For Black women, our beauty routines are extremely selective and personal — and go much deeper than brand loyalty or content for social media. Black women don't follow beauty trends: we set them, buck tradition, and break generational barriers in the process... even when the industry ignored our needs for decades. Long before brands like The Lip Bar and Mielle Organics came to the rescue to address our hair and skin concerns, we concocted our own elixirs and flattering shades in our kitchens to fill the void. So it's a wonder that Black-owned beauty brands are still often overlooked, frequently under-funded and are still tremendously outnumbered by mass labels that don't always prioritize all consumers.
According to the United States Census Bureau, African-Americans make up 12% of the population, yet only account for 3.3% of businesses. With the vast majority of these businesses self-funded, many beauty brands are left without access to proper marketing, proper brand development, and adequate science backing. However, Black beauty editors gladly take on the challenge of shedding light on the brands that deserve it. They're passionate about spreading the word about the best in beauty and highlighting products made for us, by us, even when the mainstream media may not be so willing. "Black beauty brands and our many rituals are constant reminders that we are art," Jennifer Ford, Associate Beauty Editor at Essence says, "Black women and the things we create are a masterpiece."
So ahead, we're celebrating the sisterhood of Black girls in beauty with a roundup of the products created by women like us, that we can't live without.
Tiffany Dodson, Associate Market Editor, SELF Magazine
"As a makeup lover, I’ve tried my fair share of highlighters, but one of my favorites is the Skin Fetish Highlighter and Balm Duo by Pat McGrath Labs," Dodson says. "The product is dual-ended, and features a balm made with argan oil and hyaluronic acid on one side, plus a shimmery (but not overly so) highlighter shade on the other. I love that I can customize my highlight’s intensity in a way that still looks natural, and doesn’t stand out too much from the rest of my makeup look."
And for her 4A hair type, she's been loving the newest from The Mane Choice. "I’ve been a big fan of The Mane Choice’s line of products for quite some time, and their new Pow! collection definitely doesn’t disappoint for my hair type," she says. "The mask in particular is a recent favorite of mine, when I dedicate shower time to go all in on my hair maintenance routine (at least once a week). Its slip makes it really easy for me to thoroughly brush my hair through in the shower with a detangling brush, which is definitely a time saver. Plus, the mask leaves my hair feeling hydrated and extremely soft, and smells so good."
Tanisha Pina, Beauty Editor, NYLON
"I use a lot of hair products on a weekly basis, especially in quarantine where I've been trying my hand at new protective styles," Pina says. "Between the build-up and general dryness, tending to my scalp is crucial. This option from Uhai is one of my favorites — affordable, hydrating, and refreshing, formulated with tea tree oil, rosemary oil, and aloe leaf juice."
What Pina's most proud of in her skincare routine, is a brightening serum made by Black-owned skincare company, Epi.logic. "Hyperpigmentation is one of my biggest issues when it comes to my skin, so incorporating vitamin C into my routine is non-negotiable," she says. "This serum is definitely one of my favorite ways to get it in, infused with not only vitamin C but hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, and niacinamide that work together to speed up new cell turnover and enhance the skin's moisture barrier, all benefits you can feel and see after just a couple weeks of morning use. I have oily skin, so on some days when I feel like doing the bare minimum (especially in quarantine) this is one of two things I put on my face."
Erin Stovall, Associate Beauty Editor, Oprah Magazine
"No matter how often I deep condition, my hair stays dry," Stovall says. "One huge helper has been the Camille Rose Naturals Curlaide Moisture Butter. I first learned about it years ago from watching natural hair videos on YouTube and I’ve never looked back. It’s my go-to for when my strands need a quick refresh—I just spritz my hair with a little water, comb a dollop of this through, and let its combination of shea butter and avocado oil work their magic."
And with Black women suffering from the effects of poor shaving habits the most, Stovall has discovered her holy grail. "Confession: Before discovering this gem, I always used disposable plastic razors," she says of Oui The People's razor. "But like many WOC, I was having major trouble with the angry, itchy bumps that popped up after each shave sesh. The Oui the People Rose Gold Sensitive Skin Razor was an absolute game-changer. My legs have never been smoother and I noticed way fewer ingrown hairs. The fact that it’s also way more eco-friendly is an awesome bonus."
