When it comes to inclusivity and diversity in the beauty industry, we may have come a long way in the past few years, but there’s still so much further to go. Just think: it still feels exciting when a major brand launches enough foundation shades to cater for the nuanced undertones of our complexions, from the palest porcelain to the darkest skin; and it still feels innovative to see a haircare line in the supermarket that caters for not just curly hair, but coarse, coily textures, too. If only that were standard practice.
It’s important, however, to recognise that we are getting there, that this shift is actually happening, and to celebrate the brands, big and small, who are pushing the boundaries and bringing some much-needed diversity to the beauty scene.
In recent years, a host of Black-owned beauty brands have truly come into their own, launching innovative, inclusive formulas for everyone, along with much-needed products that cater to the specific needs of Black and Brown hair and skin tones. These brands, including Fenty Beauty, Dizziak, Soapsmith and Epara, are now stocked by major retailers, bringing their considered ranges to mainstream audiences.
Shani Darden Skin Care
Trained esthetician (and former Destiny’s Child backup dancer) Shani Darden is now one of the A-list’s favourite facialists – you’ll find her flagship studio in Beverly Hills, where she treats the likes of Jessica Alba and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.
If heading to Hollywood isn’t on the cards for you, then you’re in luck – the same products she uses in her treatments are now available to purchase for the ultimate home facial.
Special mention: Shani Darden Skin Care Retinol Reform, from £27, Cult Beauty
This retinol cream is both powerful enough to boost glow, firm skin and reduce pigmentation while also being gentle on the skin, so there’s no need to worry about irritation. A cult favourite for a reason.
Black Girl Sunscreen
It’s all in the name. In 2016, tired of the white cast popular SPFs would leave on darker skin tones, Shontay Lundy released the solution: an invisible SPF30 sunscreen that provides protection from the sun’s rays without any telltale residue. The range has now expanded to include an SPF50 offering, a mattifying sunscreen, a protective lip gloss and child-friendly options for suncare that works for every skin type.
Special mention: Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30, £19.99, Yard + Parish
The signature invisible formula – this SPF30 not only shields against UVA and UVB rays, but also contains aloe, lavender, and shea butter to leave skin moisturised and glowing. Perfect for wearing under makeup.
Epara infuses its products with natural and organic ingredients, including African botanicals and plant extracts sourced with sustainability and in mind, to boost skin and overall wellbeing.
Founder and CEO Ozohu Adoh specifically created the brand for women of colour, with products that tackle everything from dryness to reducing hyperpigmentation without harming the skin’s basal melanin levels.
Special mention: Epara Skincare Cleansing Oil, £45, Selfridges
Not only does this softly scented oil melt away makeup like a dream, it also comes with a host of skin-refining ingredients, including Marula oil, which increases skin elasticity and hydration and licorice root extract to brighten. Plus, the formula also helps to reduce sebum production. What’s not to love?
The Afro Hair & Skin Co.
This UK-based brand uses plant-derived ingredients for its range of – you guessed it – hair and skin products. Founder Ibi Meier-Oruitemeka created her product line with Black skin and hair in mind, removing common toxins and replacing them with high-functioning, all-natural alternatives for a range that works for a wide range of skin and hair types.
Special mention: The Afro Hair & Skin Co. ‘Flow’ Perfectly Balanced Facial Oil, £24, theafrohairandskincompany.co.uk
This oil works to heal and protect skin from free radical damage and hyperpigmentation, along with boosting cell renewal. Great used alone on damp skin to hydrate, or as part of your home facial massage routine – it offers great slip and sinks into skin for a shine-free finish.
Élengé’s plant-based products are all handmade using sustainable measures, created by founder Carine Moko to be gentle enough to use on her children – particularly their dry, eczema-prone skin. The natural, vegan ingredients are all full of antioxidants and vitamins, and are available either scented or unscented, to soothe and restore even the most sensitive of skin types. Win, win.
Special mention: Élengé Shea Butter, from £25, elenge.com
Each batch of this multi-use moisturiser takes three days to whip to its light texture, and harnesses the natural moisturising properties of shea butter – along with rosehip oil, aloe vera, coconut – for a butter that can be used on face and body for deep nourishment.
Because how can you do any beauty round-up without including the powerhouse that is Fenty? Rihanna’s game-changing makeup brand not only delivers on shade range – catering for all skin tones, from the very pale to the deepest of complexions – its formulas are also 100% cruelty free and boy, do they deliver.
From foundations and highlighters to brow pencils and mascara, each piece has been carefully considered and approved by the global superstar herself. If it’s good enough for Rihanna…
Special mention: Fenty Beauty Sun Stalk’r Instant Warmth Bronzer, £29, Boots
Nine shades go a long, long way with Fenty’s powder bronzer. Designed to warm the skin, rather than deepen its hue, the finish is super natural and stays put all day. Ideal for setting makeup if you’re not a fan of powder, and it makes a great matte eyeshadow, too.
