well, it feels like choosing a favourite child. It’s always very tricky and non-advisable, politically. But what I would say, is something that people tend to overlook a little bit, which is the cleansing of your skin. So, I personally really love the Cleansing Oil. I really love the way it feels on my skin, in fact, the whole process, when you put it on your hand, when you put it on your face, when you take it off afterwards, it just feels nice. So, it’s a simple one, but it remains one of my favourite products.

What’s been your own journey with your skin?

It was very difficult initially. I remember at the time I had a job that was externally facing, so I had to go out into the city for meetings, and I remember when I had to go out and my skin was really terrible I’d be feeling so self-conscious. It’s not a good feeling to have, because it knocks your confidence… it’s the first thing people see when they see you, it’s the first thing they notice. And maybe, to be honest, you’re slightly self-conscious, because maybe someone doesn’t care how many spots you have - no one cares as much as you. You just feel like everyone is looking at you. So, when I started to find solutions, what I did know was that I didn’t really want to alter my skin. I just wanted to have the best version of my skin, that’s all I wanted really, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do with Epara. At the end of the day, we’re not really, anti-anything, what we really want to do is be the best version of your skin, have the best version of your skin, and invest in these products to help you get there.

What does your skincare routine look like now? 

I try to keep it simple – I’m not someone who recommends 10 steps. At night, I cleanse. I cleanse really well. It’s really important that you massage the product properly into your skin to really dislodge any debris, dirt or whatever. Once I’ve rinsed off, I go in with the Hydrating Mist, just to give myself a prep, and then secondly, depending on what time of the year and if I feel that my skin is rather dry, I might go in with the Hydrating Serum. Otherwise, I go straight to the Brightening Night Balm. I also have a wearable mask [Intense Hydrating Mask] that’s so comfortable and lovely to sleep with. 

In the morning, because my skin is dry, I do not cleanse my skin again. I just rinse off the products with warm water. Again, in the morning, the Hydrating Mist is amazing – it’s just very good prep – and you can go in afterwards with the Moisturising Face Cream. If you have an SPF, layer that on afterwards. If you’re a woman of colour, I do not recommend more than an SPF30, especially as we get older and experience a deficiency of vitamin D. 

If you’re just getting into Epara, I would say use our Hydrating Mask twice a week. It’s a clarifying mask and it’s also creamy, so it’ll give you some moisturisation. Once you break the cycle of dryness, you can take it down to once a week.

What does beauty mean to you?

It starts interiorly - your perception of yourself. That’s what beauty is.  

 

We run into you in the bathroom. What’s the one piece of advice you’d offer?

Really invest in good cleansing. People don’t understand just how important it is. People pay a lot of attention to moisturisers, and they are good, but really the way you prep your skin to accept those other things makes a huge difference. 

What’s your most surprising beauty tip?

The Balancing Face Oil. People can use it to strobe on a night out. Just dab it around your cheek bones and it gives you a strobed effect.

What’s next for Epara? What do you hope to be your legacy? 

Well Epara was a first mover for establishing itself as a product for women of colour. Before then it [the beauty industry] … was what we call beige. So, just trying to be as universal as possible. We were the first ones to say, there’s this part of the market, that have particular needs, and those needs need to be addressed. So, what I hope is, as time goes on, what we see is that Epara has expanded, and more people are accessing it. To always remember that we made that first foray, that first step, in saying that we created a brand, and not just any brand, we created a world-considered brand for women of colour.