Nerisha Penrose, Assistant Editor, Elle
"After watching my hard-earned dollars fall in the trash as I peeled off my local nail salon’s poorly made gel polish multiple times, I knew I my nails deserved better," Penrose says. "Enter: Pear Nova. The cruelty-free, vegan-friendly brand has an array of high-end, quality polishes—both regular and gel—made with Black women in mind."
And when it comes to keeping her curls healthy, Penrose is in love with the brand Nancy's Kitchen. "Like meeting your Prince Charming after a string of failed flings, Nancy’s Kitchen Products came into my life and made it clear why my relationship with past moisturizers never worked out," she says. "Whipped to perfection using avocado butter, extra virgin olive oil, aloe vera juice, and other delicious ingredients, the Silk Buttercream Curl Quencher doubles as a deep treatment and daily styler to give limp hair the bouncy life it deserves."
Aimee Simeon, Beauty Writer, Refinery29
"Beyond the perfect creamy nudes to flatter every beautiful shade of Black, People Of Color Beauty (founded by Jacqueline Carrington of South Carolina) has a diverse lineup of fun polish colors that fit in anyone’s collection," Simeon says. "Next time you’re thinking of your summer mani, give the drugstore brands a break and order one of these bottles instead."
And if you're looking for a great brush, Simeon has the perfect suggestion. "This is the — hands down — best brush I’ve ever used for detangling my hair," she says of Brush With The Best. "It doesn’t tug, rip out, or damage my curls. I never leave the shower without using it, and if I’m traveling, it’s a staple in my beauty bag. If you have natural hair, you need this."
Asia Milia Ware, Editorial Assistant, Teen Vogue
"My favorite Black-owned beauty brands without a doubt would be The Lip Bar and Black Girl Sunscreen," Ware says. "I've admired Melissa Butler from The Lip Bar since her Shark Tank days, and I think her experience on the show was reflective of what Black women face daily." During Butler's appearance on the reality series, judges told her that her brand would never be successful, with investor and venture capitalist Kevin O’Leary calling Butler and her business partner "colorful cockroaches." Well now, the joke's on Leary. "The products are amazing and I can always wear a bold lip from them and feel like a boss," Ware says.
When it comes to Black Girl Sunscreen, Ware admires the thoughtfulness that went into the product. "It's so necessary," she says. "For a Black woman to create a sunscreen specifically for our skin, with ingredients like jojoba oil and avocado, and without the white residue —because we know how brands like to do us — it just makes me feel special. Like, 'Wow, I was thought about during the creation of this.'"
Nikki Brown, Senior Beauty Editor, StyleCaster
"I discovered this Uncle Funky’s Daughter Curly Magic at my last job and have yet to find a product that rivals its formula," Brown says. "My spirals get, like, really spiral-y but stay semi-soft thanks to the aloe-based formula."
And while the CBD beautysphere is booming faster than ever before, POCs, who are disproportionately incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses, aren't given the same opportunities to cash in on the growing industry. Curls founder Mahisha Dellinger is changing that — one tincture at a time, with her newest beauty endeavor, Herbn Goddess. "I’m so happy there’s a Black-owned brand I can support on my mission to get better sleep," Brown notes. "Herbn Goddess CBD Oil is my go-to at the end of a long day when I’m so overtired, keeping still feels impossible."
Maya Allen, Digital Beauty Editor, Marie Claire
"When I met the Abena Boamah, the founder of Hanahana Beauty, on a beauty panel at Brooklyn's HealHaus (a Black-owned wellness space), I instantly felt connected to their mission," Allen says. "It’s a mind-body-soul brand dedicated to dismantling beauty standards and empowering women of color. The Vanilla Lavender Shea Butter literally cloaks my skin in a veil of softness and feels so soothing. It has a whipped consistency with anti-inflammatory properties, which makes the application process feel like a healing and sensorial experience after a stressful day."
Allen also swears by a luxurious lipstick created by none other than the mother of makeup, Pat McGrath. "The Pat McGrath Mattetrance Lipstick never fades or feathers and always livens up my makeup look," she says. "I’ll literally go bare-faced and wear this shade because it can stand alone."
