Why African Beauty Deserves a Seat at the Table—Plus, 13 Brands We Love

Rich, decadent, natural, and grounded in ancestral knowledge.

woman makeup


To honor Black History Month, we’re continuing to celebrate the beauty of Black Joy and all the hope and transformation it brings. From personal essays to deep-dives into history and culture, join us as we amplify Black voices and explore the products, traditions, and people leading the way.

African beauty—coined A-beauty for short—is rich, decadent, natural and grounded in ancestral knowledge and generational wealth. Through centuries of remedies, stories, and healing archetypes, the ingredients that used to create these products are raw and molded from the royalty of the earth. Ingredients such as shea butter, argan oil, coconut oil, marula and baobab oil are manifested from the soil, blended within a formula that celebrates a connected root, a life cycle, a synergy of sorts.

Culminating centuries of knowledge and expertise, A-Beauty feeds the skin and body with natural and organic ingredients from the content of Africa, unearthing a beauty perspective that hat the world hasn’t yet seen. Founded upon rooted wealth and explored in abundance, it glorifies a past, present and future re-birth of beauty.

A-Beauty is not a new concept, but it has been celebrated within the Black community for generations—that simple, effective and healthy ingredients can marry together to deliver a radiant complexion. “The raw ingredients used in A-beauty formulations are clean, simple and effective and derived from the rich African soil,” CEO and founder of R and R Luxury, Valerie Ob, explains. “ Most of these raw ingredients are sourced from the ‘shea belt’ which runs across the African Savannah, stretching from West to East Africa and are unique to the continent”. Shea butter is a famous ingredient that can only be sourced in its entirety within the African continent, and can be found in all of R and R Luxury’s formulations. “At R&R Luxury, most of our product formulations are modern versions of ancient African skincare secrets that have been used by our ancestors for centuries as the key to ageless skin,” Ob explains. “We use all-natural plant-powered ingredients that are great for the skin and, because of the power of the ingredients, our formulations feature one to five ingredients maximum”.

Similarly, Emilia Ramos, CEO and Founder of Agrestal Beauty, says that for A-Beauty products, “each ingredient is uniquely sourced from the motherland, offering pure and organic plant-based products that nourish and soothe the skin”. Ensuring the preservation of the earth while utilizing its natural and healing abilities, formulas are then inspired by the land’s richness to deliver results. “Much of the continent is divided into three main biomes: subtropical desert, tropical savanna, and tropical forest, providing a rich bio-environment,” explains Nomshado Baca, founder of A Complexion Company. “There are many efficacious ingredients which are cultivated using native farming practices, while others are sourced through careful wild harvesting by the local population. The connection between community and environment greatly impacts how ingredients are sourced, with many traditional beliefs emphasizing the responsibility of all community members to care for environment and to have reverence to their ancestral lands”.

So, why do we find that A-Beauty struggles with having a seat at the global beauty table? According to Business of Fashion, Africa withstands an annual growth rate of 5.6%, surpassing expectation, and prior to the pandemic, the e-commerce market alone was projected to have reached $19.8 billion. In addition to this, South Africa alone amounted to an estimated 3.5 billion US dollars in 2018 with a forecast reach of 6.16 billion dollars by 2024, according to Statista.

With so many skincare elements being inspired by historical and cultural rituals (see: K-beauty and J-beauty), it’s interesting to note how A-beauty has gone unnoticed outside of Black community in terms of representation. “I believe African beauty to be the canvas of which we can share our narrative with the world,” Baca says. “As a community, we are storytellers and the accumulation of indigenous knowledge passed down the generations make us master botanists. We can share stories of our rich heritage through the knowledge of our environment and through the use of each ingredient”.

Mastering the art of storytelling, community, and streamlined routines, A-beauty has a potency and strength that doesn’t require excessive layering, and can soothe even the most stubborn skin problems, such as eczema and psoriasis, notes Charis Udeh, founder of Kyalli Skin. “The most beautiful part of A-beauty is the bond when beauty formulas are created, and rituals are exercised,” she says. “It is similar to the bond and togetherness shared amongst families at a dinner table in the Western culture; think an Italian family feast. The love and camaraderie is so tangible, it’s infectious to everyone who encounters it.” 

Ahead, discover some of our favorite brands that are rooted in Africa’s natural resources.

