I am a skincare fanatic. Just like you, I want to look like a sexy, dewy, baby angel for eternity. I would even dabble in the dark arts if you told me it would make me look poreless, sunkissed, and forever 23 well into the twilight of my life. But to avoid summoning the likes of Marie Laveau when I’m shopping for products, I read every review, every ingredient, and then five more reviews before I finally make a purchase.
Because the majority of the Instagram influencer spon-con I am served is largely white, the reviews that pop up on my Google search bar are from white-owned businesses. Those same brands also flood my feed with black squares and Nelson Mandela quotes, figurative pimple patches on the unsightly racial injustice Black Americans experience everyday. It’s like putting a sheet mask on an open wound, when what we actually need to heal is the arrest of the murderers of Breonna Taylor: Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove.
Meanwhile, there are Black beauty brands doing the actual work. Brands like Uoma Beauty, founded by Sharon Chuter. With her Pull Up or Shut Up initiative, Chuter is challenging large beauty and skincare brands to reevaluate their company metrics so they mirror the real world. To date, the UOMA Beauty founder has reported that only 8 percent of people employed in white collar professions are Black, and only 3.2 percent are in executive or senior management level roles. For me, a side effect from the Pull Up or Shut Up initiative is reckoning with the fact that whiteness presides over the boardrooms of major brands I’ve long been loyal to. And with the application of my Vitamin C or serum, I’m realizing that the companies behind them could barely proclaim that my life matters.
When I had this epiphany, I felt sunk. Sunk like Daniel Kaluuya the moment his Get Out character finds all the photographs of the other Black men and women in the sunken place. It was all so obvious and apparent, but something I subconsciously chose to ignore. What I held onto was this idea of beauty and everlasting youth, which really hit different when I got to my big little age of 30. Three decades into this life, I understood that I hadn’t just been frivolous with my money, but careless about who I’d been giving it to. While trying in other ways to upend a system built to oppress me, I had not taken into account the economic aspects of my beauty routine. And so began my deep, and then deeper, look into where my money was going.
Pivoting away from my usual dive into a beauty product’s review and ingredients, I’ve applied my Virgo research tactics to the brand first. I think of it as decolonizing my beauty routine. Skincare did not come here on the Nina, the Pinta, or the Santa Maria. It came from the universal desire to feel beautiful in our own skin. Every person has the right to that. Every person has skin! And so I can no longer give another Sacagawea to any brands that would likely never have a person the shade of Sacagawea in their boardrooms.
This decolonization journey has brought me to some incredible Black-owned and largely female-owned skincare brands. A lot of them are natural, with beautifully clean ingredients. I have found many of them on yes, Instagram. If you look away from the white influencer spon-con, there is a rich community of Black-led brands all following each other, commenting on each other’s posts, and promoting other Black and POC labels on their own feeds. I have found that there is a wider range of inclusivity among their Instagram profiles. Together, they are a small but mighty group of businesses fighting to stay visible in the shadow of larger companies who wield an outsized economic advantage in both their advertising and production.
And what’s more than that, they are welcoming. Like all that is great in Blackness and community, every experience I’ve had with a Black skincare brand on social media has been met with love and gratitude. Lesley Thornton of Klur sent me informative voice notes in response to my questions about her products. Nola Skinsentials personally thanked me for supporting them coupled with heart emojis. The Established has given me a “yassss hunni!” in response to an Instagram story of my glowing skin in their product. Base Butter, Ilera Apothecary, and 54 Thrones have all sent me direct messages thanking me for sharing, and subsequently re-shared my posts on their Instagram. To be clear, I am just a regular gal who lives in Brooklyn. I am not an influencer seeking an audience for my nightly routine. I am just the average consumer, yet these brands have made it a point to connect with me and other customers like me.
The fact is, we need each other. It’s risky for a Black business to simply exist. The same historical and systemic structures working to keep Black people oppressed also keep these businesses in their own lanes. It’s gatekeeping at its core; every product I have purchased or researched with the intent to purchase is as good or even better than anything on any “best of” beauty list. And in de-Christopher Columbus-ing my skincare, I am not just getting great products but supporting—and engaging with—my community in a way that hits different.
To Aba Love Apothecary, Absolute Joi, Acarre Beauty, Alaffia,Altogether Lovely Afrotanicals, Anita Grant, Antik Lakay, Beneath Your Mask,Beneath Your Mask,Black Girl Sunscreen, Bolden Skincare, Brown and Coconut, Amenda Beauty, Buttah Skin, Dehiya Beauty, EPARA, Essentials by Temi, Gilded Body, Glory Skincare, Golde, Grn Goods, Hanahana Beauty,House of Linnic, Hyper Skin,Jade & Fox Co., Kissed By A Bee Organics, KNC Beauty, Lauren Napier Beauty, Liha Beauty, Nyakio Beauty, NBU Bath Botanicals, Oyin Handmade, Papa Rozier, Pholk Beauty,Pinkness Co., Plant Apothecary, Redoux, ROSE Ingleton MD, Rosen Skincare, SDOT Beauty, SKOT Beaute, Skindom, Tallwah Cosmetics,The Butter Bar Skincare, Urthly Kreations Apothecary, epi.logic, and any other Black skincare businesses I have not mentioned: Thank you for existing!
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