Pat McGrath Labs
Pat McGrath is one of the world’s most influential makeup artists: she has worked with A-list celebrities to create red carpet looks, major fashion houses (such as Prada, Louis Vuitton and Alexander McQueen) for campaigns and runway shows and is also beauty editor at large at British Vogue. And her makeup line lives up to the hype, offering eye, face, lip and skincare products – all with the brand’s signature rich pigments that work for all skin types.
Special mention: Pat McGrath Labs MatteTrance Lipstick, £36, Cult Beauty
Choosing just one Pat McGrath product is no easy feat, but this lipstick bites the bullet (pun intended). The oil-infused powder formula is matte yet creamy, hydrating and richly pigmented, so you get a strong hit of colour in just one swipe. Minimum effort, maximum impact.
Nigerian born, LA and London-based Sharon Chuter worked with major international beauty brands before starting her own label. Now, she is the founder, CEO and creative director of UOMA Beauty – an innovative makeup line aiming to “re-write the rules of inclusivity and diversity to create a world of beauty that is truly for all of us”.
Special mention: UOMA Beauty Say What?! Weightless Soft Matte Hydrating Foundation, £29.50, Sephora
This foundation ticks every box. Shade range: there’s an incredible 51 to choose from. Coverage: full, but still buildable and great for spot application should you only want to cover certain areas. Finish: a gentle, lit-from within, but still completely matte glow. What’s not to love?
Danessa Myricks Beauty
Self-taught makeup-artist-turned-entrepreneur Danessa Myricks created her line based on the tricks she learnt from the trade. All of the products are designed to be multipurpose and can be used on all faces in a range of ways – in other words, even just one of her products will go a really long way.
Special mention: Danessa Myricks Beauty Balm Contour, £26, Cult Beauty
This balm adds a subtle shadow to skin – it’s buildable and creamy in texture, leaving no harsh lines or chalky residue. Instead, it can be placed under makeup for a gentle sculpt or over makeup for added definition.
Founder Chichi Eburu created Juvia’s Place to be the antithesis of the muted colours and greyish undertones found in many of the makeup products she tried. Instead, she designed a line of vibrant pigments and diverse complexion products with a wide range of undertones to not only suit but enhance dark skin in particular.
Special mention: Juvia’s Place Warrior II Eye Shadow Palette, £20, Superdrug
The smooth, velvety texture of the Juvia’s Place eyeshadows is perhaps where the brand’s dedication to rich, flattering colour is best shown. The Warrior II is the brand’s first all-matte eyeshadow palette – while its shimmering shades are perfect for bold eye looks, this collection of nine rich hues builds and blends out like a dream for a soft yet impactful smoke.
Actor Tracee Ellis Ross launched Pattern Beauty in 2019 as a way to celebrate and enhance the natural texture of curly and coily hair. What started as a line of haircare products soon branched out into accessories and tools, from the Hair Picks and the versatile Edge Tool to the lives-up-to-the-hype-and-more Blow Dryer. Every product from this line delivers.
Special mention: Pattern Conditioners, £25 each, Boots
Because there is not just one, not two (or three), but four conditioners in the Pattern haircare line, each catering to a different type of curl, coil and hair coarseness. Each is infused with natural oils to nourish, hydrate and detangle hair and they wash out like a dream, leaving no residue. A must-buy.
Celebrated hairstylist Charlotte Mensah – three-time winner of Afro Hairdresser of the Year and a member of the British Hairdressing Hall of Fame – brings the same attention to detail to her small but perfectly formed haircare collection as she does to the styles she creates at her eponymous London salon, Hair Lounge.
The Manketti Oil range is infused with organic, ethical and sustainably sourced oils to nourish curly, coily and coarse hair textures with ease.
Special mention: Manketti Hair Oil, from £17, charlottemensah.com
The OG Charlotte Mensah product is a haircare staple for a reason. This versatile oil can be used on wet or dry hair and on all hair types – it’s particularly good for adding shine to coarse, coily strands. Best dispensed onto palms and rubbed through fingers before using to gently detangle curls or smooth over finished styles.
Bread Beauty Supply
Bread Beauty Supply is the result of founder Maeva Heim’s desire to create the ideal product for her hair type. Born from a frustration at the lack of offerings for 3A–4C curls, she took the lessons learned from spending time at her mum’s hair salon, plus her knowledge of her own hair, and created a range of deeply conditioning, nourishing, cruelty-free and vegan formulas.
Special mention: Bread Beauty Supply Hair-Mask: Creamy Deep Conditioner, £26, Cult Beauty
Packed with superfruit extracts (such as starflower oil and Kakadu plum – which contains the highest concentration of vitamin C out of all fruits), this hair mask brings instant softness and hydration to hair, while also boosting the maintenance of collagen and elastin levels in the hair and scalp for healthy, breakage-free hair. And all in just five minutes. Amazing.
