The Black cosmetics business is profoundly inspiring and there’s no better time to celebrate its influence and success than during National Black Business Month.
Last year, African American consumers were responsible for $7.4 billion in total beauty sales and have continued to increase their spending on beauty products at a slightly faster rate than the total US market, per NielsenIQ. The staggering statistics are clear indicators of the ongoing need for more diverse product lines, broader shade ranges and a heightened awareness of all hair types…and Black entrepreneurs are taking action.
Over the course of the last decade specifically, the number of Black-founded beauty brands has markedly grown; and they are refreshingly unapologetic in their celebration of Black culture. Lisa Price, for example, commanded the natural hair care industry when she introduced her Carol’s Daughter products in 1993, becoming one of the first companies to sell its recipes directly to its customers. In a similar fashion, Rihanna took the beauty industry by storm when she launched Fenty Beauty and that groundbreaking 40-shade foundation range in 2017. Likewise, Olamide Olowe’s three-year-old company Topicals has answered the call for a much-needed upheaval and transformation in chronic skin classification.
These three instances offer only a glimpse into how Black beauty is persistently shaping the world. But in an industry where so many have been quick to either violate, take the credit for, or just completely dismiss the efforts of Black creatives and business owners, denying their influence is now impossible.
Ahead, a gratifying exploration into five of the most impactful Black-founded beauty companies of the last 10 years.
Want to know why Fenty Beauty is so popular? Simply put, it produced a higher quality product than its competitors, but in the long run, Rihanna was always determined to cause a revolution in the beauty business from the start.
When no one was looking, the mogul registered the Fenty Beauty trademark and spent years perfecting a line of product formulations that catered to traditionally hard-to-match skin tones. When it launched in 2017 with its Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Liquid Foundation – it housed an impressive line of 40 shades – the product’s darker pigments consistently sold out despite constant restocks. The unprecedented traction immediately triggered the “Fenty Effect”, a phenomenon that spurred competitors to increase their offerings of shade ranges, too.
Today, with its all-inclusive foundation shades now boasting 50 hues, a prominently shelved cult classic sold alongside the brand’s extensive assortment of cosmetics, perfume and skincare products (the empire is also branching into haircare), Fenty Beauty remains at the center of the beauty industry’s most important conversations.
- In 2017, Fenty Beauty successfully implemented the first-ever global beauty launch in history, having rolled out simultaneous retail and online offerings in 1,620 stores in 17 countries.
- The brand doubled its revenue in 2022.
- Named one of Time magazine’s best inventions of 2017, the brand is currently valued at over $2.6 billion.
In 2019, Uoma Beauty made waves in the beauty business when it launched a 51-shade foundation range. Founded by Sharon Chuter, a beauty industry powerhouse (she’s a former executive at companies like Benefit Cosmetics and Revlon), it makes total sense why the brand continues to make inclusive makeup a movement and not a trend.
For Chuter—she is of Nigerian heritage—developing and maintaining diversity has always remained at the core of her mission and this is apparent in the brand’s deep assortment of shade ranges, illustrations and successive launches, but her commitment to championing inclusion goes way beyond the scope of her makeup company. The entrepreneur is a fierce advocate for promoting DEI throughout the entire beauty space.
During the racial reckoning of 2020, Chuter launched the Pull Up For Change campaign, an initiative that called on companies to disclose the number of Black people in their employ and devise action plans to make improvements. In February 2021, she introduced the Pull Up For Change Impact Fund to provide capital to those Black business founders who are often severely underfunded and overlooked. At the same time, she launched the Make It Black Initiative, where Uoma Beauty partnered with retailers and brands alike to reimagine their best-selling products in sleek, all-black packaging, intended to create meaningful conversations around the word Black. The proceeds from each product sale went toward Chuter’s impact fund.