Nykia Spradley, Freelance
Forget the traditional loofah. Spradley relies on a more sophisticated soap applicator to get her through bath time. "I'm obsessed with Luv Scrub, this textured cloth that helps get and keep my skin soft and smooth," Spradley says. The brand, created by Ghanaian-American Caroline Owusu-Ansah, was founded from her fond memories of using a similar cloth as a young girl — a century's-long West African staple.
But when it comes to hair, which Spradley frequently wears in its natural state, there's one product she can't be without. "The EDEN Body Works Conditioning Hairdress reminds me of the scalp grease I used as a kid, but in a much more lightweight and hydrating formula," she says. "I love that."
Ama Kwarteng, Beauty Assistant, Cosmopolitan Magazine
"Anyone who knows me, knows that I love to experiment with makeup—a blue eyeliner is basically a neutral for me," Kwarteng says. "So, when the Justine Skye x The Lip Bar Island Gyal Cheek and Eye Palette came across my desk, I immediately fell in love with the shades of purple and pink. The shades looked stunning in the pan, and looked even more fire on my lids. The color payoff is insane, there’s no fallout (seriously), and it lasts forever."
But ask Kwarteng about her favorite lip product, and the answer comes naturally. "If you asked me what three things I’d bring on a deserted island, the Mented Cosmetics Lip Liner in Dope would be one of them," she insists. "Seriously, though — I’m obsessed. The color is perfect, it glides right on (no tugging included), and it doesn’t leave behind an ashy cast. Most days, I fill in my lips with this pencil, dab on lip balm, and head out the door."
Jennifer Ford, Associate Beauty Editor, Essence
"The Fenty Beauty Hot Chocolit Gloss Bomb is nostalgic," Ford says. "Whenever I wear it, I feel like a ‘90s fly girl — think Nia Long, Missy Elliot, and Lauryn Hill. Brown lips were popular back in the day, and I’m so excited to see that the lip trend is making a triumphant return."
Tembe Denton-Hurst, Staff Writer, The Strategist
"What was life before my Grace Eleyae Slap Cap?" Hurst asks. "Truthfully I don't remember. It's probably my most-used beauty tool (I currently own three), and I use it every day faithfully — it's hard for me to sleep without it. I hate the struggle of waking up in the middle of the night to look for my scarf, and this one stays put."
And when it comes to keeping her curls right, the natural haired editor knows keeping coils detangled is a must. For that, she relies on Kinky Curly's Knot Today. "I've been natural six years now, and the products in my routine have rotated constantly since I impulsively parted ways with my permed ends," she says. "The only thing that's been consistent in my routine is this product, which, at the time was a must-have in every curly girl routine. It keeps my hair moisturized and separated, and gives me an extra boost of hydration before I layer in my other oils and creams."
Janell Hickman, Freelance
"This weird weather has my skin freaking out. Particularly my lips. I’ve been opting out of wearing lipstick and wearing a hydrating balm instead. Beneath Your Mask Remedy Conditioning Lip Balm glides on like a dream and lasts all day long. I’m so obsessed."
But in addition to that hydrating lip balm, she's also relying on a serum from a Black-owned brand to get her skin through the winter. "A few months ago, I had an awful breakout that left dark marks and scarring along my jawline," she says. "I’ve been using the Epi.Logic Skincare Daily Dose Vitamin C + Multivitamin Defense Serum for weeks, and now my skin is back on glow mode."
Gabriela Thorne, Editorial Assistant, Allure
"For my natural hair, I love pretty much any product from Mielle Organics. Especially the Pomegranate & Honey Leave-In Conditioner and Rosemary Mint Scalp & Hair Strengthening Oil," Thorne says. "The brand’s products are perfect for my dry, low-porosity hair and scalp, and haven’t yet found a product from it that I dislike."
And for a makeup addict like Thorne, finding the perfect foundation is a must. Her favorite formula happens to also be made by a Black woman, Sharon Chuter. "For a flawless base, Uoma Beauty’s Say What?! Foundations one of my go-tos," she says. "This natural matte foundation makes me look radiant and glowy all day long."
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