Thanks to technological advances, formulation wins and black executives making glass ceiling-shattering decisions, the beauty aisles of your favorite retailer have become more diverse and inclusive. Shoppers now have access to a range of black-owned beauty brands that address their unique needs and wants. From foundations that perfectly match deeper skin tones to shampoos and conditioners you can trust to cleanse hair without stripping away moisture or razor kits that ensure a bump-free shave, these products and tools are created by and for black women and men.
The boom in black beauty brands goes hand in hand with how much black consumers are willing to invest in maintaining their skin, hair and body. According to a 2018 special report by Nielsen, African-Americans spend $54 million in the ethnic hair and beauty category. “Black shoppers spent $473 million in total hair care (a $4.2 billion industry) and made other significant investments in personal appearance products, such as grooming aids ($127 million out of $889 million) and skin care preparations ($465 million out of $3 billion).” Feminine hygiene spending among this group came in at $54 million, while a whopping $573 million was spent on personal soap and bath needs.
Curious which black-owned beauty brands you should be shopping right now? Read ahead to learn the backstory behind eight brands with products that black women and men actually swear by.
While “chatting one night over a glass of wine,” Amanda E. Johnson revealed to KJ Miller that she had been on the search for the “perfect nude lipstick” for three years. That may seem like an unusually long time to most people, however, this is a struggle that many black women face when shopping for cosmetics. Miller herself faced the same beauty dilemma, nonetheless not being able to find “any” lip color that she believed worked for her. And just like that, the idea of Mented Cosmetics was birthed when both women realized they could “really make an impact by creating a line of subtle nude and neutral shades that worked for all skin tones.”
Fast forward to today, and Mented Cosmetics has expanded its line to include setting powders, stick foundations, blushes and even nail polish colors that look stunning on women with light to dark skin tones.
Hero product: Mented Cosmetics Semi-Matte Lipstick
“I would definitely choose our semi-matte lipsticks. We started this company because we believe everyone should be able to find themselves in the world of beauty and it should start with the most basic of essentials, a great nude lipstick,” Johnson tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Our semi-matte lipsticks are not only an amazing hydrating formula, but the shade range is truly inclusive. We believe nude is a concept, not a color and that everyone should be able to participate in beauty.”
Why Mented Cosmetics matters
“Everyone deserves to feel like the brands they spend their money on are spending their time and resources on them. No one should feel like an afterthought — not when it comes to beauty or any other product — and that firm belief is what drives us every day,” says Miller.
How the cofounders of Mented are responding to the needs and wants of consumers
“Every time we create a product we ask ourselves, ‘What is she missing? What does she need?’ explains Miller. “I believe the fact that we always start from the standpoint of filling a void means we'll continue to address our customers’ biggest pain points.”
If you’ve had the pleasure of meeting Beatrice Dixon, then you know that she radiates positivity. So, everything that she has her hand in is created with the purpose of making it easier to enjoy life to the fullest. Dixon is the woman behind The Honey Pot Company, a natural feminine care line that includes washes and wipes, menstrual pads, tampons and cups, as well as a lubricant and body balm.
Dixon’s mission was to create “healthy solutions for humans everywhere that are clean, effective and natural.” And even though it’s widely marketed as a feminine hygiene line, she is quick to note that men also use The Honey Pot’s washes and wipes. That doesn’t come as a shock to us, as the packaging is quite minimal and the products are formulated without chemicals and artificial fragrances, making this brand a win-win for all.
Hero product: The Honey Pot Washes
“Our washes are our flagship product. It's the catalyst for the entire brand,” says Dixon. “I made my first wash because of a dream I had with an ancestor who gave me a list of ingredients to help me heal myself naturally. I will always champion my washes as the backbone and foundation of The Honey Pot Company.”
The biggest hurdle Beatrice Dixon has faced as an entrepreneur
“Raising capital has been a major challenge,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Unfortunately, as a black woman, it's much harder to get the funding you need to really scale your business. You have to prove yourself in ways that your white male and female counterparts do not.”
