Yahoo’s Diversity in Beauty Awards (the DIBs) highlight and celebrate personalities, brands, and products that embody inclusiveness and innovation. We enlisted eight experts who have championed diversity in their careers and cover all bases of the beauty industry to vote on the best in makeup, skin care, hair care, and more. Here, DIBs judge and cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson reveals how she wants to inform and inspire men and women of color to take better care of their skin.
“My goal was to go to college to be a doctor and then go into forensics. I was in the state toxicology lab working forensics, and quickly realized it was not me. I sent my résumé out to everywhere that was chemistry-related, and actually got a job at a small personal care consulting company,” Wilson tells Yahoo Beauty. “I was able to work in hair care, skin care, body care, sun care, and that’s when I really started gravitating toward skin care.”
Wilson learned about cosmetic chemistry and the people behind many of the products we use on a daily basis. “I didn’t know what a cosmetic chemist was until I came into the interview. I knew someone had to make the [makeup] products, but I didn’t think about how that got done,” says Wilson.
She continues, “A cosmetic chemist is a broad term for anyone that makes colored cosmetics, skin care, hair care, dental care; a personal care chemist. When you wake up in the a.m. and you brush your teeth, wash your face or hair, a cosmetic chemist has something to do with each of those formulations.”
Studying these formulations taught Wilson about the importance of skin care, and that the sooner we learn about it, the better. “I think you should start [delving into skin care] young, especially around puberty when your skin starts to change. Our skin changes and goes through cycles; unless you really take the time to pay attention to different areas, you won’t know what products to go for,” she says.
Wilson attributes her progress to the support of an amazing mentor. “I had an idea and I brought the idea to my mentor, and she was pushing me to get onboard. Sometimes all you need is someone who’s going to push you toward your goals and see your abilities,” she says.
Thus, Skinects was created to inspire men and women of color to understand and cultivate a relationship with their skin. “A common problem people do is they don’t get the right products for their skin and their skin type. And then you misinform others by saying this is a ‘good’ product or not,” says Wilson.
On the site, readers can take a variety of skin quizzes — tests that aim to analyze your skin type and suggest products based on your individual needs. But these are not your run-of-the-mill assessments; while the Basic test helps to classify your skin type (dry, normal, combination, oily, or sensitive), the Fitzpatrick zeroes in on your unique complexion and tolerance to sunlight. These tools are vital in educating people on facial treatments, chemical products, and how likely they are to get skin cancer.
One of the main issues Wilson tackles with her work is the improper practices of skin care, predominantly among women of color. “People who use products for evening out skin tone and dark spots are not wearing a sunscreen! You don’t realize you are wasting your money. The sun exacerbates those spots. The biggest thing aging-wise are the dark spots and sun care.”
Wilson also reminds us not to underestimate the power of sleep. She explains, “Your skin repairs itself when you are sleeping. You’re not giving your skin the time to repair from the day when you don’t give yourself time to rest. Those are things you can do for free; it’s just the willpower to try to make the best decisions for yourself every day. Honestly, if you take care of what goes into your body and rest, you won’t need to depend on a lot of extra products.”
As someone who has studied the molecular building of the pigments for foundations, she also knows why so many brands omit darker shades from their makeup range. Ultimately, it comes down to brands trying to get the biggest payout with the minimum amount of work.
“They can easily gravitate towards less complicated, less research, and more bang for their buck. Our requirements [as people of color] are much more specific, and a lot of brands don’t have the capacity to try to do the extra work to find these shades,” says Wilson. “Even though we make up the largest buying group, it’s challenging. It sucks, but I understand the amount of research wouldn’t equate to the amount of shelf space they’d be allotted by the stores that supply their products. You only have a certain amount of space, and if you’re already making money, why change it? That’s the mentality of a lot of brands.”
Despite these obstacles, Wilson does believe the beauty industry as a whole is improving. “I think people are trying to be more inclusive based on their resources and what they’re trying to do. Brands like CoverGirl and L’Oréal that bring on Zendaya and Lupita [Nyong’o] are showing the gamut of people who are being involved in the conversation. It includes finding people who can really speak to you and not just shoving a product,” she says.
“I think we’re going to get further along as long as we continue to push people and say we’re not going to support this unless you support us,” says Wilson. “Within the next five to 10 years, we’ll see a lot more diversity. The fact is my daughter and nieces can go out and feel beautiful because others are striving to be like them. I enjoy seeing them be who they are.”
Read more from Yahoo Style + Beauty:
- Yahoo’s Diversity in Beauty Awards: Celebrating Inclusiveness and Innovation
- This Makeup Artist Saw the Cosmetics Industry Failing Women of Color — and Changed It
- Beauty Brands That Broke Diversity Barriers in 2016