Having been a journalist for many years, I’ve covered story after story about companies profiting off of black people but also discriminating against them. Sometimes, I’ve felt hurt, other times outraged, and still too often, numb, and growing to expect ill-treatment. I would love to say that as a result, I make sure not to support every company that has wronged black people, but if I’m truly honest that feels impossible in America.
That said, I’m just not ready to throw my hands up without even trying to support more black-owned businesses. So I made myself a promise that I would at least try, try to find affordable black-owned products and buy them.
My journey to black-owned businesses:
I started with the natural necessities that popped up. When I totaled my car, I purchased a new ride from a black-owned dealership here in Atlanta, Wade Ford. When construction blocked access to my normal nail shop, I switched to Unique Nails. When my husband and I decided to marry, I tracked down mostly black-owned businesses for our big day. We even got a joint savings account with Citizens Trust Bank and adopted a sort of black-owned only approach to our date night dining.
Finding black-owned beauty brands, however, took more deliberate work because I like to free up time by having necessities delivered.
I spent hours researching, but I am proud to say I’ve found natural black-owned beauty brands to replace nearly every beauty product I use daily for myself and my son. The even better news is I’ve set all but one product up to be delivered automatically through subscription services.
Affordable black-owned beauty brands I use:
Shea butter from RA Cosmetics
Though admittedly not a complete replacement for the time-honored Vaseline that I use for diaper rash and a lip moisturizer, shea butter has become a fast favorite for pretty much everything else from hair to face and body moisture.
This is one product I refuse to buy from non-black-owned companies. So after doing some digging, I found a beauty supply company owned by Nigerian-born Idowu Etefia.
Baby’s lemon lavender shampoo and body wash from Alaffia
When I found out from a friend that Shea Moisture was no longer black-owned, I scoured the webs for a replacement to its shampoo and body wash for babies. (There aren’t many affordable natural products marketed as baby body wash and shampoo.) But with much research, I finally came across Alaffia, which was founded by Olowo-n’djo Tchala from Togo, West Africa and his wife then Peace Corps Volunteer Prairie Rose Hyde, according to the company’s website.
“Founded in 2003, Alaffia continues to redefine the natural products industry through its values of Beauty, Equality and Empowerment, fair trade, and safe, efficacious hair, face and body care,” the brand said on its site.
Liquid black soap from Dr. Woods
Black soap is all the rage among black naturals, and I’ve been wanting to jump on board for a while now. A bar of black soap I tried, however, was extremely messy and leaves buildup on my tub, so imagine my glee when I came across the product in shower gel form from Dr. Woods.
Now, the scent’s a little masculine for my liking, but it doesn’t linger after bathing. Plus the product is born from the same family that brought us the noted soul food favorite Sylvia’s Restaurant in New York City.
Dr. Woods was conceived by Van Woods, son of Sylvia Woods, and long-time friend and business partner, Gary Greenhouse, according to the company’s website.
Sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner from tgin
Chris-Tia Donaldson, founder, of Thank God It’s Natural (tgin), was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. “During her treatment, she learned that having money could make the difference between living and dying when it came to treating this condition,” a representative said on the company’s website. “In her observation, few organizations existed that provided support and social services to help women with transportation, child care, parking, or seeking disability leave from their place of employment.”
So Donaldson uses her success in the beauty space to “advocate for women experiencing financial difficulties, who are undergoing treatment.”
Jamaican black castor oil from Sunny Isle
Founded by Delroy Reid, Sunny Isle has become my new everyday castor oil. I like to use the unscented brand because it’s affordable, available for a recurring subscription and mixes well with scented products.
The company brags on its site: “Sunny Isle Jamaican Black Castor Oil is processed the ‘old-fashioned’ Jamaican way. Our organic castor beans are roasted and ground by a manual grinder, and boiled to extract the 100% pure, dark brown organic castor oil.”
Deodorant from Nubian Heritage
So you know it’s real, the first line on the Nubian Heritage about us page is: “We got our start as street vendors in Harlem.” Co-founders Richelieu Dennis, Nyema Tubman and Mary Dennis created the brand to bring “the healing traditions of African Black Soap and Shea Butter to the community they loved.”
When they added deodorant to the line is when they got me as a customer. I’ve been very untrusting of all-natural deodorants, but I must say this one is a keeper. I seldom workout though outside of running up and downstairs at home, so there’s that caveat to my recommendation, but for everyday trips to the store and daycare pickup, the Indian Hemp and Haitian Vetizer has served me well.
Coconut co-wash, a cleansing conditioner, from As I Am
On several product recommendation lists, As I Am products, created by chemist Ali N. Syed, are well recognized in the black business industry. I’m a sucker for scent, so the cowash quickly became a fast favorite of mine. I’ve tried the twist defining cream too, and it helped me achieve this glorious twist out, which admittedly I took down too soon.
Feminine hygiene care from The Honey Pot
“If you’re here because your honeypot is unhappy, I’ve been there,” the founder said on the company’s website. “The whole reason I started The Honey Pot Co was because I was suffering from bacterial vaginosis for months and couldn’t get relief. “One night, an ancestor visited me in a dream and gifted me with a vision to heal myself. With her help, I created the Honey Pot Co to solve for what other brands wouldn’t, using the power of herbs.”
Almond jai twisting butter from Camille Rose
A splurge at about $15 a pop, this twisting butter is a staple among 4C naturals, so I had to give it a try. The saying holds true: You get what you pay for. This product is thick, moisturizing and smells divine. Founded by vegan Louisiana native Janell Stephens, Camille Rose was born in her kitchen, according to the company’s website.
What’s not black-owned or not affordable
Now, don’t get me wrong. I still rely pretty heavily on several businesses that aren’t black-owned, namely grocery, banking and product delivery services. And once or twice a year I’ll treat myself to black-owned hair products that are by no stretch of the imagination affordable like Kreyol Essence’s scented Haitian castor oils.
So please don’t think I write from a high horse. Truly no judgment here. I’m simply hoping to share my journey and help make accessing affordable black-owned beauty brands a bit easier. Happy shopping!