Twenty to thirty years ago, in an industry that heavily catered to caucasian women, women of color had very few choices when it came to cosmetics. However, over the last few decades, the tides have started to turn. Not only have the biggest names in the cosmetics industry expanded their offerings, but a few brave pioneers are disrupting the status quo in dramatic fashion.
While their “origin stories” differ in every sense, there are a few things these founders have in common. Each one saw a need in the marketplace that wasn’t being fulfilled, and each tapped into their passion to change the narrative. Over the last decade, these women have broken the barriers of entrepreneurship to create globally recognized brands all the while fighting the good fight for diversity and inclusivity.
Here are 7 makeup brands owned by women of color who are turning the cosmetics industry on its head.
The Lip Bar
Melissa Butler, Founder & CEO
Tired of mainstream media dictating the standards of beauty, Melissa Butler was determined to change the way we think about beauty, so she began making lipstick in her kitchen. In 2012, Butler launched The Lip Bar, an entire line of vegan, cruelty-free lip products filled with colors that challenge the lack of diversity and inclusivity in beauty products.
Cashmere Nicole, Founder & President
As a teenage mom and breast cancer survivor, former nurse Cashmere Nicole beat the odds time and again to make her dream a reality. Inspired by her love for sweet treats and desserts, Nicole chose to name her line Beauty Bakerie which she launched in 2011. Since its inception, Beauty Bakerie has moved far beyond just offering no-smudge lipsticks. Today, Beauty Bakerie is sold in more than 130 countries and offers treats of a different sort with delicious names like Proof Is In The Pudding eye shadow palettes, Hazelnut Swirl lip whip, and Holy Cannoli lip gloss.
Pat McGrath Labs
Pat McGrath, Founder & Beauty Editor-at-Large for British Vogue
Pat McGrath has had a long and exemplary career, the kind that most of us could only dream of. Among her many accolades, McGrath designed and launched cosmetics lines for Giorgio Armani and Gucci, and Anna Wintour named her “the most influential makeup artist in the world.” In 2015, McGrath launched Pat McGrath Labs, her own line of beauty products. By 2019 Pat McGrath Labs was already a $1billion company. In addition to running Pat McGrath Labs, McGrath is also currently serving as the Beauty Editor-at-Large for British Vogue.
Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid, Founder Of Iman Cosmetics
It’s hard to talk about makeup brands owned by women of color without mentioning one of the true pioneers, Iman. Born in Mogadishu, Iman launched her makeup line in 1994. The iconic brand now features a full line of cosmetics with 10 shades of foundations as well as skincare products. When she appeared on the Beauty Carnival stage at the 2019 Essence Festival, looking as gorgeous as ever for her 64 years, Iman spoke briefly about her legacy, “Whether it’s through IMAN Cosmetics, creating a service for black women, and standing for my daughters and daughters of many, that’s what I want to be remembered for.”
Jacque Mgido, Founder & Owner of Jacque Mgido Cosmetics
Early in her career, Jacque Mgido worked with the likes of Neo, Jamie Foxx, Rene Russo, George Lopez, John Legend. Believing that darker complexions were underrepresented and neglected by the beauty industry, Mgido sought to create a brand that “bridges cultures and race.” Jacque Mgido makes it perfectly clear that her brand is inclusive and not just a black brand. In 2015, Mgido, launched Vault Cosmetics, later rebranding and using her own name for the line. Today, Jacque Mgido has built a cosmetics line that works for all people of color including Africans, Asians, Latinas, Caucasians, and Southeast Asians.
Nyakio Kamoche Grieco, Founder
Born in Kenya, Nyakio Kamoche Grieco was inspired by her grandmother at an early age. The first beauty secret her grandmother shared was how to use coffee and sugar to exfoliate the skin. It was at that moment that Nyakio knew what her story would be. In 2013, Nyakio Kamoche Grieco Nyakio, a skincare line that is steeped in her family’s traditions and beauty secrets. Today Nyakio’s product line features vegan and cruelty-free products made from ingredients that are sourced from 13 countries around the globe.
KJ Miller, Founder & CEO, Amanda Johnson, Co-Founder & COO
After raising $1M in startup capital, KJ Miller and Amanda Johnson launched Mented Cosmetics in 2017. Since then, Mented and its founders have been featured in Essence, Forbes, and Allure magazines. Today, Mented is known as a pigment-first beauty brand with an entire collection of makeup products that are vegan, non-toxic, and cruelty-free. Mented cosmetics also features a line of nude lipsticks for women of color which, as we all know, is no easy feat.