The forces that drove estheticians Brittany Thomas, Yuri London, and Bryce Anthony to pursue careers in skincare—where representation and Black skin matter.
By Jasely Molina, she/her
Black skin matters. Black representation matters. As the skincare world continues to diversify and expand, it’s important to ensure that Black people have a seat at the table when it comes to vital conversations on skincare. Skin is not one size fits all, so having professionals who understand melanated skin, its beauty, complexity, and how to treat common skin concerns—such as hyperpigmentation, acne and eczema—can make a true difference.
We spoke to three phenomenal Black estheticians on their journeys to specializing in Black skin, the challenges and achievements they’ve faced along the way, advice they have for those with melanated skin, and the importance of representation in the skincare world.
Brittany Thomas, she/her
As a natural healer, caregiver, and empath, it was important for Brittany Thomas, aka Skinbae, to align herself with a career path that allowed her to connect with people on an intimate level. Initially, she worked in the mental health field. However, she grew unhappy and drained in the profession, so she decided to take a leap of faith and quit her job.
“At the time, my partner and I were living in Hawaii, and for me, the beach was everything,” Thomas says. “So, I would bring all my skincare stuff to the beach and just spend hours and hours doing my skincare routine or putting on lotion and just loving myself. And that kind of kicked it off.”
She began taking her courses to become an esthetician while working as a freelance makeup artist, priding herself in healing and celebrating skin without covering it up while understanding product formulations. However, the journey to becoming an esthetician was not easy. In a class of roughly 30 students, only two were Black: Thomas and a significantly younger woman. They were often pitted against each other by their non-Black instructors.
During a waxing class, the student had to wax Thomas and ended up improperly removing the hair, causing Thomas to bleed and experience a lot of pain. When she looked over at her instructor, visibly hurt, Thomas recalls the instructor staring at her —never once stepping in to intervene.
“I was traumatized by their inability and unwillingness to be great,” Thomas says. “And so much to the point that they allowed me to be in pain and suffer.”
This incident could have pushed some people to drop out, but Thomas knew she had a bigger purpose to serve. It was experiences like that that showed her that Black representation in the skincare world was crucial. To Thomas, skincare is a therapeutic and spiritual experience that needs to be handled with compassion and lightness. Her greatest mission is bridging the gap between spirit, soul, and skin.
“When you sit in my chair, you're lying practically naked, because you're on your back with a magnifying glass in your [face], and you have to sit here and tell me everything that you don't like about yourself,” She says. “You have to trust me enough, not just trust me enough as a human not to screw you over. We are creating intimate spaces where people are transforming right in front of you, and you have the blessing and the gift of being able to do that.”
Thomas’ golden rule for melanated skin comes from within: heal and reprogram self-limiting beliefs and negative thoughts, and listen to your body. To her, your skin’s health is an indicator of what is going on internally whether it’s hormonal imbalance or deeper issues related to one’s mental health. Taking care of yourself is key to healthy skin. For Thomas, she enjoys pampering herself by oil cleansing using a gua sha face massager to soothe her skin. One of her favorite products is Youth To The People’s Superfood Cleanser that she actually uses in her bath, too, because she loves how gentle the product is on both her face and body.
Yuri London, she/her
Some people get into skincare well into adulthood, but Yuri London, aka The Dewiest, knew she was in love with skincare from the age of 12. She knew early on that specializing in Black skin was imperative because melanated skin deserves tender loving care, especially when it comes down to diving deeper into skin conditions like pigmentation disorders and acne. With this in mind, she took six different courses outside of her esthetician training to become more educated on skin tone and to be able to work alongside dermatologists in the field. Similar to Brittany Thomas, London was the only Black esthetician in training in her school, and she quickly noticed that hyperpigmentation and Black skin were not really discussed in her classes.
“People go to these spas thinking that we're taught to be well versed in skin color, and we're really not—there are other trainings and seminars that you have to do outside of school,” London says. “When I realized that in school, I was just like ‘wow, like this is really weird to be the only person here that is Black and nobody knows what hyperpigmentation looks like on my skin because there are no other Black estheticians.’” She was often used for demonstrations in school because there were no other Black estheticians in training.
