Is There A Lack of Diversity in Green Beauty?

March 01, 2016 9 Comments

"I love being a woman of color and there is no other woman that I'd rather be but me. For if I secretly long to live in someone else's skin or hair, I'll never truly see the beauty that I've been uniquely given in this life of mine."

-Brandie Gilliam, founder of Thoughtfully Magazine

Being women of color in the beauty industry has not always been easy for entrepreneurs like  Barbara Jacques, the founder of Jacq’s Organics, and Brandie Gilliam, founder of Thoughtfully Magazine. Yet it is also something that has never held them back from carving their niche in the green beauty world.

With February as Black History month and March as Women’s History Month, it seems timely to celebrate the changes we are witnessing in the beauty space but also herald in greater expansion and diversity.

Fashion and beauty have come a long way in embracing the black, cocoa, caramel, yellow, and red skin tones that dot the catwalks and the high gloss pages of Vogue.

But face it. It is still largely a monochromatic field and there is a lot of room to grow to reach true equality.

Atticus Finch’s quote in To Kill a Mockingbird rings as true today as it did when Harper Lee wrote it:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

As a woman of color, Jacques often finds herself being grouped together with other African Americans, even though her blended heritage hails from the Caribbean island of Haiti and she grew up in Florida among the Cuban population.

 

The facets of her culture inform who she is and trickle through to her product line, symbolized in Carrot con Leche cleansing bar and in the Caribbean-inspired notes of her candle collection: La Lune and Le Soleil. When asked, she actually considers herself a fusion of American, Hispanic, and Haitian.  

Grouping her together with every other dark-skinned person is just one of those things that happens when a person merely sees a color and overlooks the multi-faceted person underneath. How many more Oprah/Whoopi mistakes need to happen before we take a good look and see?

It’s a little like flipping through the Magic Eye books and missing out on the magic. The image shifts when you take time to witness the three dimensional picture leaping off the page.

Every person comprises this multi-dimensional image that’s woven together by the rainbow hues. Though the spectrum of colors appears outwardly diverse, refracted light actually stems from one source, a source that transcends color, differences, races, and creeds.

Humanity is bonded together yet separated by these colors, yet some people still refuse to see the point of connection.

Try establishing a business as a woman of color, as Jacques did in 2012. This savvy entrepreneur looked for other successful women of color for support through the pitfalls and joys of starting a business.

One of those women was Kitiya King, founder of Mischo Beauty. In Barbara’s words, she’s “pretty badass.” Barbara found that her encouragement and fearless attitude were just what she needed as a young startup.

 Kitiya King mom, chemist and innovative business woman behind Mischo Beauty

“I wanted to reach out to her and find out how she was able to achieve success and overcome some of the barriers indie brands and black brands have when first launching a company,” Jacques explained.

“She has helped me stay focused and to understand my market. She's given me really good advice on business, consistent words of encouragement, and she does all with style and grace. I know whenever I need help she's one I can always call on.”

If there were one defining trait that a woman of color possesses, it is pride. Pride in her skin color. Pride in being who she is. It is this pride that courses through her veins and gives her courage and strength.

When you’re a minority in the world, you must have pride to face adversity. You must saddle pride and ride it to build a dream. In some ways, pride is universal and in some ways it belongs like a secret treasure to the people who have faced a history of bigotry and hatred, of slavery and oppression.

Brandie Gilliam, the founder of Thoughtfully Magazine and creator of Organic Beauty Talk, embodies this strength of character and uses it to fuel her businesses.

“I've never thought twice about being a woman of color,” Gilliam said. “From as early as I can remember, I've loved everything about it. Rich, diverse skin tones of golden to dark browns as well as different lengths and textures of hair has always captivated my attention and caused me to be in awe of its beauty.

“As I entered the organic beauty industry over a decade ago, I found that diversity was nearly non existent. It can be difficult and frustrating at times to shop for non-toxic makeup and hair care knowing that your own shade of skin or someone with a darker complexion was never even considered or thought about at all. I have tried to fuel that energy into remaining positive and encouraging. It's been beautiful to watch the rise of some really wonderful brands celebrate diversity in their product offering.

“My hope is that beauty will stop being so segregated. I long for the day when the gorgeous rainbow of women's skin colors are fully represented in the majority of clean makeup lines and that hair care will celebrate the different needs of women's hair textures all in the same aisle or space.

