Black-owned beauty brands play a vital role in opening up the conversation around representation, inclusivity and diversity in the beauty industry, changing the mindset around what women of all colours and orientations want from their products, whether that’s natural skincare, innovative make-up lines or haircare to suit all styles and textures. And those offerings are growing by the day, whether it’s industry trailblazers like Pat McGrath and Rihanna releasing new lines, or emerging independent brands like Airfro and Mum Bub Hub coming up with clever ways to fill gaps in the market. Here we’ve rounded up some of the most covetable female-founded black-owned beauty brands and their cult products to invest in now.
Award-winning hairdresser and owner of Notting Hill’s thriving boutique salon Hair Lounge, Charlotte Mensah specialises in natural textured hair, from Afro to mixed and curly, and counts Janelle Monáe, Erykah Badu and Jada Smith as regular clients. One of the first to pioneer the natural hair care movement almost 20 years ago, she’s become London’s go-to specialist for those looking to embrace their natural textures and in 2016 she released her own celebrated hair care line. Made from ethically and sustainably sourced Manketti nut and Ximenia seed oil, her shampoos, conditioners, oils and finishing mists revitalise dull, dry or damaged hair with a major hit of hydration.
Manketti Hair Oil, £48
Organic, eco-friendly and made with the highest quality essential oils and botanicals, this unisex, vegan beauty brand takes sustainability and self-care up a notch. The all natural, plant-based skincare line – which ranges from zingy rosemary and lemongrass body washes to antioxidant-rich face masks and moisturising sunflower and apricot seed oils – are designed to address the concerns of all skin types and shades, whether sensitive or acne-prone, fair or dark. Inspired by husband-and-wife founders Holly McWhorter and Bjarke Ballisager’s mixed African and Danish heritage, the brand is on a mission to change the beauty landscape by challenging the notion that “only white women are interested in being green consumers”.
Wakey Wakey Organic Body Wash, £20
Dubbed by Anna Wintour as “the most influential make-up artist in the world”, Pat McGrath has spent over two decades developing and launching luxury cosmetic brands, as well as working on runway shows, breakthrough advertising campaigns and editorial spreads to create some of the world’s most iconic beauty looks. In 2016 she finally launched Pat McGrath Labs, her hotly anticipated make-up range. First came the limited edition kits that sold out in seconds – now she has a full collection of beautifully packaged, inclusive products, which range from foundations in 36 different shades to densely pigmented eye shadows and universally flattering lipsticks. It’s little wonder, then, that the line was proclaimed a billion-dollar brand just two years after launching.
Skin Fetish Sublime Perfection Foundation, £60
Swedish-born, London-based perfumer Maya Njie founded her eponymous fragrance line in 2016. Focused on high quality artisanal blends that incorporate her Swedish and West African heritage, the perfumes are all formulated in-house in her East London studio, using a variety of essential oils, aroma compounds and resins and are mixed fresh in small batches, before being filtered and bottled individually by hand.
The vegan, genderless fragrances draw inspiration from everything from her Swedish summerhouse to photographs of family weddings, and feature a mix of natural and synthetic ingredients, ensuring elements such as ambergris and musk are not derived from their animal counterparts. As a way of offsetting the business’s carbon footprint, Njie supports Ecologi by helping to fund their climate projects, as well as offering a refill service for all her perfumes.
Nordic Cedar Eau de Parfum 50ml, £90
With a mission statement that focuses on celebrating the differences in our hair, this multi-culturally minded, London-based brand was born from former beauty writer Loretta De Feo’s frustration at not being able to find a natural range that could cater to the textures of her own curly hair. Her vegan, silicone and sulphate-free shampoos and conditioners are packed full of nourishing ingredients, like repairing quinoa protein, organic coconut oil and shea butter, that work hard to deliver deep hydration and shine to all hair types, but work particularly well on curly and Afro textures.