What inspires the founder of The Honey Pot?
Freedom is Dixon’s biggest inspiration. She explains, “I work hard to create a life of freedom and independence. The idea of being able to live anywhere and see the world and enjoy all of the delicious adventures life has to offer is my idea of true freedom.”
Rachel James was bitten by the entrepreneur bug when she was told she should work for OPI because her college marketing presentation on a fake nail polish brand was “amazing.” She recalls, “Something clicked that day, and I knew going forward, I would never be working for anyone but myself.”
James has established a huge following thanks to her cruelty-free, vegan-friendly nail polish line called Pear Nova. But what makes this brand stand out from others is that it’s not only 5-free (meaning, it’s free of formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, toluene or dibutyl phthalate DBP) but she creates from a fashion-forward perspective. Each lacquer is treated like “garments tailor-made for every kind of woman.” You’ll find cool and fun shades, as well as chic and sophisticated tones that round out any wardrobe.
Hero product: Pear Nova BRWNGRLMGC Collection
This classic lacquer line includes four nude shades made for medium to deep skin tones. James says the colors look amazing on so many different women, but the nail polish names (Michelle Our Mama, Frida Be Free, Dianna Boss and Cleo F****n Patra) are what grabs the most attention.
Why Pear Nova’s founder believes it’s a beautiful time to be a black woman in the beauty industry
“We’re coming for what we should have a long time ago,” says James, “so ultimately, the challenge is working to link together and make an even larger impact than we can ever imagine.”
And while James admits that she has had countless proud moments throughout her career, she believes that “it’s important to acknowledge when you’re proud of what you’ve done and then get right back to work so you can outdo yourself.”
The reason why you should consider sliding in Pear Nova’s DMs
James wants to continue creating products that address the needs and wants of black women, and she does so by “connecting, asking questions and listening.” She adds, “Slide in my DMs, let’s talk beauty!”
Like many great inventions, the concept arises out of necessity. And this couldn’t be more true for Grace Eleyae. The founder of the namesake brand it started with her own hair loss.
“[I had] a bald patch, about two inches in diameter in the middle of my head. I was on vacation in Kenya, and my fine, chemically straightened, heat straightened hair was exposed to the extreme, dry heat,” she explains. “On top of that, my head was bumping up against a head rest for 12 hours on a road trip to and from the coast. I unfortunately didn’t take my mom’s advice to wear a scarf on my head because I was on vacation, and wanted to look cute. That experience made me think, ‘There has to be something that can protect my hair, but that is still cute enough to wear on vacation.’”
Eleyae took the next year thinking of different ways to solve her problem, which eventually lead to her brand’s “first born”: the SLAP.
Hero product: Grace Eleyae Adjustable Slap | Satin-Lined Cap
While Eleyae credits the original SLAP (Satin Lined Cap) for being the “product that started it all,” the Adjustable Slap was a groundbreaking development, as the “rough sleeper’s go-to bonnet.”
She explains, “It took almost one year to develop with more than 10 different iterations and some sleepless nights, with me tossing and turning, wondering how to create something that has an adjuster to customize the fit.... I remember the hidden ties and pocket literally came to me almost like divine inspiration. We finally had the perfect way to make the original SLAP customizable, yet still fashionable.”
The reason working mothers hold a special place in Grace Eleyae’s heart
Eleyae tells Yahoo Lifestyle that she is largely inspired by working moms. “I grew up with a mom who juggled work, soccer games, piano lessons, football practice and more for four kids, and she still found time to make dinner and help us with our homework,” she adds. “Working moms have to be fully present while at work, and also fully present when at home for their families. The strength and power these women, like my mom, exude inspires me every day.”