“If we're going to serve the needs of women then let's make sure we're doing so by truly serving ALL women, and not just a segment of women.”

Developing an awareness of what is still missing, of people we are still overlooking, is key. We need to open our eyes and really see.

How perfect that March pays tribute to the generations of women whose commitment to nature and the planet have proved invaluable to society. Women like Barbara Jacques, Brandie Gilliam, and Kitiya King are making inroads on paths that have not been carved before. Let’s open our eyes and really see them.

As Gilliam says so eloquently: “We need to wake up and give thought to what we're putting out into the world and what we're saying to women about themselves in the process. Let's make all women feel like we see them and that they matter and deserve healthy options, because they do.”

 

 

About Sarita Coren

Licensed social worker Sarita Coren is a holistic mom of five with more than 20 years of experience in the health and wellness field. Dubbed “the godmother of green beauty” by industry insiders, she writes the clean living blog Edible Facial (soon to be the eponymous site Sarita Coren). When she’s not capturing green beauty products on her popular Instagram account, you’ll find her connecting industry tastemakers, offering small brands her photography and social media consulting services, and writing about all things healthy living for various publications. She loves being 45 and (mostly) stopped counting her grey hairs, even the two in her eyebrows.

 



9 Responses

Jewel
Jewel

March 09, 2016

Enjoyed reading this. I knew that we as dark skinned women had limited options as it relates beauty products but I never thought much about how we fared in the world of organic beauty. I’m grateful for pioneers like these ladies and hope that many more will take on the challenge.

Sara Damelio
Sara Damelio

March 02, 2016

Excellent article!

Barbara
Barbara

March 01, 2016

Tianna,

I am the same way. I love the uniqueness in faces and different features. I love to see the rich colors of different nationalities shown in our hair, our eyes, our noses, our cheeks, bone structure and our lips. Hopefully this will spark change in retailers and in brands.

Barbara
Barbara

March 01, 2016

Hi Jeannie. Thank you. Please feel free to repost on Beauty Heroes blog.

Jeannie Jarnot
Jeannie Jarnot

March 01, 2016

I just loved reading this article and am in love with the very fact that it exists. More color in green beauty and everywhere. Women are beautiful, and let’s celebrate and create beauty that caters to every shade. I would love to repost this article on the Beauty Heroes blog linking back here of course. Hero On!

Tianna
Tianna

March 01, 2016

I love how this shared Barbara, Kitiya and Brandie’s backgrounds! I really love all these women do in the green beauty world so I loved learning more about them.

I definitely think the color palette in makeup definitely needs to expand – not just to include deeper skin tone ranges, but also more yellow tones and the really pale tones as well. I have readers tell me all the time that there’s either not a color dark enough for their skin to match or maybe that it’s too pink and they’re more yellow so it’s, again, not a good match. The same can be said for really pale women, many of whom are only recently able to find shades that suit their skin.

As for the “How many more Oprah/Whoopi mistakes need to happen before we take a good look and see?” – I think that was more of a generational gap than anything else. So many actors get mistaken for other actors and celebrities and that happens all the time across the board. I don’t really get it, but I’m personally obsessed with faces and I love seeing the uniqueness in each person’s features. That’s what really makes someone special to me.

Rachael Pontillo
Rachael Pontillo

March 01, 2016

Yes there is a lack of diversity in green beauty—and there continues to be in the beauty and skincare industries themselves. Different skin tones have different needs not just visually, but also physiologically—I spoke about this in a webinar I did last summer that was very well attended. More awareness needs to be spread. Thank you for writing about this important topic and spreading awareness. This is an issue that has bugged me since I was a teenager working at cosmetics counters in department stores. I had so many women I couldn’t help—or that I had to custom blend colors for and charge them more money—because we didn’t have the right colors for their skin. It irked me even more nearly 20 years later when I was at a manufacturer’s training for a popular spa brand and noticed the same problem. When I asked about it, I got a canned response about how it’s not possible to please everyone and new colors are always in development. It’s a crock. Posting this on the blog too.

Mischo Beauty
Mischo Beauty

March 01, 2016

Awareness is key! Excellent article, Sarita.

Stephanie Jospeh
Stephanie Jospeh

March 01, 2016

I really like this. I love how it touches on not just women of color but their culture as well. This is just beautiful!

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

welcome

We're creating a new collection of amazing beauty products that celebrate you. Become a beauty insider to stay-up-to date on when we launch. Here's 15% OFF your first order.