Deep Conditioner, £22
When television and radio presenter Maya Jama launched her cult range of face masks last December, they were an instant hit, selling out within 24 hours. And it’s no surprise – the brand has been years in the making and Jama has long been a face mask devotee, regularly uploading photographs of herself wearing them to prep before photo shoots or on long-haul flights. Packed full of powerhouse ingredients, the tightly curated range features an amino acid-rich face mask made from bio-cellulose, a carbon-positive fibre that’s produced from the natural enzymatic fermentation of coconut water, and hydrogel eye patches, which are drenched in an intensive blend of hydrating glycerin, hyaluronic acid, protective panthenol and allantoin to cool and soothe.
Hydrogel Eye Patches 003, £25
When Rihanna launched Fenty Beauty in late 2017 she instantly made waves that got the industry – and the wider world – to sit up and listen. Offering more than 40 foundation shades in her first collection, she immediately put long established beauty brands to shame and had women all over the globe buying her inclusive products, which would never fail to sell out as soon as they were released; three years later, every new launch still does. Standout products include her award-winning buildable base, Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation, and the Stunna Lip Paint, a weightless, liquid lipstick available in head-turning shades that look incredible on all skin tones.
Body Lava Body Luminizer in Cognac Candy, £46
Billed as the first and only natural haircare brand designed for active lifestyles for textured and curly hair, Airfro was created after co-founders Nneka Fleming and Catherine Radojcin struggled to find products to use for their mixed-race sons. The London-based brand’s multifunctional, gender-neutral products have made waves since launching last year, hailed for their lightweight and effective formulas. After launching with just one product – the game-changing 00.3 DFY Curl Refresh, which instantly revives curls with its blend of aloe vera and grapefruit extract – it’s since added a protein-packed co-wash that cleanses hair and scalp without stripping it of its essential oils, and a flaxseed curl definer that seals cuticles and locks in moisture. Housed in sleek refillable aluminium bottles, their products use 90% less plastic than regular bottles.
PHiT Protein Hit Wash & Go, £18.40
Los Angeles-based Shani Darden is one of Hollywood’s favourite facialists, credited with giving the likes of Emily Ratajkowski, Rosie Huntington-Whitely and Chrissy Teigen their glowing complexions. Now, the skincare expert has released her secrets with her line of A-List approved products that promise to deliver equally effective results at home. Presented in effortlessly chic, minimalist packaging, the aesthetician has used years of clinical expertise to develop a results-driven line of retinol reformers, under-eye creams, oil-free moisturisers and more. The simple yet effective collection offers a streamlined routine that takes the fuss out of skincare.
Retinol Reform, £80
First launched in 2010, every one of serial entrepreneur Samantha Jameson’s artisan handmade soaps, bath and body products celebrates the beauty of London through seven heady scents inspired by locations across the city. For Jameson, these fragrances are sensory trips down memory lane, from the smell of grass on a warm summer’s day on Hackney Marshes to the vibrant mix of aromatic spices that linger in the air on Brick Lane and the refined floral bouquets of Bloomsbury. Made in East London, all of their ingredients are vegan and natural, while their packaging is as beautifully considered as their scents.
Hackney Hand & Body Wash, £16
Briogeo founder Nancy Twine credits her grandmother with igniting her passion for hair care – happy memories include the hours she would spend, aged just five, helping her make homemade products for their tresses. Fast forward a few decades and now she has her own hugely successful line of shampoos, conditioners and masks, after ditching a high-flying career on Wall Street for the laboratory. The brand prides itself on its clean credentials, with all the packaging made from recycled materials and non-toxic formulas that use naturally derived ingredients. Expect a stronger, healthier mane thanks to the abundance of repairing oils and antioxidant rich powerhouses like acai, kiwi and matcha.
