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HUE: the inclusive skincare brand changing the beauty industry

HUE co-founders Dr Hani Hassan and Mona Haidar (Mona Haidar )
HUE co-founders Dr Hani Hassan and Mona Haidar (Mona Haidar )

The skincare industry is a lucrative and flourishing industry but it’s no secret that for the past few years it has been failing those with melanin-rich skin tones.

Historically, skincare testing has been geared towards lighter skin, despite reactions like inflammation or irritation appearing differently on darker tones, so it’s no surprise that among consumers, there are some that feel invisible.

Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty helped kickstart inclusivity in makeup, with over 50 foundation shades that expanded beyond the rigid ten versions of the same beige we’ve always known. The Fenty effect gripped the beauty industry and mainstream brands like Dior, Cover Girl and Revlon followed suit, introducing 40 shades in their lines the following year of Fenty’s launch. But the fervent passion to revolutionise the skincare industry is yet to happen.

While aspects of skincare remain the same, there is no one-size-fits-all. Depending on the level of melanin, black and brown skin has unique characteristics that require specific attention in skincare. Melanin-rich skin is susceptible to stubborn post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, dark circles, and acne scarring, a study published in 2018 in the National Library of Medicine revealed.

In some cases, the Fitzpatrick skin phototype, a classification system used to categorise the spectrum of skin colours, is used to develop and test skincare and makeup products. The scale was first introduced in 1975 by Thomas B Fitzpatrick, a Harvard dermatologist, and for several decades was utilised by dermatologists to determine how different skin tones respond to UV rays and how to treat skin disorders. In recent years the scale has been dismissed as hugely inaccurate and biased, with only two of the six categories covering the broad spectrum of brown and just one for the many shades of black.

Melanin-rich skin is susceptible to stubborn post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, dark circles, and acne scarring

Multi-ethnic consumers in the UK spend 25 per cent more on health and beauty products, but 22 per cent opt for specialist shops, with that figure rising to 30 per cent in black women. A Superdrug study revealed 70 per cent of black and Asian women felt the high street does not cater to their beauty needs.

Enter the savvy entrepreneurs who are carving a space for themselves in the skincare industry instead of waiting for change. Making its debut is HUE, a brand created to help demystify skincare for people of colour. Co-founders and close friends British-Somali NHS doctor Hani Hassan and British-Arab architect Mona Haidar launched HUE with a vision of catering to the neglected needs of brown and black skin.

Like many others who dealt with hyperpigmentation, I spent most of my teenage years perched in front of the mirror frantically slapping on various miracle creams and praying my diligence would pay off. But HUE didn't exist back then, and as it turns out, I knew very little about the mechanisms of my skin and why those creams, frustratingly, were not working.

HUE was “purely driven out of personal need,” says Dr Hassan. Duped into spending £3,000 a year on dermatological treatments for her acne and dark marks, she reached the defeating conclusion that many of the existing products recommended to her were futile in dealing with her condition.

“No wonder none of this stuff works, because the knowledge production isn't based on people that are like me, it's not based on my skin. The amount of money I was spending was so financially crippling, because I was self funding my degree. It was kind of my villain origin story,” the 28-year-old says.

Before HUE came into being, Dr Hassan started out on YouTube, racking up thousands of views over time as she gave advice on everything from getting rid of hyperpigmentation to clearing up acne. To her 40k followers on X and 1000k subscribers on the video platform, the London-based influencer soared her way into becoming the hyperpigmentation guru, many, including myself, heeding her tried and tested routines. Her new-found fame convinced her the idea for HUE had “legs to stand on.”

In her first video, which gained 1.6 million views, Dr Hassan says skincare companies don't “centre us as the target audience” and we often end up falling through the cracks. “I want my focus to be people from marginalised backgrounds... what you see on the shelves in the drugstore is very white normative,” she continued. “Hyperpigmentation is especially common among people of colour, but there is little available scientific data as to tackling this issue. I have collated and reviewed the existent literature and formulated a tried and tested approach.”