Unsatisfied by the existing conditioners on offer, Loretta De Feo decided to make things simple, by making her own. The result: Dizziak’s hydrating haircare, which looks good, smells good and actually does your hair good. (Not to mention its body care offering: the Body Conditioner, £20 and Body Scrub, £24, both Selfridges, are fantastic.) And with new superstar investor Dua Lipa on board, the brand’s offering is surely only going to soar.
Special Mention: Dizziak Hydration Wash, £20, Selfridges
Free from parabens, sulphates, silicones and mineral oils, this cruelty-free, vegan cleansing solution removes dirt and impurities from the hair and scalp while retaining moisture. The pH-balanced formula contains glycerin to hydrate the scalp, plus coconut and argan oil to protect against frizz. A must for curly hair.
After years of building resources for women with curly hair across the UK and Europe, Trepadora founder Keisha Jo Lawler decided it was time to apply her extensive knowledge to her own product line.
Fusing high-performing ingredients together with nourishing botanicals has led to an award-winning series of inventive formulas that offer glossy, defined curls, a deep cleanse and intense hydration. Oh, and the scents are unbelievable, too.
Special mention: Bamboo Ginseng Curling Mousse, £26, trepadora.com
This mousse not only adds volume and hold to hair – it also reduces frizz, protects against humidity and conditions hair – without the annoying stickiness or crunch of classic mousses. Simply apply to wet hair for maximum volume, or layer over a cream for hold and definition that lasts up to five days. Five!
Samantha Jameson began Soapsmith in Walthamstow, London, in 2012 – where the brand is still based today. Now the line includes hand washes, body washes, soaps and bath soaks in eight delicious scents.
All Soapsmith products are created using natural oils and ingredients, so as not to dry out the skin, and the gentle scent lingers with you throughout the day for a lasting treat.
Special mention: Soapsmith Marble Arch Body Wash, £28, Sephora
The Marble Arch scent blends notes of orange with vanilla, saffron and patchouli for the perfect warming fragrance. This body wash, filled with gentle, natural ingredients, also lathers up instantly, turning your everyday shower into a luxury treat.
This British brand is best-known for its brilliant haircare – hero products include the Scalp Exfoliating Shampoo, £26, and Seal and Shield Curl Cream, £26, both Cult Beauty, – and now, Bouclème has ventured into body care. Founder Michele Scott-Lynch brings the brand’s classic hydrating properties to your skin, using naturally derived ingredients for true head-to-toe nourishment. Genius.
Special mention: Bouclème Nourishing Body Cream, £28, LookFantastic
This lotion infuses avocado oil, cocoa butter and shea butter to hydrate and reduce puffiness. It can be applied to dry or wet skin, too as it contains squalane to protect against moisture loss. Plus, the lavender and rose geranium fragrance is divine. Perfect for using post-shower to lock in moisture.
If you’ve ever marvelled at Alicia Keys’ airbrush-smooth skin, then you’ll understand why her skin and body care line is worth investing in. Keys Soulcare not only focuses on keeping its ingredients clean and cruelty-free, it applies the same principles to its practices, too. The brand is Leaping Bunny and PETA-certified, and it’s the first beauty company to use a Fair Trade Certified™ factory. Plus, it works closely with certified dermatologist Dr Renée Snyder on all its formulas. Impressive, to say the least.
Special mention: Keys Soulcare Sacred Body Oil with Marula Oil, £25, keyssoulcare.com
For an oil that feels so lightweight, this certainly packs a hydrating punch. It blends together marula, baobab and jojoba oils to calm and moisturise even the driest of skin, while the scent of sage and oat milk brings a sense of harmony. A great option to protect skin from the harsh cold weather.
In a bid to get healthier, problem-free skin, founder Latticia Morapedi took inspiration from her mother’s holistic lifestyle and pared things back, focusing on synthetic-free ingredients. The result: Latticia Organics, a line of bath and body products (plus candles) hand-crafted using vegan and organic ingredients to enhance your everyday beauty routine.
Special mention: Latticia Organics Bath, Body & Hair Oil, £53, Yard + Parish
This multipurpose oil contains jojoba and vitamin E to restore hydration. Simply add to running bath water, use as a pre-treatment oil for hair, a post-styling smoother for split ends or as a moisturising body oil to make the most of the lemon and mandarin fragrance. A really brilliant all-rounder.
In 2018, model, actor, recording artist and now brand founder Dorion Renaud created Buttah Skin with the aim of bringing high-tech formulas and naturally derived ingredients together to create effective skin and body care tailored to nourish deeper skin tones. The vitamin-rich products combat dryness, discolouration, oiliness and blemishes for an all-round skin boost for every skin type.
Special mention: Buttah Skin Whipped Body Butter, £25, Cult Beauty
This moisturiser harnesses the natural benefits of Ghanaian virgin organic unrefined shea butter to hydrate skin while also protecting it against environmental aggressors. Perfect for very dry skin that needs intense moisturisation that doesn’t leave a greasy finish – one to store in your bathroom cabinet for regular use.