This experience taught London how important her voice and presence is in the skincare world. It was important for her to represent her community and spark dialogues on Black skin in academia.
“Things like pigmentation, melasma, eczema and rosacea often aren't really presented [with melanated skin],” London says. “People don't really know what it looks like on our skin tone, because we're not in medical journals. When you look up eczema online, or you look up rosazea online, it's normally going to be somebody with a much fairer skin tone.” For London, being an esthetician who specializes in Black skin allows her to bring awareness to these conditions and properly educate Black people because she is not only Black, but she is also a licensed professional who made sure she took additional classes to perfect her craft.
The most rewarding part of her career as a Black esthetician is seeing her clients’ skin progress. Whether they’re sharing pictures of clearer, healthier skin or they’re raving about one of London’s amazing product recommendations, London feels the love.
Her golden rule for melanated skin focuses on skin protection: Sunscreen is your best friend. Contrary to popular belief, you can get skin cancer even if you have melanin. With this in mind, London recommends applying sunscreen regularly.
“Start making sure that you're putting sunscreen on your chest, on the back of your ears, on your neck, or your hands, on your lips, because those are places where skin cancer is really really prevalent and people don't think to apply it there,” London says. Her bonus tip is to also create a simple yet consistent skincare routine that consists of your favorite cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen. Once you’ve established that, you can add an exfoliant like her favorite —YTTP’s Mandelic Acid and Superfood Unity Exfoliant, which she loves because of how gentle yet powerful the product is with penetrating the pores and deeply cleansing.
[Editor’s note: did you know that mandelic acid is the best AHA for melanin-rich skin? Click here for more info.]
Bryce Anthony, he/him
After working for several years as an LA-based celebrity wardrobe stylist, Bryce Anthony took a leap of faith and transitioned to working as a licensed esthetician. He began working with a skincare company and store where he met the late founder who taught him the ins-and-outs of the skincare industry, igniting a fire in Anthony to learn more and grow as a professional. Shortly after he decided to go to school to become an esthetician with the hopes of establishing his authority as a skincare educator. Anthony strived to work with the company as an in-house educator of the sort, but life had bigger and better plans for him. After graduating from school, he quickly received a lot of opportunities, motivating him to work as a freelance esthetician.
Although Anthony was among several Black estheticians in training during his studies, he was the only Black male in his program.
“This propelled me to want to learn more because I didn't really know about any male estheticians, and I definitely didn't know of any other Black male estheticians,” Anthony says. “There was a lane that was open for me to explore more and just kind of figure out why that was. It's been a really interesting journey navigating my way through an industry that's run by predominantly white women being a Black male trying to take up space in this industry.” This motivated Anthony to find a way to empower more Black men in this space and skincare in general.
“Black skin is my specialty,” Anthony says. “There’s just certain things and issues that other providers who aren’t Black may not have been taught when I was in school. All of the research that we did, all of the examples that were used in the classroom were all done on Asian and white skin. They never really talked about how to treat [darker] skin of color. It’s unfortunate because it feels so outdated and [creates] a disadvantage.” He wanted to become an expert at caring for Black skin. For him, learning hasn’t stopped with school. He is continually learning more through seminars, advanced training, and most importantly, his clients.
His golden rule for melanated skin is finding an esthetician who specializes in your skin, whether it’s your skin tone, type, texture or condition. If you cannot afford to get an esthetician at the moment, he also recommends doing your own due diligence and researching with notable sources. Misinformation on skincare in the digital age is very common, but it’s important to consult with experts in the field.
“For my clients personally, they know I'm always here for them,” Anthony says. “I’m always getting a message or a DM saying ‘What do you think about this product? Would this be good for me?’ or, you know, ‘What do you think about this treatment?’ I'm always willing to be there for my clients no matter what, whatever they need, once we've established that relationship. I always want them to know I'm here for you. I think it's important for anyone to just find someone that's knowledgeable, licensed and has a great track record.” His favorite product at the moment is Youth to the People’s Triple Peptide + Cactus Oasis Serum because of its super hydrating properties and how it boosts his skincare routine.
Written by Jasely Molina for Youth To The People