From curl enhancing conditioners to the Fenty Beauty lip gloss that suits everyone (honestly!), these are the buys that we can’t get enough of
At times, it’s felt like the beauty industry has been a step behind when it comes to inclusivity. With shade options limited and hair products that cater for a variety of different textures a rarity, it could feel hard to be seen if you had a darker skin tone or curly or coily hair growing up.
It finally feels like ensuring a product range is diverse and caters to all is being treated as the norm rather than a branding exercise, with companies increasingly adding to their line-ups so that they cater for more skin tones and hair types. Better representation is becoming a reality, and it’s largely down to the brands created by people of colour that addressed the lack of diversity from the get-go. In honour of Black History Month, we want to celebrate the Black women and men who founded some of these brilliant brands and shine a light on their bestsellers to provide motivation for those looking to follow in their footsteps and provide shopping inspiration to see you through this party season and beyond.
For many of these founders, the inspiration behind their brands came from their own experiences. “I was motivated to create Boucleme from personal need,” founder Michele Scott-Lynch tells us. “After embarking on my journey from straightening to curls, I found it impossible to find effective, natural hair products.”
As a natural health practitioner, she’d approached her skin and body care from a holistic perspective and wanted to do the same for her hair but was unable to find something that fit the bill. “Most curly hair products were laden with silicones, plastic film formers that create a barrier on hair if not removed effectively, that in the long-term can prevent moisture entering the hair shaft and lead to dry, dehydrated curls. I wanted to create products that had nutrients that benefited and improved hair health.”
Jamelia Donaldson (@jameliaisobsessed on Instagram), founder of Treasure Tress, Europe’s first and largest product discovery box for textured and Afro hair, counts her niece as a major inspiration. “I built my vision for the brand around her and what I felt she would need to develop a positive self-image and appreciation for her natural hair and beauty.”
Her frustration at the typical hair shop experience was a driving force too. “I wanted to make discovering new products fun again and I also wanted to share information I had learned over the years with women who looked like me,” she tells us. “We should be able to receive advice, accurate hair care tips and purchase products in one place - so I created what I wanted - a brand that represents the diversity and natural beauty of women who look like me, but also provides access to the latest and greatest products and brands from across the world.”
No doubt these brands are leading the way when it comes to building a more inclusive beauty industry, while also encouraging their counterparts to step up their game. Read on for more of our favourite beauty businesses founded by Black women and men to support now, and forever, and a selection of their bestselling products to provide ample shopping inspo too.
Having struggled to find skincare solutions that could help relieve her children’s chronic eczema, founder Janell Stephens (@janell_stephens on Instagram) took matters into her own hands (or more specifically, into her kitchen), to mix up the formulas that would later become a signature part of her brand. Her recipes made the leap from counter to over-the-counter in 2011, and 10 years on, her skin, body and haircare lines have gained a global following of loyal devotees.
As well as leading the company to new heights, Janell helps other aspiring entrepreneurs looking to make strides in the beauty industry, mentoring and guiding women of colour and small business owners to reach their goals. This includes the work of the Janell Ennis Stephens Foundation, which supports women in need, particularly single mothers, who are looking to provide for their families. Her top piece of advice to others looking to start their own beauty business? “Make sure you’re growing at a pace and at a rate that you’re comfortable with. You can potentially burn yourself out and not be able to support your growth properly,” Janell says. She also cautions against comparison. “Don't look at the growth of your competitors and think that you have to do what they’re doing – you don't! What others are doing doesn’t have an impact on your destiny, so do what’s best for you and your brand.”
I have Afro type 4a/4b hair and this stuff is perfect to put on after shampooing. It helps with the detangling process and smells really nice. I have noticed a major improvement to my curls.
Formulated with nourishing rice milk and avocado, castor and macadamia oils, this softening leave-in conditioning cream is the perfect antidote for dry ends. Lightweight yet nourishing, it ticks a wide range of haircare boxes, whether you’re looking for a daily refresh or a more intensive treatment.
Innovative inclusivity runs through UOMA (pronounced ‘uh-mah’) Beauty’s products. Take its Say What?! Foundation for instance. Not only is it available in an impressive 51 shades, but it’s available in six custom formulas designed to meet the most common skin needs of each skin tone.
Nigerian born, LA and London-based former beauty executive, Sharon Chuter, is the brains behind the brand, having taken her experiences working with a variety of major multinational beauty and consumer companies (ranging from Revlon to L’Oréal and Benefit Cosmetics), to create a venture that’s as inventive as it’s practical. Listed by WWD as one of the 50 most forward-thinking executives shaping the future of the beauty industry, we can’t wait to see what she has planned next.
Really impressed. Gives amazing volume in just one coat.
This hard-working mascara lifts and volumises even the shortest of lashes thanks to its hourglass-shaped wand. Its benefits go beyond the short-term though thanks to its formula containing castor, avocado and jojoba oils that hydrate and promote growth. It’s also smudge-proof and water resistant to serve up longevity as well as length.
Following her recovery from breast cancer, Cashmere Nicole was inspired to create Beauty Bakerie and with it, sought to make diversity the rule, rather than the exception. Take for instance the brand’s Instabake Aqua Glass Foundation, where shades are numbered from dark to light to tip beauty norms firmly on their head.
