At one time the only cosmetic lines available to black women were Flori Roberts and Fashion Fair. Later, when the mainstream companies finally addressed the need for makeup and skincare for darker complexions, more often the products were still too light or left the skin with an unattractive, ashy tone.
Today there are more lines created for black women. These are 12 worth noting:
In 1965, Flori Roberts became the first cosmetics brand developed specifically for women of color. Considered a prestigious line of foundations, powders, blush, and eye and lip makeup with “diverse color cosmetics and skin formulations and shade selections for black women,” it was also the first to be sold in major department stores.
In the early days of Fashion Fair, I had to travel to the north side of Chicago to find a limited number of the shades. The late John H. Johnson, publisher of Ebony and Jet, created Fashion Fair after he noticed that the models from Ebony Fashion Fair had to mix foundations to find the right blend to match their skin.
Johnson approached existing cosmetic companies to reach this untapped market. None were interested. In 1973 he created Fashion Fair Cosmetics. Years later the makeup line has grown to include skincare and accessories—and it’s much easier to find!
More Fashion Fair Cosmetics
Markwins International develops lines for niche markets to address consumer needs, like Wet N’ Wild for a youthful market, Tropez for Latinas, and Black Radiance for the African American market. Black Radiance is an inexpensive drug store brand. I’m not impressed with the foundations, but the line does have nice lipstick shades.
Posner was created as “high class cosmetics for regular women of color” that didn’t want to spend top dollar for makeup. It’s still affordable. Foundations are under $7 and lipsticks are under $6. Back in the day the company broke my heart when they discontinued a red shade, strawberry-something. The closest match these days is Moisturizing Lipstick in Berry Red, but it’s just not the same.
5. Black Opal
According to Interface the “needs of black skin are as diverse as its tones” so they created a comprehensive line of treatment and color products to enhance all that is beautiful in black women with products formulated specifically for black skin and with natural botanicals. I was a fan of its Global Bronzing Powder, which has been discontinued. Darn.
Former actress Vera Moore (Linda on Another World) noticed that cosmetics made to match her skin were of poor quality, so she launched her own line in 1980. Her company has grown to include 16 shades of foundations, as well as concealers, eyeshadows and lip glosses and other products and can be found in Duane Reade stores.
Supermodel Iman launched the company in 1994 as a cosmetic skincare collection designed for all women of color—African American, Asian, Latina and multicultural women, with the philosophy that skin of color needs vary by race, culture and ethnicities. The collection includes makeup, with more hues added through the years, skincare products and fragrances.
Cover Girl had shades for darker complexions, but increased the number by creating the Queen Collection, designed by Queen Latifah and the late celebrity makeup artist Roxanna Floyd.
For more information, read this review of the CoverGirl Queen Collection.
B.l.a.c.’s founder and CEO, Merced Manning, was hunting for natural makeup and skincare products that worked for her skin type and color. She couldn’t find any, so she decided to make them herself. B.l.a.c. minerals provides all-natural cosmetics and skincare products for women of color and diverse ethnic backgrounds. You’ll only find about five ingredients in the products, because they’re free of synthetics, preservatives, dyes and other chemicals.
Plain Jane Beauty is a new color cosmetics line from SMB Essentials (Skin, Mind Body Essentials), an African-American owned eco-beauty company that uses natural and organic ingredients. The line includes foundations, concealers, eye shadows, and a lip-gloss called Divine Lip Shine.
12. Black Up
Ethnic lines have stiff competition in Black Up a French company founded in 1999 and developed by a team of professional makeup artists to meet the needs of women with darker skin tones. It is the No. 1 ethnic brand in France and has recently made its US debut, exclusively selling from the Black Up’s website.