I've been a fan of black-owned beauty brands since the days when Ebony Fashion Fair was the only cosmetics company that truly catered to us (shout-out to my Granny) and when shea butter concoctions were sold on fold-out tables or in narrow shops on the streets of Harlem (1990s B.G. or Before Gentrification). Although several of the major black beauty-product pioneers have either passed away (S.I.P) or sold their shares to larger corporations, there are hundreds of independent black-owned or black-founded beauty lines and brands on the market today.
I have a thing for trying new beauty products, especially cosmetics and haircare lines launched by black women. The larger the beauty supply store or product section, the wider the selection---and the more euphoric the feeling of buying something just to see if it's better than the last 10 products I bought last month. I'd always follow all the "top" or "best" beauty product lists and clutter my bathroom and bedroom with dozens of products I probably didn't need or didn't really like. The market is super-saturated to the point where I've had to force myself to purge cabinet-fulls of half-used jars and bottles and bring an accountability partner with me on shopping trips for grooming necessities.
If you find yourself pacing the aisles of your local beauty supply this month, or you've gotten tired of falling down the rabbit-hole of YouTube reviews and "best" lists, here are a select few of my fave black-owned beauty brands you might want to consider spending your hard-earned coins on for Black History Month:
Image via True Hair Care
Launched by hair extension vet and serial entrepreneur Karen Mitchell, this line features a product collection with the central ingredient being moisture-inducing keratin. Mitchell has more than a decade of experience in the hair industry---both as a licensed cosmetologist and entrepreneur--- with an extension line worn by celebs including Rihanna, Mary J. Blige, Winnie Harlow, and Lizzo, to name a few.
TV star Angela Simmons posted a video last year swooning about the True Hair Care detangling spray being a go-to product she uses to keep her hair in top shape under her weaves. My favorite is the Argan Oil Hair Mask, which has revived my tresses after years of color-abuse. I've used it while my TWA grows out after my 6th---yes 6th---big chop. My mom, who has a relaxed taper cut, and Granny (same) even use the products--having swiped them from my beauty cabinet, and I ain't even mad.
Image via The Shana Cole Collection
Jamaican-born and Bronx-bred Sushana Cole launched this line to provide a diversity of hues for black women in the U.S., Caribbean, and beyond. Getting the entrepreneurial bug as a child growing up in Kingston, Cole expanded her brand into a successful retail shop and used her products on the likes of celebrities including entertainment host Khadine "Miss Kitty" Hylton and dancehall artist Ce'cile.
What I love about this collection is that you can buy her beauty products---along with other beauty staples including lashes---via her company's app, a convenient and innovative way to purchase and keep up-to-date with new offerings. My fave--the Boss Chick Liquid Matte Lipstick--is smudge-proof and actually lives up to the brand's 15-hour wear time guarantee, lasting through a day of Sunday brunching and Monday lunching. I've even replaced the queen of reds, MAC's Ruby Woo, with this lipstick on several occasions. It goes on creamy but then dries matte but not crusty and it gives that precision hue to a pout that's sure to be noticed.
Image via BLK + GRN
OK, technically this isn't a product line but it's literally a modern mecca of black-owned product lines that include non-toxic and natural ingredients. Founded by Dr. Kristian Henderson, this marketplace features product lines made by artisans and carefully curated by black female health experts. You can shop by category and find goodies for your hair, nails, skin, and body that are plant-based and free of toxic additives. You can shop products formulated for children, and if you're a new mommy, there's something for you as well. Brands including Movita, founded by Tonya Lewis Lee---the wife of my favorite director, Spike--- and Kreyol Essence (a product fave that is great not only for your hair but for a few drops in a hot bath) founded by a proud Haitian woman named Yve-Car Momperousse.
The founder actually bootstrapped this platform on her own and has a vested interest in providing a responsible and vetted space for black female entrepreneurs to showcase and sell their green products. And she has receipts: She's worked as a health administrator and professor and her company runs with the adage, "We're Black, yes, but we live green." The company's Website goes beyond just selling products and invests in their customers' overall well-being, providing blog content on topics including how to "detox your skincare routine" and a podcast that includes interviews with beauty artisans.
Image via The Form Collection
Tristan Walker, the mastermind behind this company, is an intriguingly smart innovator. I interviewed him in 2015 about his transition from working for tech powerhouse Foursquare to launching products that solved problems and "delivered the best product experience," and I've been following them ever since. I loved how invested, informed, and passionate he was about his vision and how that would manifest in the products he'd launch via Walker & Co. Many might be familiar with Bevel, a men's grooming system that combines products and tools that have been used by celebrities including Steve Harvey, Shaquille O'Neal, Nas, and T.D. Jakes.
But the company also has something for the ladies by way of The Form Collection, which includes serums, creams, conditioners, shampoos, a polisher, a pomade, and a gel. It even has a 3-in-1 leave-in lotion called the Multitask. The latter has a "coconut-derived silicon replacement," coconut, argan, avocado and grapeseed oils. Their products are also free of preservatives including alcohol, mineral oil, and parabens. The products have been used by stars including Yara Shahidi, and I like that the brand offers a 30-day, money-back trial.
If you like the products, you can also set up Auto-Ship and re-up. (So sis, you can forgo that umpteenth time of getting in the shower, ready to get your co-wash on, and forgetting you used the last dollop of conditioner a week ago.) The nozzle on the Clarify Detoxing Shampoo is a nice touch and saves me the added cost of something I've been doing for years: buying separate bottles to dispense my fave products in because I wanted to really get the product into the nooks and crannies.
Image via Mielle Organics
This brand offers hair and skin products, but beyond that, I especially love the glow-up of its founder Monique Rodriguez. She was a registered nurse when she decided to step into the haircare game and, since 2015, her products have been available in more than 80 countries. Early enthusiasts included reality TV stars Rasheeda Frost, Draya, and Yandy Smith, and today, singer Sammie raves about it as a unisex product he's added to his regimen. The brand was inspired by Rodriguez's own journey to restore her natural hair after years of color and heat damage, and she used her background in science to experiment with formulas in order to come up with just the right mix.
Her brand is another I've followed since its inception---both from a business and product standpoint---and I fell in love with Mielle's Honey & Ginger Styling Gel which has helped ween me---somewhat---off of the usual brown or "green" (won't drop the names here, but you know what I'm talking about) gels. I'd gotten tired of mixing oil with the usuals that would dry out my 3c/4a curls. (I don't care how much they say those popularly-talked-about gels are non-flaking and moisturizing. I can never go without adding some sort of oil to those gels.) This alternative definitely fits the bill for days when I want to slick my thick curls up into a sleek ponytail or, when my hair is short, create waves for a short chic 'do.
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