The list of men and women of color who have made a profound impact on the world with their perseverant spirit and forward-thinking ideals is endless.
It’s also the name of a grooming company helmed by his grandson, Michael James, who watched his grandfather in action as a youth.
“Whenever they went out, they had top hats, coats and ties—just really well-groomed. When I started this, that trend is beginning to reinvent itself with guys also getting more in-line with grooming and attire. It’s a great tip of the hat, not only to my forefather, but to all the forefathers of that time period,” James said about his brand Frederick Benjamin.
James’ entrepreneurial spirit coupled with a problematic dry scalp prompted him to launch his own line of hair care products designed for the “tressed out man of color.”
“At L’Oréal, I was still on the hunt for this perfect product, still having dry scalp and hair issues,” said James. “I found myself at the biggest beauty company in the world concocting all these different shampoos and products to make the best formulation for myself. It hit me that I can’t be the only man of color with textured hair that is going through this issue.”
“I wanted the softness of a cream, but the all-day hold of a gel,” recalled James.
His lightweight product does not cause buildup. Crown Control Foaming Cream, like all products from Frederick Benjamin, are free of petroleum, mineral oil and other pore-clogging ingredients. The products are meant to be used regimen-style versus a one-off formula or so-called hero product. The Frederick Benjamin water-based pomade, Sleek Water, is ideal for men seeking to achieve a specific look—either a combover, wave or “big twists” sported by NBA players à la D’Angelo Russell. Best used on damp or dry hair, James says a nickel-size is all that’s needed, depending on the length and thickness of hair. The Daily Hydrator Styling Cream is another option for men with shorter hair. Applied to wet or damp hair, the lightweight, leave-in conditioner contains spearmint oil to provide a cooling tingle for scalp relief, while clove oil stimulates blood flow, nettle oil promotes hair growth, and hemp seed oil hydrates and moisturizes hair.
“With men of color, when they shave, they already have pre-existing bumps or another issue on their skin. The last thing we want to do is run a razor over it,” James explained. “The shaving oil preps the skin, lifts the hair, and provides lubricant so a razor can slide gently across the skin without pulling and tugging, which can cause burn and irritation. The post-shave [Bump Clear] razor bump treatment is a nice moisturizing cream you can use between shaves to eliminate razor bumps and prevent them.”
The brand’s Hydro Glaze Cooling Aloe Shave Gel helps men sculpt a goatee or mustache while the aloe extract heals and moisturizes. The witch hazel cleanses and soothes inflammation.
Frederick Benjamin also makes bamboo-based brushes so the suave gentleman can perfect his hairstyle before heading out.
“When they look good, they feel good,” said James. “We want young men of color to be seen, heard, confident, and I think it all starts with how you look and how you feel.”
The line features four high-performing products that are free of silicone and mineral oils, and safe on color-treated hair. Among them is his flagship product, the Wuli Curl Cream, made specifically for coily hair. Crafted with 11 active ingredients and enriched with argan oil and jojoba esters, it provides bounce and vibrancy to define, hydrate and strengthen curls without the oily residue. It also nourishes the scalp to boost hair growth and inhibit dandruff and itchy acne flareups.
The hair gel contains provitamin B5 to provide bright and natural-looking sheen. While the shine-enhancing product did the trick, Doumbia sought to make a product focused specifically on coily hair that was vegan-friendly, suitable for all hair types and a pleasant smell. After working with a chemist in Australia, Doumbia created a formula with a high concentration of natural oils that yielded shiny, healthy-looking hair. The feedback for his product was resoundingly positive as it was life-changing.
“It’s changed my hair,” said the founder. “It’s changed how I look after my hair, how much more attention to detail to give it.”
Doumbia’s newfound love for his hair reflected in the overall care for himself.
“I look after other areas of my life… how I eat, how to achieve things… taking on the ambitious path of starting this business and finding it on my own…”
The success of that first product, encouraged Doumbia to create Wuli Grooming. Billed as a “good hair day in a jar,” the name stems from the dialect of Bambara, the native language of Mali, meaning to “get up.”
Dubbed by Doumbia as “the 21st Century spin on the old school pomade,” Wuli’s Shine Balm offers a sleek, glossy finish with a firm, all-day hold perfect for people seeking to style textured hair. Another of the line’s popular offerings, Sea Salt Spray, is used to volumize, refresh and enliven limp curls for all hair types and lengths. Each hairstyling product is available in two, gender-neutral fragrance combinations: bergamot and vanilla and neroli and sweet orange.
For prospective customers unsure which product is the best for them, they can take a hair quiz on wuligrooming.com to answer questions about the length of, texture and current issues of their hair, like dryness or oiliness, to be guided to the perfect product.
“Gone are the days of watching 30-minute YouTube tutorials,” said Butler in a recent phone interview. “Covid taught all of us that we should live a simpler life. A lot of people left makeup and realized that they could be at home with those staples.”
