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Diversity in Aesthetics: Dr Mariam Adegoke

Next up in the Glowday Diversity in Aesthetics series is the lovely Dr Mariam Adegoke, owner of the Adegoke Wellness Clinic. She outlined her thoughts on the lack of representation in aesthetics, and discussed how we can improve diversity in the industry.

Hi Dr Adegoke. Tell us a little about your journey into aesthetics. Did anyone help pave the way or support you?

My journey into aesthetics is quite different. I had actually wanted to do it for several years but I was always hesitant, as I wrongly assumed that it would be a negative atmosphere. My dad is a GP and he always encouraged me to do it, and offered for me to work out of his practice. He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.

I was always the makeup artist in my group of friends, and I always had the artistic eye that’s needed in the role of an aesthetic practitioner. But it wasn’t until a university friend of mine went into aesthetics and set up a training academy. She explained what it was like to work in the industry, and offered for me to go and visit her clinic. It was then that I realised this was what I wanted to do. So, I did my training and just fell in love with it. I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner!

It’s clear that there’s little diversity within the aesthetics industry. Was the lack of representation a barrier to you entering the industry?

Yes, it was an issue and initially it put me off. Surgery, which is where I started out, appeared to be very white, middle-class, but also very male. At that time, there weren’t many women, and from the outside looking in it was a bit off-putting.

I assumed the aesthetics industry would be as 'dog eat dog' as surgery because it appeared to be a very male, surgeon-dominated field at the time I initially wanted to start out. But, when I got into it, it was the opposite, and everyone has been really friendly and eager to help.

The industry is definitely changing, and it’s slowly becoming more multicultural. The more you start to see people who you identify with, the more you realise you can do it. Even now, compared to 5 years ago, there are lots more women than there were, which helps as well. It’s not just about race, it’s about gender too, and it was the lack of both of these at the beginning that was the problem.

Literature regarding aesthetic treatments for different ethnicities doesn’t appear to exist. Is this because caucasian clients and black clients are treated in exactly the same way, with the same volumes, techniques and procedures, or because it just isn’t taught and documented? If it's the latter, what would you like to see done about this?

This is a problem that’s not just specific to aesthetics but to dermatology as a whole. In skin conditions, all the examples you see tend to be on caucasian skin, so you don’t get to see what a certain condition would look like on different skin tones. In terms of aesthetics, there are lots of things to be aware of, such as different shapes of lips, jaws and noses between races. So, when you’re doing profile harmonising, respecting those proportions is essential. I actually went away and did further reading, studying and webinars to learn more about this, as there’s no one size fits all approach.

I’ve only attended one training course since starting out that addressed the fact that you need to respect the ethnicity of the patient, as well as the anatomy. Having an eye for aesthetics is so important. In many courses you’re so busy learning how to perform the different techniques but you don’t factor in that you also need to assess someone and see what will actually work on that individual. I have to listen to my clients but also assess what works for them based on so many factors.

Perhaps the reason I’m more aware of anatomy is that I have a very multicultural client-base across my three clinics. I’ve had to really focus on my individual clients, because if I went and injected my middle-age caucasian patients the same way as my younger, black patients, it just wouldn’t work.

Given this issue, what advice would you give practitioners wanting to become more competent and confident treating black clients?

One size doesn’t fit all. What you learn to do in courses isn’t always directly transferable in real-life, across your entire client-base.

Once you’re comfortable injecting, it’s all about developing on that. You have to read more and go on as many courses as possible. You need to keep your skills up to date and learn all the new products and techniques out there.

So, with such a lack of representation within the industry, do black people - women in particular - see aesthetic treatments as being "for them?” If not, what can we do to address this?

I don’t think so but, at the same time, I do think it’s changing. Initially, it was rich women, then women of a certain age, then it started becoming more accessible. There’s still a misconception that black women don’t get their lips done and that they can’t get chemical peels. There’s so much misinformation out there. But I think that with access to social media, people are realising they can have a wide range of treatments.

As practitioners, we need to recognise that our clients are becoming more diverse and we need to be able to adapt to this changing client-base. We need to be learning all about different skin tones.

Following the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, I’ve been seeking out content creators to help me begin to understand the experiences of black women in particular. As a black aesthetic practitioner, who are your 'must follows' on social media?

I like Dr Tijon Esho - he keeps it real. He’s probably the best known black aesthetic doctor, with the biggest following - but it’s refreshing to see how down to earth he is. I feel that thanks to him, I can be myself and be a great aesthetic practitioner.

I also like Dija Ayodele, who is the founder of the Black Skin Directory. She does a lot to try to educate people on how treatments are not always the same on black and Asian clients as on caucasian clients.

I like the fact that, together with Dr Aimee Vyas and Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme, they have set up the Black Aesthetics Advisory Board, which will be really useful in helping us all to get a sense of what our clients think of the industry, and how we can learn from and adapt to their needs.

What are the top 5 treatments black clients request?

Skincare treatments for issues such as hyperpigmentation are popular, as well as chemical peels, and lip filler - sometimes just to balance out the vermillion border. Then, body contouring treatments, like buttock sculpture are also popular, as is cheek filler, which is my favourite!

What are your ambitions for your clinic and career?

At the moment, I have multiple clinics, but I would love to have my own wellness centre that offers both wellness treatments and aesthetic treatments. That’s where we are in terms of our approach to healthcare and how things will be going in the future. Fusing the two will be great.

Sounds exciting! And what overall changes do you hope to see within the aesthetics industry?

We need to see more key opinion leaders (KOLs) making changes from the top down. If companies are more diverse, there will be so many more products that reflect the needs of the diverse skin tones and client-base we have in the UK. Companies need to look at their KOLs and ask them whether they really reflect the needs of the entire population.

This year, we’ve realised how much of a gap there is and how far we are from where we need to be. I think this is a watershed moment for change.

Thanks for chatting with us, Dr Mariam Adegoke!

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