An angel investment of £250,000 kickstarted the launch of the highly-anticipated serum, the SUPRA-FADE, formulated with seven active ingredients and antioxidants and specifically targeting hyperpigmentation. By the time HUE launched in December last year, there were around 6,500 people on the waiting list.

Aesthetic is important at HUE. Along with the serum, customers can buy the SUPRA-EGG, a decorative case coated in gold and handcrafted by metal artisans in Turkey. “Visually it needs to be more than just a standardised clinical skincare brand,” says Haidar, the self-proclaimed “image maker” and creative director of HUE.

HUE is a reflection of our cultural layers and realities, Haidar says (Han Yang)
HUE is a reflection of our cultural layers and realities, Haidar says (Han Yang)

“I think so often in the beauty industry we are not afforded our multitudes and depths and we want HUE to be a reflection of that vast richness. We wanted HUE to honour that and be a reflection of the layered beauty that exists in our communities,” she says.

Above all, HUE promises its products are a blend of scientific methodology with an added depth and understanding of the many hues of the people it targets. HUE is already making waves and is celebrated by skincare influencers in the industry who have sung its praise on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. The brand may just be the catalyst needed to change the skincare industry.

“It has to do more than just work, it has to touch people's hearts because it's like we're saying ‘we see you’,” Dr Hassan adds. “I'm not here to sell you snake oil. This isn't us shilling you products, we want to make something that has kind of an intimacy to it.”

HUE is not the only brand in the game helping to diversify the beauty industry. New products catering to the specific needs of black and brown skin are cropping up and becoming more mainstream. Here are five other inclusive skincare brands to have on your radar...

The Afro Hair & Skin Company

For those of us who have long struggled with finding the perfect and affordable hair care catered to reviving those curls, The Afro Hair and Skin Company has come swooping in to rid us of our misery. They’re not just a hair company, but sell an array of natural and organic skincare products containing locally sourced British ingredients to create a healthy blend of goodness for your skin. Their best products include the Rebirth Glow Recovery Face Mask and Perfectly Balanced Facial Oil, promising healthy complexion for rich skin tones.

Price: from £11.00

theafrohairandskincompany.com

Hyperskin

Launched in 2019 by former lawyer now beauty influencer Desiree Verdejo, Hyperskin effectively targets dark spots and hyperpigmentation using a mixture of clinical and potent plant-based ingredients. It’s a ‘hyper-effective’ and results-orientated brand rooted in multiculturism and real skin. The product that started it all is the Hyper Even Brightening Dark Spot Vitamin C Serum.

Price: from £22.13

hyperskin.com

Okiki skincare

Founded in 2016 by a mother and daughter duo, Okiki skincare creates natural, highly-crafted products that draw from the roots of the founders’ Nigerian heritage. Okiki is a unique blend of Yoruba origins and British influence and home to everything from hair care to their best selling Kwame Face Cream.

Price: from £7.50

okikiskincare.com

Epara skincare

If you spent the tail-end of the winter trying to salvage the damage the weather has done to your skin, then Epara is for you. Just as its meaning in Yoruba suggests, Epara promises to “cocoon” and revive your skin. Winners of the Best New Product For Dark Skin’ in the 2017 Grazia Beauty Awards and ‘Best Cleanser for Hyperpigmentation’ by Marie Claire in 2017, Epara is a luxurious skincare brand designed for women of colour and the unique skin issues they face. The brand uses pure African botanicals to create products that heal and rejuvenate.

Price: from £35

epara.com

Liha Beauty

You may have noticed shea butter, also known as mother nature’s conditioner, has gone from being the obscure ingredient listed at the back of your hair or body cream to the popular option for natural skincare. Founders of Liha Beauty, Liha Okunniwa and Abi Oyepitan, have also recognised its magical benefits and bottled it straight from the “tree of life” to their digital shelves. The brand was created out of a necessity for vegan-friendly skincare products, blending natural African plant-based ingredients with English aromatherapy. You’ll find an assortment of products from their African soaps to their best selling Idan Oil.

Price: from £25

lihabeauty.com