Welcome to Byrdie's series, The Hustle. We're profiling BIPOC women and woman-aligned folks in the beauty and wellness industries who are usually behind-the-scenes. From the cosmetic chemists formulating your holy-grail serum to CFOs driving the biggest beauty companies forward, these women are the definition of career goals, and they're getting real about the journeys that led them to where they are—the highs, the lows, and everything in between.
With consumers constantly inundated with vague claims about "clean" beauty and supposed miracle ingredients, skincare can feel overwhelming. Often, the proof is simply in the product. Kubra Kay Skincare—founded by biomedical engineer turned beauty entrepreneur Khadidja Touré—is one brand cutting through the noise permeating the industry. The brand holds itself to a high standard—placing transparency, integrity, and effectiveness at the forefront.
Touré and Kubra Kay have been on my radar for the last couple of years. The brand's Purifying Duo Cleanser was my saving grace post-Accutane. Having struggled with acne and other skin issues herself, it is beyond clear that Touré creates each product with next-level intention. Ahead, learn more about her experience developing Kubra Kay and the lessons she's learned along the way.
How did your passion for skincare begin?
Growing up, my mom set the foundation for my skincare routine. She passed down natural remedies and maintenance practices she learned growing up in Mali. Then, a few years back, I was traveling internationally for work and ended up with severe skin issues. Without a "home base" or a reliable routine, I was tapping into local skin treatment practices wherever I was. I was inspired by the simple, natural, and holistic approaches people around the globe took to treat their skin.
What made you take the leap and create Kubra Kay?
The leap was easy to make once the gap became so visible. When I saw the lack of basic, affordable skincare items that were naturally and ethically sourced, I knew there was room to improve in the skincare space. The process felt more like a natural step in my life than it did a huge leap. I think I was made for this kind of thing.
Describe an average day in your life.
It all depends. There are natural cycles to running a business; you must adjust your personal life and the business to maintain balance. At my best, I'm up early for a 5 am walk. I don't like hopping out of bed and getting right to work. I prefer a natural progression. The walk wakes my body up. To wake my mind up, I like to read something light and meaningful. After breakfast, I'll take a few calls with manufacturers or other partners to strategize. The rest of the day is dedicated to working directly for the business or maintaining my personal life. I never forget self-care, though. I love to sneak away for a midday massage.
What's the main thing you want people to understand about you and your brand?
I want people to understand that I, my business, and the people who use my products are complex. But, if we take care of the basics, taking care of ourselves as a whole can get easier. I try to run my business the same way, focusing on the foundation and constant maintenance.
Why do you think education regarding skincare ingredients is so important?
Like everything else that has been commodified, there's a benefit to keeping people in the dark for a profit. Skincare companies throw products with potentially harmful ingredients at the masses with little explanation. If these products don't work so well, people think they have "bad skin," and that's not true. I want people to understand what's in my products so they can make better choices that will improve their relationship with their skin. I wouldn't consider my business successful if people didn't walk away with a better understanding of what works for them after using my products.
How has your skincare journey impacted the success of Kubra Kay?
Starting the business was a bit selfish. I genuinely needed a better skin routine and had to create one that worked for me. The brand has grown as I've found places where my routine was lacking and major pain points in my skincare journey. I think the business continues to be successful because it is directly tied to a real need, not a desire to be aimlessly successful.
What has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey thus far?
Well, there are a few. In general, my favorite part is having the autonomy to craft products that work for the people around me and myself. Being able to tap into my creativity and share it is the thing that keeps me going. Seeing how much our community engages and reorders our products is truly incredible.
Where do you see yourself and Kubra Kay in five years?
I see the business making it in mass retail. More importantly, I see myself being able to use the business to educate people on the skin, how it relates to our overall health, and the different ways we can have a positive impact on our skin even before buying products.
What advice would you give to others who are starting a brand?
My advice for people wanting to start a brand in this space would be to have a cause and source of motivation. This isn't easy. If you rely on immediate success to keep you going, you'll get burnt out quickly.
Are there any upcoming launches for Kubra Kay?
Kubra Kay has some exciting things coming at the end of the year. We are also working on some launches for 2023 that will take self-care to the next level.