Jessica Usenbor, 36, moved to Dubai in 2018 after being a lifelong New Yorker. Self-described as Nigerian-American, she discovered a gap in the market.
“I’m going from a city, New York, where there’s a beauty supply store in every corner, I can get the products I need at every stage, no matter the price point, no matter the type. And I come here and I’m struggling.”
She started planning THEKÜR over two years, finally launching in April this year.
Pronounced ‘the cure’, this comes from Usenbor being a problem-solver; and this is the remedy she has, a curated range of skincare and haircare products.
“It’s important to say we’re not looking only for melanated skin, we just want to be included in that conversation. So our products, especially our skincare products, are meant for everyone – anyone can use it – but the brands are inclusive to people of color.”
Usenbor points out that there are still moisturizers today that render a white cast on the skin, still a huge market around bleaching, and often higher levels of whitening agents in masks.
“It was really important to look for brands that are truly focusing on the canvas that is inclusive to people of color.”
She wants to show the beauty of brown and black people in the Middle East.
Haircare products are based on texture and environmental concerns, as well as lifestyle. Her website, she says, guides and tailors products to your needs. The products are sourced not for the sake of luxury – but for effectiveness, designed often by dieticians and dermatologists.
During the interview, Usenbor is wearing the Vitamin Injections London sunscreen. She says the best thing about the sunscreen is you don’t have to worry about a white cast.
“But not only that, they’re clean. They’re vegan, cruelty-free, they’re made with very rich ingredients. It has hyaluronic acid in them. It has various oils to help protect the skin. So not only is it protecting you from it [the sun], it’s also treating your skin.”
When it comes to moving to a new city from across the world, Usenbor does not have the same story as many.
“I lived in the hustle bustle, New York City mentality. It’s just intense all the time, career-driven. And I just needed a break. I did a silent meditation retreat in Thailand. And I came back and said ‘I’m quitting my job, I’m going international’.”
She felt at home the moment she landed in Dubai, seeing the city lights in a taxi going to her hotel.
“I knew this is exactly where I needed to be. I’ve been fortunate to kind of attract like-minded people. I’ve just made it home fairly quickly. It is not perfect, though. It has its own quirks,” Usenbor outlines.
“But I do think that the opportunity here is enormous, they’re in a place where there are a lot of gaps, and they are looking for people to come in and help them close it and partner with them on that. And I think THEKÜR wouldn’t have been birthed anywhere else. This is where it needed to happen,” she says of Dubai.