Don't Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask, £8.50
Founded by Nigerian-born, London-based former beauty executive Sharon Chuter, Uoma rewrote the rules of inclusivity and diversity when it burst onto the scene last year and launched straight into Selfridges – proof of its instant popularity. It’s not hard to see why it was such an immediate hit – the Afropolitan cosmetics line has 51 shades of foundation and 18 hues of concealer, all packed with powerful skincare ingredients like tomato and berry extract to ward off dullness and woolly thistle extract to help address hyperpigmentation, two common issues found in darker skin tones. Add in pigment-rich lipsticks, vibrant eye shadow palettes and eye-catching packaging and you start to understand why this is one of the most talked about new beauty brands on the market.
Double Take Sculpt and Strobe stick, £34.50
Founded by long-time friends Cheltenham-based Liha Okunniwa and Londoner Abi Oyepitan, Liha Beauty fuses “African roots and quintessentially British attitudes”, mirroring their own mixed heritages. This innovative, organic small batch skincare and wellness brand is all about embracing slow living and self-care, and draws on the Nigerian tradition of making handmade soaps and creams mixed with traditional British aromatherapy practices. Their natural, vegan products – which range from Ghanaian Shea butter moisturisers and exfoliating soaps to coconut wax candles – are designed and produced in the UK by small, family run businesses and come in beautifully simple recyclable and reusable packaging.
Idan Oil, £39
With a background in integrative health and nutritional coaching, 79 Lux founder Karen Cummings-Palmer specialises in nourishing the body from the inside out. And yet after years of developing and helping to launch health and beauty brands, she was yet to discover the answer to her dry, eczema-prone skin. So she set about creating two powerful skin healers: a regenerating body oil and a nurturing balm. Made in the UK from potent organic botanicals, including rose, frankincense and marula, both products harness anti-inflammatory properties to counterbalance environmental stressors and feed the skin. The results? Smooth, beautifully scented skin with the subtlest hint of a golden glow.
Ultra Nourishing Antioxidant Rich Body Balm, £46
Harley Street-trained Medical Aesthetician and founder of the renowned Bea Skin Clinic in Marylebone, Bianca Estelle created Bea Skin Care to bring cutting-edge cosmeceutical science to everyday products. Catering to a diverse range of skin tones and designed to address a wide variety of common issues, from oily and blemish-prone skin to sensitivity and pigmentation, understanding the individual needs of your skin is a major focus, and something Estelle believes many beauty brands have historically overlooked. The ever-expanding range, which most recently added a nutrient-rich master antioxidant cream to its collection, uses 100% natural ingredients and highly effective formulations to radically improve skin health.
2% Retinol Serum, £54
Born out of London-based, Nigerian-born founder Ozohu Adoh’s failed quest to find luxury skincare that catered to her specific issues and those of other women with darker skin tones – namely hyperpigmentation, dehydration and excess oil production – Adoh decided to start her own line of 10 tailor-made skincare products. Ranging from cleansers and serums to masks and creams, her UK-manufactured formulas are bursting with healing organic and sustainably sourced African botanicals, including cotton thistle flower extract, apricot kernel oil and liquorice root extract.
Hydrating Serum, £126
Instagram-worthy packaging and curl enhancing know-how have made Michele Scott-Lynch’s British hair care brand a firm favourite with those in-the-know. Looking for a way to ditch chemical straighteners and embrace her natural hair texture, Scott-Lynch spent years searching for a product that would defrizz, define and nourish her curls. When she realised how few sustainable options there were on the market, she decided to create her own. The eco-friendly range of shampoos, conditioners, stylers and masks are all manufactured in the UK and made from fair trade, naturally active ingredients that breathe new life into even the most lacklustre of curls.
Curl Defining Gel, £15
“When we take time for ourselves, we are feeding positivity into our consciousness that tells us we are worth effort, energy and love,” says The Afro Hair and Skin Company founder Ibi Meier-Oruitemeka – an important message when you consider the numerous ways black hair, skin and features have been stigmatised over the years. Meier Oruitemeka’s antidote comes by way of her award-winning green beauty products, which cater to the specific needs of Afro textured hair and melanin-rich skin. The natural and eco-friendly brand sources its organic British ingredients locally, before making each product – from gentle cleansing shampoo bars to nourishing hair oils and supercharged clay masks – by hand in small batches once a week.