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A Complexion Company

With an intense belief in fighting for good health for all, Nomshado Baca nurtured a wellness brand that looks after women of color. A Complexion Company offers a multivitamin supplement that puts Africa’s wealth of ingredients and knowledge first. Their famous powder supplement, Raw Moringa Oleifera Leaf Powder, can be utilized in many forms, from oral ingestion to a hair and scalp treatment.All of A Complexion Company's products are made with ingredients rooted out of the African diaspora,

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Birthed from the Nigerian dialect of Ebira, Epara (meaning to cocoon oneself) is a collection of handcrafted skincare products tailored to treating the skincare needs of women of color. A line consists of expertly crafted, scientifically-proven products made with ingredients derived from African soils to repair, pamper and nourish the skin.

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Hanahana Beauty

Hanahana Beauty, founded by Abena Boamah-Acheampong, was created to uplift women of color and uses organic resources provided by the land. The all-natural skincare and wellness brand works intimately with Katariga Women's Shea Cooperative in Ghana, combining shea butter with natural oils to smooth and strengthen the skin, leaving everyone who uses the brand's luxurious butter feeling confident and self-assured.

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Proudly mixing a British influence with an African heritage, Liha consists of products that condition and treat the skin with ingredients such as idan oil and ivory shea butter. Treat your skin with decadent formulas in the brand's artfully- crafted oils, butters and candles.

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Skin Buttr

Standing for simplicity, education, healthy skin, and sustainability, Tatiana Elizabeth set out to modernize skin and bodycare with her brand Skin Buttr. Consisting of a gently whipped shea butter at the base, the body products will leave the skin intensely moisturized, while the skincare naturally hydrates, brightens and evens out complexions with a step-by-step system beauty minimalists will appreciate.

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Agrestal Beauty

Agrestal means "in an unprocessed and raw state to grow wild in cultivated fields." This skincare brand founded by Emilia Ramos is rooted in history and grounded in the philosophy that as humans, we reflect nature and harness the energies it provokes. Through this journey, Agrestal promotes a culture of growth and falling in love with yourself. Treat your skin to the brand's Turmeric Clay Mask, Rose Hydrating Oil, or Willow Bark Cleanser to reset and renew your complexion.

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A luxury fragrance, bath, and bodycare brand inspired by healing and revitalizing African rituals, Malée, founded by Zeze Oriaikhi-Sao, was created to onor generations of history with products and ingredients that celebrate African culture. 100% plant-based and perfected with modern science, the brand’s mission is to prioritize beauty with purpose and give your skin the care that it deserves.

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African Botanics

African Botanics uses South Africa's unique ingredients, raw materials, and active plant extracts in its sleek line of skincare and bodycare products that protect the skin from environmental aggressors. Ethically sourced and expertly formulated, the products—including the cult-favorite Retinal Night Cream and Marula Oil—are beloved for their high percentage of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory omegas, peptides, minerals and marine biotechnology.

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54 Thrones

Delivering a rich and sensorial experience, the plant-based botanicals in 54 Thrones' products were inspired by founder Christina Tegbe's Nigerian childhood. Wanting to carry these memories forward, Tegbe innovated her auntie's teachings and developed a range of products that call to the heart and soul of Africa. The brand's Beauty Butters are a Team Byrdie favorite.

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Charlotte Mensah

A luxurious hair range built upon the decadent manketti oil, Charlotte Mensah is known within the industry for nourishing and conditioning afro hair. Whether lightly spritzing the Manketti Oil Finishing Mist or coating the hair in the Manketti Oil Conditioner, your hair will be left revived and feeling soft and ready for styling.

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Emolyne Cosmetics

Emolyne Cosmetics is a nail polish and lipstick brand that caters to the undertones of people of color. With each shade named after an African city or landmark, Emolyne celebrates the vibrancy, excitement and vivid color that Africa proudly shares. Whether your shade is Morocco or Zanzibar, discover textures that are creamy, pigmented and long-lasting.


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Kyalli Skin

“For all our products, we intentionally included a few ingredients that I grew up using and are unique to Africa," says Kyalli Skin founder Charis Udeh. "These ingredients have been used by people on the continent for centuries and the results remain unchanged and unchallenged, which is a testament of the purity and efficacy of the ingredients." The brand pairs indigenously African ingredients with other other ultra-rich ingredients sourced from around the world withunique characteristics, such as organic chilean rosehip, Turkish pomegranate and Siberian sea buckthorn.

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UOMA Beauty

Founded by Nigerian-born former beauty executive Sharon Chuter (who also happens to be the creator of the #PullUporShutUp campaign), UOMA beauty was created to fill a void in the marketplace for vibrant, Afro-centric, celebratory makeup. The brand preaches inclusivity, self-expression, and "beautiful rebellion" as its mission, and draws the inspiration for its vivid products from the African diaspora.

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