Butler added that the “effortless creativity” offered by Thread Beauty can be applied in myriad ways. Face It is a three-use foundation stick boasting 24 shades for every skin tone that works to conceal and highlight, correct spots and contour. Blend It is a multi-stick eyeshadow, blush and bronzer in 14 shades that can be applied to the eyelids and cheeks to add the desired pop of color for the user to create a day or evening look. Color It is a two-in-one lipliner and lipstick that comes in 14 fun shades, including orange, red and purple. Contrary to the creamier lipsticks on the market, Color It is a lip crayon that contours the lips to paint a youthful, defined pout.
Butler’s foray into the beauty industry began while she was dissatisfied with her corporate job as a licensed stock broker. On evenings, the Detroit native would find solace in her Brooklyn kitchen making lipsticks, which she sold as a side hustle to give her life more meaning and purpose.
“I wasn’t even a makeup enthusiast, but I understand the power of beauty,” she said. “If you don’t feel good about yourself, you don’t feel you belong to a community. It’s difficult to achieve what you want to do if you’re not confident, and makeup can give you that confidence.”
Butler took her makeup to “Shark Tank,” but no investor took the bait. In fact, one of the judges labeled her brand “clown makeup.”
“You can’t fly the plane while you’re building it,” Butler said of the success’s nonlinear, rocky path. “I am in the position to tell someone else this story. I feel honored that I get to do that for the younger generation. I know everyone deserves representation, looking for validation. I’m hoping I can allow people to see themselves in a different light.”
The Superior Hair Collection comes with five products designed for textured hair types from twists to curls and waves: Hydrating Hair Wash, Nourish & Repair Hair Conditioner, Moisture Leave-in Hair Conditioner, Smoothing Hair Balm and Smooth & Shine Hair Serum. These hair care products will expand into more than 1,500 Target stores around the country.
Before he started the Scotch Porter, Quallis owned a barbershop in the heart of downtown Newark, NJ called “Center Stage Cut.” He saw firsthand the transformative effects that a haircut can have on a person in terms of self-esteem. His inspired as his mother, a beauty salon owner.
“I liked the idea of what we were able to do, give fresh cuts and make folks feel better and like they are the center stage of their own lives,” said Quallis.
The barbershop, which he briefly helmed but has since shuttered with the opening of his hair care line, not only served as a haircuttery that made men feel “pop-their-collar” fresh when they walked out, but a community hub that also local events like mayoral debates, live music, and art exhibitions.
Dry, frizzy hair was a common complaint from customers at the barbershop. A year later, he began tinkering with ingredients in his kitchen and was mentored by a family friend and chemist. Seven years since closing Center Stage, his hair care line has grown to include beard products. Available at Macy’s, Walmart and, this month, 2,300 CVS locations nationwide, beard grooming products include Moisturizing Beard Wash, Hydrate & Nourish Beard Conditioner, Conditioning Beard Balm, Smoothing Beard Serum and Daily Leave-In Beard & Hair Conditioner Spray. The Nourishing Beard Mask transforms dry, dull or coarse beards into soft, deeply conditioned and hydrated facial hair with its formula infused with shea butter and sunflower seed oil. The Ultimate Beard Collection is equipped with a wash, conditioner, balm, serum, medium-bristle brush and fine-tooth comb.
Neutrogena Launches Heroes of Skin Health Equity Initiative
Indie brands are growing the BIPOC personal care market, but larger brands are also making efforts to serve wider audience and give back.
On Jan. 31, brand ambassadors Kerry Washington and Jennifer Garner co-hosted the brand’s first-ever social ceremony on TikTok to celebrate and recognize all Heroes of Skin Health Equity.
According to Neutrogena General Manager Roberto Khoury, these celebrities magnify the voice of the brand. He added that a partner like Washington, who had eczema growing up, could authentically advocate for the brand with her personal skin health experience.
“Through our survey, tremendous evidence points to Black communities not feeling well-served or set up for success,” said Khoury. “Fifty-nine percent of Black Americans say that most skin care advice is geared to white people and hard to find skin care products.
Neutrogena partnered with Dr. Adeline Kikam, a board-certified dermatologist, to lend her expertise. She is helping the brand shape the future for products for black and brown skin.
Neutrogena will serve as Hutano’s first official sponsor for the initiative. The social platform founded by Malone Mukwende to empower, educate and provide a voice to Black and brown communities to improve their health outcomes and provide accessibility for those in need of information and guidance about their particular skin type and tone. What’s more, the partnership will spawn SkinU by Neutrogena where members of the BIPOC community can access the community page within the Hutano platform to engenders discussion via personal stories and education on the skin health issues from hyperpigmentation to acne and skin cancer. Filmmakers Sarah Jean Williams and Kyra Peters will exhibit their visual talents to create cutting-edge content with Neutrogena Studios on skin health-related educational content to be distributed to more than 500 schools with a companion discussion guide.