Awaken Reviving Body Treatment Oil, £21.50
Influencer and businesswoman Kristen Noel Crawley’s line, KNC Beauty, made a name for itself with its Instagrammable collection of lip masks. After first spotting the product while strolling through Don Quijote in Tokyo, Crawley set out to create a line of lip masks that use natural ingredients to create plump, hydrated lips. Following two years of research, the millennial-pink, collagen-infused lip masks were released and quickly became a hit. Since then, the beauty entrepreneur has extended the line with feminine, fun products for eyes and lips that are as Instagrammable sitting on a bathroom sink as when worn.
Lip Mask – 5 Pack, £20
Designed to help calm the mind and boost mental wellbeing, A+ffirmation Culture Shop’s range of candles uses 100% natural essential oils and fragrances to create rich and relaxing scents. Presented in minimalist matte white glass pots, the candles are made with a coconut wax, creating a crisp, white appearance and a clean, paraffin-free burn. The collection features a range of scents to choose from, each designed to focus on a particular mood and accompanied with an affirmation card. The six scents are also available in a portable, travel-size pot, to take your relaxation ritual with you wherever you go.
High Vibes Candle, £32
A CBD line that is focused on female wellness, The Hempton is a range of ethically sourced, vegan and cruelty-free CBD products that are designed to help with issues including hormone rebalancing, period pain and menopause. After two years of research and development, the founder Sarah Higgins launched the brand with two types of CBD patches. Activated by body heat, the patches use a concentration gradient to pace the release of the calming oil. In addition to the original patches, the brand also carries the menthol version, adding a dose of the minty, cooling substance to increase the relaxing effect.
CBD Topical Patches, £33
Founder Rochelle Hamilton created My Mane as a platform to celebrate and represent the beauty of natural afro hair. Since then, the brand has expanded to include a selection of specialised tools for hair care. The brand prides itself on using only natural ingredients, making their products suitable for even the most sensitive skin types. The packaging is as sustainable as possible, using fully recyclable boxes and biodegradable packaging components to protect the products inside. The afro-positive line is focused on helping women take pride in their natural hair, with natural oils and hypoallergenic silk pillowcases to keep it healthy and strong.
Mane Hair Cocktail Oil, £14
California-based skincare brand Dehiya Beauty was founded with the mission to champion diverse and inclusive beauty with ethically made, plant-based products. Inspired by her grandmother’s skincare routine, as well as her time spent in Morocco with a traditional herbalist, founder Dr Mia Chae Reddy was inspired to create products that champion the rich assortment of botanical ingredients found throughout Northern Africa. All of their ingredients are 100% natural and organic, including their cold-pressed argan oil, which is ethically sourced from Morocco’s Argan Forest and hand extracted by a local Amazigh women’s co-op outside of Marrakech. Dehiya Beauty’s good works don’t stop there — the brand regularly donates to a range of non-profits that span causes such as human rights, racial justice and emergency relief for victims of natural disasters.
Aya Restorative Goddess Mask, £38
Launched by supermodel Iman Abdulmajid in 1994, Iman Cosmetics champions Black beauty with an inclusive and comprehensive line of cosmetics and skincare. Prompted by her experience of struggling to find make-up artists on set who knew how to best work with her complexion, the model founded Iman Cosmetics to give women of colour access to an extensive range of make-up. From electric eye shadow palettes to hydrating matte lipsticks, the collection runs the gamut. The line is best known for its foundations, with 11 shades available in powder, cream or liquid form, in addition to BB Creams, concealers and contouring tools.
