Small Business Salutes
The Rise & Resistance Of POC-Owned Beauty Brands
In spite of the enduring struggle for visibility, beauty brands owned by people of color have continued to charge forward
As the beauty industry has experienced a meteoric boom over the past few decades, people of color have continued to receive very little visibility for their contributions – financially, socially, and culturally – to the industry's growth. In spite of the enduring struggle for visibility, beauty brands owned by people of color (POC) have continued to charge forward for a rightful seat at the industry's table.
People and communities of color have historically been stigmatized due to the color of their skin and their appearance, or rather for not adhering to white Western standards of beauty. For many, including myself, the shame from this stigma becomes internalized and manifests in harmful beauty practices that reject one's outward appearance (the most common of which being skin-bleaching). To see POC-owned beauty brands challenge the standard of what it means to be beautiful is in itself empowering. These brands are not born in a vacuum but rather out of need, because the beauty industry has often failed to acknowledge the needs and concerns of people of color. For those brands that champion our visibility, they do the difficult work of creating space and laying claim in an industry that continues to marginalize people of color, from the ingredients used in their products to the way they represent their brands.
For many brands owned by people of color, their work is also about reclaiming cultural practices and customs that have often been appropriated by the white-dominated beauty industry. Brands such as Aavrani, Hanahana Beauty, and We Are Wild have incorporated beauty ingredients and processes that have deep cultural and personal roots. Whether intentional or not, the presence and rise of POC beauty brands is a resistance against white-owned brands that have co-opted and decontextualized customs that have significant cultural meaning for profit.
By supporting beauty brands owned by people of color, we also empower and uplift the marginalized communities these brands represent, because a beauty industry that is more inclusive allows for the redefining the accepted beauty norms to include those previously excluded. Our social and monetary support of these entrepreneurs not only helps their brands grow financially, but also contributes to greater representation and recognition of people of color in the beauty industry.
Read on to learn more about some incredible beauty brands, whose missions are to create cultural and racial representation in the beauty-sphere, below.
Four years ago, Abena Boamah went back to the basics to conceptualize her beauty brand, Hanahana Beauty. Shea butter was a staple in Boamah's childhood household, and a reliable ingredient for beauty and healthcare needs. Working directly with the Katariga Women's Shea Collective based in Ghana, transparency, accessibility, and sustainability are central to the brand's mission. In their goal to support and uplift women of color, from their customers to their producers, Hanahana Beauty operated a social impact initiative – the Hanahana Circle of Care – to ensure and improve the economic health, environmental conditions and self-sustainability of women involved in the shea trade.
Ere Perez's namesake brand took cues from her early life in Mexico, growing up with her grandfather who was a traditional medicine man and her mother who created home-made beauty remedies. Skincare and cosmetic products from her line are rooted in natural and botanical formulations that are cruelty-free and predominantly vegan. Conscious of the earth the brand derives its natural products from, Ere Perez is certified carbon neutral by the Carbon Reduction Institute and has joined the UN Global Compact in their commitment to sustainability principles.
Aba Love Apothecary
Aba Gyepi-Garbrah, a certified Aromatherapist, combined her professional training at the New York Institute of Aromatics and love of holistic medicine to launch her holistic skincare brand, Aba Love Apothecary. Using her knowledge in healing through the senses, Aba created a line of skincare products and a luxurious linen spray using primarily plant-based globally sourced ingredients that are Non-GMO and wildcrafted.
In 2015, Tanais's debut novel Bright Lines was published, and it was during the research process for their novel that they began to build knowledge of herbalism and Ayurvedic practices, eventually leading to the birth of Hi Wildflower. Using ethically and sustainably sourced botanical ingredients, Hi Wildflower's line of cosmetics and perfumes are inspired by the novelist and founder's Brooklyn surroundings, as well as their motherland, Bangladesh.
We Are Wild
We Are Wild's easy-to-use, natural, and streamlined skincare products are perfect for those who are on the go, as well as for those who are overwhelmed by the breadth of the beauty industry. To make skincare more adaptable for everyday recreation and to address her own needs for a less complicated system, founder Sally Kim formulated the first all-solid system, composed of a cleanser, toner serum and moisturizer. In a nod to Korea's rich legacy in fermentation, products are made using the latest science in fermentation, probiotic, and antioxidant skincare research. We Are Wild's products are all non-toxic, are free of harsh chemicals, and are mostly vegan.
Founded by prenatal wellness expert Raquel Roxanne Nowak, Matrescence is a botanical skincare line originally developed with pregnancy and post-partum needs in mind but that can be used by anyone. The term Matrescence was coined by the anthropologist Dana Raphael to encompass the transition period for some women from preconception to postnatal and beyond, and it is for life's physical and mental transitions that Nowak conceptualized her brand. As a commitment to the ultimate mother – Mother Earth – Matrescence uses environmentally conscious packaging and recyclable glass bottles, and products ingredients are wildcrafted, organic, and responsibly sourced.
Having earned degrees in Science, Chemistry and Botany, as well as Ayurveda, Dr. Pratima Raichur began her work in holistic beauty in 1972 while still living in India and working at a cancer research hospital. By 1985, Dr. Raichur had moved to New York City and opened her first Ayurveda clinic, and eventually launched a line of skin care products. With over forty years of experience in Ayurveda, Dr. Raichur personally hand-makes her products, all of which are 100% natural.
Shima is a collective of artists, soap makers, farmers, herbalists and medicine women and men who work to protect the culture and way of life of the Navajo Nation through their production of soaps, honey, blue corn and protection beads. Originally founded as a medical mission to the Navajo, it has since evolved into a non-profit organization through which each purchase contributes towards economic support and empowerment of the Navajo peoples. Shima locally-made soaps are cured for a month before they are wrapped in traditional corn husks, and tied with tender Navajo greetings.
Aavrani is a luxury skincare brand that adapts ancient Indian beauty rituals for modern-day practice. Founded in 2017 by Rooshy Roy, Aavrani reimagines the beauty recipes Roy used to make with her mother and grandmother from ingredients commonly found in South Asian households, such as almond oil, turmeric, and coconut oil. Each Aavrani product is made with all-natural, non-toxic ingredients, and are paraben and cruelty-free. Additionally, Aavrani has a partnership with the education non-profit Shanti Bhavan School, a program that empowers children from impoverished backgrounds through educational intervention.
We are shining a spotlight on some of the millions of small businesses now challenged by COVID-19. This is part of an ongoing commitment our parent company, Bustle Digital Group, is making to support small businesses throughout the entire month of May. Tell us about your favorite small business on social media using #SmallBusinessSalutes.