A non-believer of lip service, Chuter stands by the concept of actually putting your money where your mouth is: “We all complain about the things we’re not happy with, but no one is prepared to risk it all to be a part of the solution,” she tells Byrdie. “That’s why I embarked on this journey. I’ve put it all on the line and hope that at the end of the day, I play a small part in making the world a better place; a place where women who look like me understand that they are truly beautiful and have the courage to explore that from the outside in.
- In 2021, Chuter raised almost $400K to establish the Pull Up For Change Impact Fund through her Make It Black initiative. $370K was awarded to eight founders in the form of extending grants at the Essence Festival of Culture in June of that year.
- Uoma Beauty has introduced several exceptional products since its inception in 2019, such as its Drama Bomb Mascara.
- In 2021, the brand launched a limited-edition makeup collection influenced by the film Coming 2 America.
Danessa Myricks Beauty
Although she modestly refers to herself as an “accidental makeup artist,” it is clear Danessa Myrics, makeup artist and founder of Danessa Myricks Beauty, was preordained for greatness in the beauty industry. Her spectacular career as a makeup artist – it consists of numerous campaigns and a deep celebrity client roster – the self-taught New Yorker launched her own beauty brand in 2015 with the intent to create products for everyone, especially those who feel underrepresented.
The eponymous makeup line has become well-known for its striking yet meaningful and thoughtful products. Offering an array of makeup essentials from foundation to eyeshadow palettes, its steady growth caught the eye and landed a generous deal with Sephora.
In a recent interview with Byrdie, Myricks explains the inspiration for creating the brand: “I really wanted to fill in the white space,” she explains. “Create for creators, create the unimaginable, think about products in a way that hadn’t been done before, and create products that move you to reimagine your beauty routine and how you play with makeup.”
- Danessa Myricks Beauty remains 100% self-funded.
- Last year, the company introduced its enormously popular Yummy Skin Collection, which features a serum, foundation and viral balm powder.
- In 2021, the brand launched in Sephora.
Beauty and fashion icon Tracee Ellis Ross contemplated the idea of starting a hair care brand for ten years before PATTERN Beauty’s debut in 2019; and it was an instant hit in the natural hair community. Initially sold at Ulta Beauty as an edited offering of shampoo, conditioners and leave-in products – all sheathed in polished black and yellow packaging – in the past three years, the product line has grown to include a lot more, such as styling tools, customized masks and heat-safe products.
In 2021, the brand broadened its retailing horizons to the highly-coveted shelf space at Sephora, but despite the company’s enormous success, Ross finds the most satisfaction in having the opportunity to celebrate textured hair in an empowering and genuine way. She shares, “For decades we have been told that we need to change our hair in order for it to be beautiful. There was a paradigm that just didn’t make space for us and how we were communicated to, how we were sold to, how our beauty was mirrored back to us. I created PATTERN to meet and exceed the needs of the curly, coily and tight texture community. PATTERN celebrates our hair.”
- Pattern Beauty was established in Canada in 2021 and in the UK in 2022.
- The company unveiled its first thermal styling tool, a curl-friendly, hand-held blow dryer, in 2023.
- The brand partnered with Macy’s this year, launching its first affiliation with a department store.
The Lip Bar
An uber-popular brand name among beauty enthusiasts who enjoy bold lip color, many knew of The Lip Bar after its founder and CEO, Melissa Butler and creative director Rosco Spears appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank in 2015. Although they left without a deal, the company has progressed and prospered in the years since.
Upon its entrance into the beauty space in 2012 (Butler, a former licensed Wall Street stockbroker – she originally started making lipsticks in her kitchen), the brand has broadened its offerings beyond lipstick to include mascara, application tools, and skincare. And with the acquisition of lucrative deals with major mass-market retailers such as Walmart and Target, the award-winning beauty company is proudly sold in over 1,000 stores nationwide and continues to uphold inclusiveness as the hallmark of its mission.
- In 2020, the company joined forces with Michelle Obama to design a limited-edition matte lipstick called Bawse Voter.
- The Lip Bar closed $6.7 million in seed funding in October 2022.
- The Brand launched its first-ever skincare line in 2023.