When talking about Black-owned beauty brands, more often than not, you hear the words "indie," "small batches," and "affordable." Although there's nothing negative about those words, the question lies in why the terms "luxury," "prestige," and "high-end" are rarely a part of the discussion when it comes to beauty for women of color. U.K.-based luxury skincare line Epara is here to start the conversation. Thoughtfully formulated with African botanical ingredients, this gorgeously packaged line is what I call prestigious products on purpose, made for women of color by women of color. It's #FUBU (for us, by us) at its finest.
Founded: Ozohu Adoh in 2017
Based In: London, United Kingdom
Best Known For: Luxury skincare products formulated with organic ingredients sourced from Africa
Most Popular Product: Brightening Night Balm, Balancing Face Oil
Fun Fact: Epara won The Luxury Packaging Awards in 2017
Other Brands You’ll Love: Klur, Hanahana Beauty, True Moringa
I was introduced to the line at an event hosted by Essence's fashion and beauty director, Julee Wilson. Epara founder Ozohu Adoh created the line in 2017 to treat a skincare concern for herself after not being able to find any top-tier products that would work. She began researching African botanical ingredients and creating products out of her kitchen. Shortly after, she saw noticeable results, and the influx of compliments on her skin and questions about what she was using led her to create a focus group for other women who looked like her and wanted to change their skin. These women previously bought and liked luxury products. Taking that into consideration, Adoh acted upon the fact that women of color don't deserve anything less than the best. This notion marked the birth of Epara Skincare.
The collection of 10 products focuses on two major factors: promoting hydration and dissolving hyperpigmentation. These concerns are prevalent among women of color and are, in fact, my biggest ailments.
As for the ingredients floating around in each of these chic bottles, think essential oils, plant extracts, and natural butters. The packaging's fresh aesthetic matches the outcome each product is designed to have on your skin: clean, soft, and enjoyable. At the event, Adoh told us Epara means "to cocoon" in Nigerian dialect, so the products are made to wrap your skin in luxury. Yes, please.
I had the opportunity to review a selection of Epara's collection. Below, find my honest thoughts on my favorite products.
Brightening Night Balm
The Brightening Night Balm ($130) has a creamy, velvety texture and a faint scent of an herbal garden. Every night after I've applied my moisturizer, I get a moderate scoop of this pudding-esque balm and massage it into my skin in an upward direction. It treads the line between a balm and oil and feels incredibly rich with nourishing ingredients. It's full of brightening active ingredients that target uneven areas of the skin to fade discoloration. Although I'm reluctant to use the word "heavy," it has the perfect weighty feel that cloaks your skin in moisture, so you'll rest assured it'll last all night. I slather it all over my face, being sure to touch my eyelids and under-eye area, moving on to my neck, décolleté, and hands. I seal it in with a drop of my face oil, and then I'm ready for beauty sleep.
Balancing Face Oil
This ultra-luxurious oil feels like a dream on the skin. It's designed to brighten the skin and target pesky hyperpigmentation and, like all of Epara's products, is cruelty-free, vegan, and free of harmful ingredients. Speaking of ingredients, this oil is formulated with a blend of moringa, marula, and ylang-ylang oils that work to soften the skin, increase radiance, and soothe any irritation.
Removing my makeup at night has never felt so lush. The Epara Cleansing Oil ($65) is formulated with brightening licorice root and a blend of amazing-for-your-skin oils like apricot kernel, ylang-ylang, marula, argan, and moringa. Oh, and the icing on the cake is a dose of plankton extract that brightens and tones the skin.
Comforting Body Cream
The Comforting Body Cream ($160) is the epitome of "cocooning." This ultra-lush and incredibly nourishing cream is designed to improve your body's texture and tone. A potent blend of shea and mango butter form the base, while coconut, marula, argan, and other nutrient-dense oils help smooth and soften the skin.
Your delicate eye area deserves the best—and the Eye Serum ($147) is certainly up to the task. Bamboo silk reduces oil production, and ash tree bark helps reduce eye puffiness, dark circles, and eye bags. There's also some niacinamide in the formula (one of my favorite ingredients), as well as licorice root for a touch of brightening power. It has a lightweight yet slightly oily texture that sinks into the skin almost immediately.
The Hydrating Serum ($230) is designed for dry and combination skin. It has a lightweight texture that absorbs into the skin almost instantly—trust me, your skin will feel softer after just one use. Like many of the Epara line products, licorice root makes an appearance; frankincense oil decreases the look and feel of fine lines; and onopordum acanthium flower—an anti-aging ingredient—helps repair and strengthen your moisture barrier.
I"m a big fan of mists. I've always said that no skincare collection is complete without one—and that's why the Hydrating Mist ($60) is a must-have for me. I love to use it after cleansing, after applying my serums and toners, and before and after makeup, essentially any time I need a bit more hydration. Glucam E-10 acts as a humectant ingredient, trapping in much-needed moisture, while Pentavitin, a naturally-derived plant extract, provides a mega-dose of hydration.
Moisturizing Face Cream
Rounding out the Epara collection is the Moisturizing Face Cream ($140), a top 20 Women's Health 2020 Beauty Awards winner. It's designed to be used after the Hydrating Serum, and you only need a pea-sized drop to cover your entire face in a veil of lusciousness. Trust me. Shea butter and marula oil create the base for the cream, plus there's plankton extract, licorice root, and niacinamide to soften the skin, reduce hyperpigmentation, and firm and tone the skin.