Why the founder of Grace Eleyae is motivated to create products that betters everyone’s life
“As a black woman, I can understand the needs of the community from a very personal level, but there are so many benefits of these products for people of many different backgrounds and hair types,” says Eleyae. “Silk and satin have so many protective properties for the hair and skin. The goal for healthy hair is adequate moisture. Satin doesn’t add moisture, but it helps keep delicate strands from the dryness that can lead to tangles, bed head and breakage. It’s a beauty tip that shouldn’t be kept secret.”
Take one glance at sisters Ione Rucker and Ellen Rucker Sellers and you know that they take pride in their hair. They were raised by a mother who concocted hair recipes using vegetables from their family garden. So do-it-yourself hair care is ingrained in their DNA.
Rucker Sellers tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the inspiration for Rucker Roots came about “during a very transitional time” in the sisters’ lives. “Ione was going through a divorce and she was living with me at the time and I was making homemade masks for our girls' hair,” she explains. “Our girls, Kai and Kathryn, looked at us and said ‘Why don't y'all just sell this stuff?’ Kai and Kathryn were just 8 years old at the time and knew the value of providing great products for everyone. They really inspired us to move what was once a hobby into a business.”
Hero product: Rucker Roots Smoothing Sulfate-Free Shampoo
“[Our] shampoo is the hero product because it cleanses your hair and scalp, leaving your hair clean. It is... for all hair types,” says Rucker Jamison.
Rucker Sellers adds, “It is an excellent shampoo whether you have natural, chemically-treated or color-treated hair.”
Who inspires the women of Rucker Roots?
“Our customers are our biggest inspiration,” says Rucker Jamison. “We love when they see changes in their hair because of what we have created!”
The biggest challenge the cofounders of Rucker Roots face
According to Rucker Jamison, dismantling the myth that their products are only for black women is the biggest challenge. She explains, “Because we are black women, the majority of our customers are black women, but our products are developed to work on all hair textures and types. We have loyal white women, Hispanic women and even Asian women who love Rucker Roots.”
You can’t tell from his flawless complexion, but Dorion Renaud struggled with acne and other skincare issues for years. Having spent tons of money and time trying out different things, he decided to create Buttah by Dorion Renaud, a simple skincare line that delivers effective results.
“The ‘ah-ha’ moment for me to create my brand was when I was in a mainstream retailer buying a serum that was over $150, and I saw absolutely no representation of myself or people of color in the advertisement or the verbiage,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “For so long, I would feel underrepresented and even embarrassed to ask for quality products for my skin type. I felt small when I left the cosmetic counter... so, I decided to change that.”
Hero product: Buttah by Dorion Renaud Vitamin C Serum
“I call it our ‘Magic in a Bottle’,” Renaud tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It has… ingredients to hydrate; it was like OUR skincare solution all-in-one bottle and most people of color had never used a serum. I'm so thrilled to introduce the world of serums to a broader audience.”
The biggest challenge Dorion Renaud has faced as a black man in the beauty industry
“Oftentimes when people think of beauty, they don't associate that with someone that looks like myself,” he explains. “I'm always having to educate others and teach the history of our lineage and self-care, which runs very deep. One day I hope that it's a universal conversation.”
A defining moment where Dorion Renaud sat back and said to himself, “I did that!”
“I think the defining moments come every single time someone says, ‘Please continue making this. It’s the only product I can use.’ I will never stop growing Buttah and will continue to listen to the consumer and their needs,” he says.
When Walker & Company launched its prestige grooming line called Bevel late 2013, it sent shockwaves through the beauty industry for its collection of shaving essentials that delivered black men their smoothest shave yet. It wouldn’t be long before black women and other people of different backgrounds started clamoring for the brand’s single-blade razor and and shave cream.
Developing products that solve problems is at the core of Tristan Walker’s approach as a businessman. He tells Yahoo Lifestyle that Bevel started with his own difficulty of not being able to shave for 15 years. “Every single way that I encountered facial hair removal was terrible, and I felt that certainly as a black man, we deserved better.”
