Black-Owned Businesses Carving Out Success In Beauty

Martin Luther King, Jr. President Barack Obama. Frederick Douglass. Maya Angelou. Harriet Tubman. Malcolm X.

Martin Luther King, Jr. President Barack Obama. Frederick Douglass. Maya Angelou. Harriet Tubman. Malcolm X. Rosa Parks. Madam C.J. Walker. Sara Spencer Washington. Kobe Bryant. Oprah Winfrey. Chadwick Boseman. Booker T. Washington. W.E.B. Du Bois. 


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. 


Black History Month, celebrated in the US and Canada every February, shines a spotlight on the important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. In beauty and personal care, Black-owned businesses and popular skin care brands are striving to make a difference in the lives of Black men and women by formulated new products and rolling out new initiatives. Below, we present new and tried-and-true brands currently making waves in the hair, skin, beauty and personal care space for the Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) community. 


Shampoo, Conditioner, Daily Hydrator and Sleek Water pomade by Frederick Benjamin.


Frederick Benjamin 


Frederick Benjamin was the name of a dapper gentleman who wore fedoras and three-piece suits while managing a tight ship in the yard of a Columbia, SC lumber business.

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.


The third-generation entrepreneur, previously a brand manager with Revlon and L’Oréal, founded Frederick Benjamin a little less than a decade ago, and it’s fast on its way to becoming something of a household name. His grooming products for men—a collection of shampoos, styling creams, leave-in conditioners and pomades—reach the shelves of 500 Target stores around the US this month. 

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.”


For years, James used hair gels that held and styled his hair, but dried it out too, leaving an irksome trail of flakes on his clothes. To achieve the look of wet curls without dandruff, he conjured an efficacious solution: Crown Control Foaming Cream

“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.”


He continued, “To be a part of that daily routine is why we started. We are grooming the men who will groom the men of tomorrow.”

Wuli Grooming features four high-perfomringn products free of synthetic ingredients and safe on color-treated hair.


Wuli Grooming    


Entrepreneur Amadou Doumbia, a native of Mali, West Africa, this month launched his first unisex hair care company, Wuli Grooming. The clean hair care brand, based in Australia, offers a range of cruelty-and vegan-free styling products made in Australia with 15 plant-based ingredients that nourish hair and scalp and cater to all hair types and textures, from course and curly to limp and fine. 


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.” 


Wuli’s Matte Balm volumizes flat hair while creating a textured hold with nine active ingredients, which include argan oil, shea butter and jojoba esters to stimulate hair growth, deeply moisturize, minimize breakages and banish dandruff to yield a structured matte finish.

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 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. 


Wuli Grooming is currently only available to Australian shoppers on its website, however, the brand plans to expand to worldwide shipping by April and future retail plans in European and North American markets. 

Thread Beauty, a new cosmetics line by Lip Bar founder Melissa Butler, debuted on Feb. 22 offering three multifunctional beauty sticks for skin, eyes and lips. 


Thread Beauty


Ten years after the success of her color cosmetics brand The Lip Bar, Melissa Butler has launched her second beauty brand: Thread Beauty. Just launched on Feb. 22, the vegan-friendly, affordable beauty brand weaves in the concept that humans—celebrated for their individuality—are connected by a thread of shared desires and dreams. Thread Beauty speaks to all genders, races and age groups. It includes three, cruelty-free products that are easy-to-use for beauty lovers on the go.

“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.” 


Butler and her business partner viewed the rebuff as a learning curve to grow. Since the show, The Lip Bar went on to sell a range of cosmetics from liquid matte lipsticks to a bronze-blush duo that won Allure Magazine’s 2020 Best of Beauty Award in Target and online at

“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.”  

Thread Beauty will be available online at threadbeautycom and in-store at Target this month.

Scotch Porter sells hair and beard collections for textured hair types as well as supplements and fine fragrances


Scotch Porter


Merging the names of entrepreneur Calvin Quallis’ go-to libation and the name of his favorite musician, Grammy Award-winning jazz singer Gregory Porter, yields his hair care brand: Scotch Porter. Developed in 2015 and spanning products for hair, beard, face, fragrance and wellness, the line contains cleansing, conditioning and styling products rich in natural ingredients like kale protein, biotin, aloe, shea butter, burdock root, white willow bark and pomegranate enzyme. At the same time, Scotch Porter forgoes more than 1,400 ingredients including silicone, sulfates and DHA. 


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. 


The line also contains a bevy of fragrances to polish off one’s look. The Porter House fragrance has retreat and spa vibes while the Miami Duppy transports users to Miami to achieve the perfect night out on the town vibe. Glenwood emits an optimistic, “bet-on-yourself-kind of vibe,” Quallis said.

Kerry Washington and Jennifer Garner are brand ambassadors of Neutrogena. The duo hosted the brand’s first social ceremony on TikTok recognizing the Heroes of Skin Health Equity initiative aimed to close the gap in skin health disparities among the BIPOC community.


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.


In January, Neutrogena announced its Heroes of Skin Health Equity initiative to close the gap to skin health equity for those in the BIPOC community. According to research conducted by Neutrogena, more than 68 million Americans face disparities in skin health education, access to expertise and product for all skin types and tones. To cement their commitment to addressing skin health inequities, Neutrogena will use social media to publicly recognize the work of individuals who are striving to make the world of skincare a more equitable space. 


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. 


Neutrogena’s “transparency hero,” Sabrina Noorani, CEO and founder of ClearForMe, educates on ingredient transparency in skincare products through the digital resource to provide guidance for the BIPOC community to make better skincare product selections. 

Habit Cosmetics offers a range of organic and sustainably-packaged bestselling cosmetics and nail polish staples.


Habit Cosmetics  


Habit Cosmetics, founded by Aja Frierson, is a clean beauty brand that fuses the founder’s passion for nutrition and makeup. Habits offers a range of organic and sustainably-packaged bestselling cosmetics and nail polish staples. Available in five shades, The Ultimate is a cream-based color pot that can be used as a lipstick, eyeshadow or blush offers buildable coverage from a tint to bold pops of color. Bright Lights, a cream-based highlighter works to illuminates the skin. Habit’s nail polishes are available in a variety of colors and finishes from glitter (Midnight Cowboy) to metallic to sheer to opaque (Moon Rock). Packaging features biodegradable bamboo overcaps and FSC-certified boxes.