Second to None Cream to Powder Foundation, £24.50
Launched in March 2020, The Glowcery was founded to offer a range of products that nourish the skin in the same way that you’d like to feed your body — with nutrient-rich, vitamin-filled ingredients. A vegan, cruelty-free and natural superfood skincare brand, The Glowcery’s range of face oils, lip scrubs and balms use only the best natural ingredients and are packaged in vibrant, fully recyclable materials. Employing the richest, most effective superfood ingredients such as avocado, hemp, green tea and marula, The Glowcery’s products promise to treat your skin to a boost of radiance.
Clean Greens Superfood Serum Facial Oil, £33
This UK-based social enterprise was founded to support the wellbeing of new mothers, both physically and emotionally. The brand was born after founders Anisah and Nyree became mothers themselves and quickly realised how little guidance there was when it came to postpartum recovery. The 100% natural range caters to all stages of new motherhood, from pregnancy to birth and beyond, and is rooted in holistic postpartum traditions. Each of the products is derived from a blend of wound healing and antibacterial herbs, which work in sync to soothe the physical discomforts of childbirth, from their herbal bath soaks, made with witch hazel, plantain and yarrow to reduce inflammation, to their nourishing skin oil, which uses jojoba and rosehip fruit oil to help protect against stretch marks.
Coconut Milk Bath Soak, £17
Cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson first started BeautyStat as an industry-leading beauty blog, debunking common skincare myths, predicting trends and giving brutally honest evaluations of new products. In 2019, Robinson teamed up with Estée Lauder Inc.’s Jules Zecchino to launch BeautyStat’s own range of skincare. Focused on delivering innovative, high-performance formulas that get right to the issue, BeautyStat’s taking its time to only release products they know will give great results. While the Pro-Bio Moisture Boost Cream is popular for its lightweight, deeply hydrating formula, it’s the Universal C Skin Refiner that’s become a viral hit.
Universal C Skin Refiner, £96
Founded in 2011 by Cashmere Nicole, Beauty Bakerie went viral for its Lip Whips Liquid Lipstick that refuses to budge, with beauty editors joking that it could probably survive an apocalypse. Following a successful battle with cancer, Nicole was determined to create a range of high quality, effective products that use natural ingredients. The result is a colourful, inventive, and incredibly inclusive line of cosmetics — in August 2018, Beauty Bakerie launched its Cake Mix Foundation in 58 shades, and became the first in the industry to label its shades from darkest to lightest. From shimmering eye palettes to milk and honey-inspired highlighters, the vegan and cruelty-free line puts the fun back in make-up.
Lip Whip, £19
Founder Nomshado Baca has placed black women of African descent like herself at the heart of her wellness supplement brand. Drawing on a range of African holistic practices and using the nutrient-dense Moringa plant, suspected to be the most powerful natural multi-vitamins and antioxidants on earth, she has created her Raw Moringa Oleifera Leaf Powder, a highly effective anti-inflammatory supplement packed full of over 92 nutrients, 36 anti-inflammatories and 18 amino acids. Sprinkle it over your food, add it to juices and smoothies or mix it into your at-home face masks for a powerful immunity-boosting hit.
Organic Moringa Oleifera Beauty Superpowder, £30
For founder Badria Ahmed, starting a brand that catered to and celebrated curly hair was deeply personal. Growing up in Sweden, Ahmed constantly felt different and had a complicated relationship with her hair — in her own words, starting Holy Curls was a form of therapy. Created in London, the line is designed to empower women to embrace their natural curls and is formulated with all ranges of curl patterns in mind, from spiral to kinky and everything in between. All the products are made with natural or naturally-derived ingredients and are never tested on animals. Everything from the shampoos and conditioners to the hair masks are cleverly separated out depending on your curl pattern, whether that’s wavy, which responds best to lightweight oils and humectants like aloe vera, or tight curls, which require the super hydrating properties of Amazonian cupuaçu butter.
Curl Hair Mask, £28