In January 2020, Bevel expanded its offerings by launching 11 products for body, hair and skin and making the brand what Walker believes is the “first grooming experience” prioritizing the needs of Black men from head to toe.
Hero product: Bevel Aluminum-Free Deodorant
Unlike most aluminum-free deodorants, we’ve tested this product and can say that it really holds true to its claims of providing a streak-free finish that protects against odor for up to 24 hours. Also, Walker notes that the formulation differs by “penetrating coarse, curly hair all the way down to the roots.” He adds, “So there’s real science in this! There’s this idea of respecting our unique differences... but everyone can benefit from it.”
Why Bevel founder Tristan Walker believes companies need to address the needs of black consumers
“This idea of serving this consumer has been something that retailers and the industry has seen coming for a very, very long time,” says Walker, “but there’s been limited action about it.”
Walker believes that companies should hire people who reflect the diversity of the consumers they want to serve. He adds, “One thing that I’m proud of with my company is that we are majority people of color, majority women and women of color in leadership.”
While he notes that research does color their thoughts, the team at Walker & Company want to “solve our own problems.” “Had we followed a research report like a lot of companies do, Bevel would not exist. The market size was probably [not small] because black men didn’t want to shave but because there weren’t a lot of brands serving black men’s needs,” Walker tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Why Bevel matters
While Walker & Company was acquired by consumer goods giant Proctor & Gamble in 2018, Tristan Walker remains CEO and operates autonomously. His goal: “To sustain Walker & Company 150 years from now, setting the right infrastructure, values and team” so that Bevel can continue prioritizing black men but focus on the needs beyond that audience.
Desiree Verdejo was pregnant with her daughter when she started to experience “crazy hormonal acne” and develop “dramatic dark marks” — common effects of pregnancy on the skin that millions of women can relate to.
“At the time I owned an indie beauty boutique [Vivrant Beauty] so I was surrounded by cosmetics, and yet I couldn't find an effective skincare solution. That experience really underlined the void of skincare created for Black and brown women, women that look like me, so I set out to create just that,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I decided to start by tackling hyperpigmentation, which is by far my biggest skin issue... and the number one skincare concern for women of color.”
Just as Verdejo was preparing to give birth to her second child, she was mothering her very own beauty brand, Hyper Skin.
Hero product: Hyper Clear Brightening Clearing Vitamin C Serum
It’s been three months since Verdejo launched Hyper Skin, and she says it was easy to roll out with the Hyper Clear serum because “it really delivers results” when it comes to treating hyperpigmentation, enhancing glow and smoothing the skin’s texture. “I figured that people would use our hardworking serum and get a clear picture of what we stand for,” she says.
The biggest challenge the founder of Hyper Skin faced when developing the brand
“I work with one of the top cosmetic labs in the country and it became apparent from day one that the industry does not formulate for, prioritize the needs of or even regularly test formulas on brown skin,” says Verdejo. “It should not feel like a novel idea to, for example, create a formula with ingredients that are ideal for melanin-rich skin, but I've realized that this is not a common issue that is tackled in a major lab so re-centering the conversation on women of color has been the greatest hurdle.”
Why Hyper Skin matters
According to Verdejo, the beauty industry has historically created products for white consumers and left Black and brown consumers to finagle the products on the market to suit their needs. “Whether that meant adding additional ingredients to moisturizers that didn't suit our textured hair or buying and blending foundations to match our skin tones,” she explains.
But Verdejo believes that now is “an exciting era where haircare products for all textures and forty shades of foundation is becoming the new norm.” She tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “People of color are not niche and no longer expect to be treated as such. Hyper Skin is at the forefront of making sure that the same inclusive standard applies in skincare. People of all backgrounds should be able to find personal care options customized to suit their unique needs.”
This article was paid for by QVC and created by Yahoo Lifestyle's custom content team. The Yahoo Lifestyle editorial staff did not participate in the creation of this content.