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Influential & Significant Black Women in Beauty

22 Feb 2021 11:31 AM | Anonymous

It is important, but sadly infrequent, that true inclusiveness exists in the beauty industry. Going back in time we often noticed the limited range of foundation shades and much needed specialized hair care products for Black women. Given the current social climate, it's imperative to recognize this fact and work to change it. I think we are beginning to make progress in the right direction.

There are many incredible Black women who have already changed the beauty industry for the better, from makeup artists to entrepreneurs to scientists. Here are a few to remind us of their important contributions over the years.

Madam C.J. Walker

One of the first women, Madam C.J. Walker (born Sarah Breedlove) invented a line of haircare products in 1905 after suffering from hair loss. It was so successful that she became the first African American woman to become a self-made millionaire.

In addition to her inspiring financial success, she helped usher in a movement of speaking directly to her customer through self-promotion, door-to-door sales, and product demonstrations. Her method was a huge change from the current brands at that time, which were primarily owned by white men and advocated hair straightening products that were not helpful to black hair or hair loss.

Lisa Price

Price founded beauty brand Carol's Daughter in her Brooklyn kitchen in 1993. As time went on, the brand gained international loyalty and eventually becoming one of the most recognizable natural-haircare brands on the market.

Carol's Daughter is one of the first African American woman–owned beauty brands to have a flagship store and premier shelf space in department stores. She set the ball moving for many African American woman–owned companies to come.

Pat McGrath

Pat McGrath is more than just a legendary makeup artist. Her stunning artistry has transformed the industry, taking over runway shows, the streets at Paris Fashion Week and now the shelves at Sephora with her eponymous line, Pat McGrath Labs.

Her inventive creations are now trends. She's not only the most requested and prolific makeup artist but also the most influential (see terms like “incandescent skin” and “strobing”). She has had a major impact on both the prestige and mass beauty markets. If you ever thought about wearing glitter or shimmer, check out her unique line.

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Alicia Keys

Celebrity singer Alicia Keys has been at the forefront of a “makeup-free” movement, forgoing foundation, and eyeliner for healthy, hydrated skin. While she clarifies she's not anti-makeup, it's inspiring to see a woman show off her bare face and stand up for natural beauty.

Her act of defiance and devotion to the cause, allows women to feel comfortable in their own skin. This sets a precedent. She uses her platform to give young women something else to look up to, appearing on magazine covers sans makeup and thus spearheading a message of honesty in the beauty industry.

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Balanda Atis

Atis, now L'Oréal's Women of Color Lab Manager, was working in research and development for the company but always had trouble finding shades to match her skin tone. She took on a side project to develop new shades in the lab, eventually spearheading a new category devoted to creating a wide spectrum of shades for Black women in all L'Oréal products.

Foundation shades are incredibly personal and, for women of color, can be especially difficult. Atis realized the struggle firsthand and used her position to make a difference in the industry, creating a diversity standard for all L'Oréal products moving forward.

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It is incredible how a strong desire and dedicated determination can push people to achieve great success and make an impact in this world. If we continue this trend of listening to new ideas and gaining inspiration from women of color, we will become one of the most inclusive industries and lead the way for others as well.

Lisa Martines - Board Member


Beauty Industry West (BIW) is a nonprofit trade organization focused on bringing together today's innovators, entrepreneurs, experts and future industry leaders.




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