The brand also supports a number of initiatives such as Sugar Homes, which helps orphaned children worldwide, and is also vocal about injustices that span a range of issues such as The Black Lives Matter Movement, The Dream Act, The Muslim Ban, missing children and human trafficking. Dubbed ‘activists in makeup,’ the brand’s influence goes beyond our beauty aisles.
My makeup doesn't budge with this on and it looks great with every foundation and concealer that I have.
If you have a combination or an oily skin type and find that your makeup can look patchy come midday, try pressing this translucent powder onto your T-zone in the mornings. Reviewers rave about its shine-sapping and blurring abilities and how it keeps their makeup looking fresh and stops concealer from creasing. We also love its flour bag packaging.
With access to every part of the beauty industry, Rihanna’s super stardom gave her a front row seat to the best that brands had to offer and, seeing a gap in the market for products that performed across all skin types and tones, she was inspired to fill it. Mission accomplished.
Self-expression and inclusivity lie at the heart of Fenty Beauty, a fact seen by the 50-shade range of its Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation, mega-watt highlighters and super pigmented lip colours. There’s something for every style, personality and occasion – the line-up is as fun to browse as it is to use.
For the inside scoop on the star’s regime, check out our interview with Rihanna’s aesthetician, Sean Garrette.
This is my go-to gloss for everyday or even at night for a little sparkle.
When it comes to brands that truly understand the needs of curls, Bouclème is one of the best around. Rather than sulphates which can be drying and silicones which can be heavy for textured hair types, its formulas use natural actives that focus on long-term health rather than temporary, short-term gains.
These days, its products are considered must-haves in anyone’s curl care artillery but, the road to success wasn’t easy. “Trying to get noticed by retailers and journalists in a beauty industry that had ignored curly hair for years was one of the biggest challenges that I faced,” says founder Michele Scott-Lynch. Perseverance was key though, and she encourages anyone looking to create their own brand to stick with it. “Be patient. Things happen when they’re meant to happen, not when you want them to.” Sound advice for life as well as business.
A lovely, non-sticky gel that leaves a fresh shine on your hair and smells nicely of lemon. It’s perfect for refreshing day 2, 3 or 4 curls.
This serum-like styling gel smoothes and defines curls with ease to enhance your hair’s natural shape and prevent shrinkage. Reviewers love the amount of hold that it provides, as well as how it leaves hair soft rather than sticky.
The brainchild of Stephen Durham and his stylists at Urban Therapy, the brand’s line-up of texture enhancing products have built up a devoted ‘Twisted Sistahood’ who can’t get enough of its formulations. Enriched with hair health boosting ingredients such as coconut, avocado and almond oils, they answer a wealth of coily, wavy, kinky and curly hair needs and help fight off damage from styling stress too.
If, like me, you’ve been searching for that non-problematic (ingredients-wise) product that doesn’t weigh your curls down but also doesn’t dry out in just a few hours, this is for you.
Hydrating, detangling and defining, this curl-boosting spritz serves as a triple threat in the style stakes. Reviewers highlight how it’s a great fit for 3B/3C curls and waves in particular, and are full of praise for its ability to rejuvenate strands a day or two after washing or styling.
Richelieu Dennis founded Shea Moisture almost 30 years ago using recipes passed down from his grandmother, Sofi Tucker.
Designed to care for natural hair, their products gained a cult following, standing out among others when it came to their formulations. Today the company is led by CEO, Cara Sabin, who continues to build the brand around its heritage: ingredient-led products inspired by its natural haircare recipes, and a strong commitment to social impact through its Community Commerce business model and investment of sale proceeds to educational and entrepreneurial programs.
Best mask I’ve ever used! I have bleached hair and I’ve tried so many different masks to make it not so brittle and dry. Would 100% recommend.
If your hair is suffering with the effects of too much colour and/or heat, this intensive mask can help. Enriched with ingredients such as shea butter, peppermint oil and Jamaican Black Castor Oil, it leaves stressed out strands softer and suppler and your scalp refreshed, to leave hair healthier from root to tip.
You’ll find discovery and plenty of haircare inspiration in each and every Treasure Tress box. An online subscription service, the brand aims to provide a safe space for women to connect over their shared love of their kinks and curls and share the fun in exploring each month’s selection of products curated with their hair needs in mind.
“Find your customer, learn your customer, create with your customer in mind and never stop asking for feedback,” is founder Jamelia Donaldson’s biggest tip for others looking to follow in her footsteps – and to keep on going when faced with the challenges of leading a business. “Ultimately it has taught me the importance of building a thick skin, resilience and embracing the fact that it’s entirely my responsibility to get up each and every day and make this idea work; to truly change the industry and the lives of women like me.”
This Black History Month, Boots has teamed up with Treasure Tress to create an exclusive subscription box (coming soon, available at treasuretress.co.uk) Filled with a bevy of cult beauty essentials, it provides the perfect place to find your new styling and daily staples. Jamelia’s favourite product in the box? “Crème of Nature Perfect Edges. I’m a sucker for edge controls as I wear my hair in buns and braids a lot in the colder months. This remains one of my go-tos for those styles.”
This is one unboxing that we’re certain you’re going to love.