People of color have been underrepresented by the beauty industry for an immeasurable amount of time. This is particularly true when it comes to hair and skin care products. Products are developed for lighter skin, tested on lighter skin, and in advertisements, demonstrated on lighter skin. Those with darker skin know that, more often than not, these products do not work the way the media portrays them for their skin. Not too long ago, these sorts of products were the only ones available. People of color had to take a chance on an item and simply hope for the best.
In recent years, we’ve been beginning to see a change. Smaller, “indie brands,” as we would call them today, have existed for over one hundred years. Now, beauty for people of color is more mainstream. Celebrities like Rihanna are creating their own brands of makeup. Skin-care lines have developed products that are better-suited for people of color. Beauty brands are expanding their shade ranges to encompass all tones and colors. It has been a long, uphill battle, and strides still need to be made, but the summit is getting closer and closer with each passing day.
For some, it is hard to imagine that 30 years ago, products for people of color were far and few in between. Big retailers like Target and Walmart just weren’t selling this sort of merchandise, and those with darker skin and curly hair had to look elsewhere for products that suited them.
It was as a bright-eyed medical student in 1985 when Dr. Angelo Thrower fully realized this problem. Dr. Thrower, a Miami-based dermatologist, has been a staple of Miami skin care for years. In a recent interview with Interviewology, Dr. Thrower reveals that dermatology hadn’t even been his intended path. When he first arrived at University of Miami, becoming a thoracic surgeon had been his end goal.
In a class of 180 students, approximately eight came from African American backgrounds. From time to time, the school would invite doctors of color in the area to give talks and inspire students. Out of the doctors that visited, none were dermatologists. When asked about this, each and every one replied, “We don’t have any.”
The aspiring thoracic surgeon decided to reevaluate, and look into the under-populated field. Taking to the medical library, Dr. Thrower studied the dermatology textbooks. As he moved on from book to book there was a common factor among each of them that particularly stood out: all of the textbooks only featured white people. None of them delved into symptoms or diseases more prominent in communities made up of people of color.
Dr. Thrower had observed the unmentioned characteristics regarding the different skin type firsthand during his visits at Jackson Memorial hospital. Yet, when Dr. Thrower questioned the validity of these texts, his professors brushed them aside and asserted there was no difference between people with different skin colors—a stark contrast to the truth Dr. Thrower had come to understand. There was simply a lack of education as a result of so many decades of unfounded bias, and Dr. Thrower knew he had to do something about it.
With a sudden shift in focus to an entirely new field, Dr. Thrower immersed himself in whatever literature he could find on dermatology, and black skin disorders versus white skin disorders while continuing to study wound recovery. Dr. Thrower found himself under the wings of a number of doctors at different schools. While attending George Washington University Medical Center in Washington D.C., Dr. Thrower came to a sudden realization—not far from his own school was John A. Kenny at Howard University, a man who had made a name for himself as “the father of black dermatology.”
A massive opportunity was staring Dr. Thrower in the face, and he took it. Dr. Thrower contacted Dr. Kenny, and with time, got to know the man not only as a scholar, but as a mentor. On weekends, he would sit on Dr. Kenny’s front porch, listening and learning to the man’s guidance and soaking in his expertise in the field. Dr. Thrower’s interest had turned into inspiration, and with a little push from Dr. Kenny, he knew that he had found a new calling in life.
It was following his completion of schooling that Dr. Thrower returned to Miami. As all recent graduates are, his footing was initially unsteady, but all it took was an ad in the newspaper that read “Do you suffer from acne, dark spots, shaving bumps, bumps on the neck, dry scalp, or skin discoloration?” to garner the attention of not only a largely black population, but the local news anchor, Dwight Lauderdale, and Miami Heat Podiatrist, Dr. Stuart Leeds. Dr. Leeds saw a fire in Dr. Thrower, and shortly after, he was recruited as a physician for the Miami Heat, and has retained the position for 25 years.
With the prestigious title of Miami Heat Physician, he opened his own business. His Miami-based MedSpa follows his passion and offers specialized treatments for people of color and their specific skin types. These treatments provide his patients with long-lasting immediate results that non-specific procedures would be unable to provide.
But that was still not enough. Not everyone can make it to the MedSpa for regular treatments—be that a result of funds or transportation. While the procurement of proper medical treatment for people of color has always been a problem, so has the lack of products. With his in-depth understanding of not only the difference between light and dark skin, but the difference between oily, normal, and dry skin, Dr. Thrower developed a line of products formulated just for people of color. These products treat a variety of problems—from acne, to discoloration.
The road to equal representation in the world of beauty is still in the process of being paved, but Dr. Thrower’s work is speeding up the process. With such a densely-packed population of minorities within and around the city of Miami, Dr. Thrower’s business has positively impacted the lives of many people across the world since his products are available for purchase online. Where other treatments failed, Dr. Thrower’s products and treatments have succeeded. Where there was once a hole, Dr. Thrower filled it. While the work of a single dermatologist may not seem like much to some, it means a lot to those from diverse African and Caribbean backgrounds whose needs for decades were not even represented in the health and beauty industries. Dr. Thrower has transformed lives with his hair and skin care products that help people feel better and more beautiful both in their hearts and in their appearances.
-This article was written by by Cassandra Ledger of The Sophia News