There is nothing quite unsettling like running out of your go-to foundation, concealer, and highlighter at the same time. It can send me right into a panic. For a while, I was less focused on ensuring my endless makeup supply was intact. But, it came back to bite me on a day I needed it most.
So, I did what most people in my position would, and I went to Target's beauty aisles for a re-up. It was there that I was introduced to The Lip Bar. A quick Google search revealed the brand was owned by Melissa Butler, a Black woman who started making lipstick in the kitchen of her Brooklyn apartment. The brand's sleek packaging also caught my attention. I was sold.
Researching a brand before making a purchase is now second nature to me. I already considered myself a conscious consumer, recognizing how my purchases can positively or negatively impact society. But my stance was catapulted into overdrive during last year's racial reckoning, following the murder of George Floyd. The unfortunate killing of Floyd sparked a summer of protests and, among other things, resulted in consumers of all races seeking out Black-owned businesses to rally behind financially.
During this time, Kezia Williams, founder of The Black upStart, and her team launched the #MyBlackReceipt campaign. Their goal was to encourage people to buy from Black-owned establishments and to quantify those efforts. They set a 17-day campaign goal of $5 million in 2020, asking people to upload their receipts to the My Black Receipt website. Williams says they met and exceeded that goal in 2020, but they didn't see the same amount of commitment this year. She and her team decided to adjust their 2021 goal to $1 million across a 7-day campaign.
This year, they collected $1.3 million in receipts. "The number of receipts collected wasn't as high, and the level of enthusiasm wasn't as high," Williams says. "That indicated that there is more work to do." Williams wants buying Black-owned products and services to be an intentional, day-to-day practice—not a reaction to unfortunate circumstances or tragedy.
"How do we continue to have this conversation even outside of controversy?" she poses. "[We have to ask ourselves] is there a Black brand that could potentially replace a [mainstream] brand and still create the same amount of value?"
I began to ask myself similar questions when I purchased products from The Lip Bar for the first time. Not only did they offer bold lip colors and liners, TLB's collection included eyeshadow pallets, makeup brushes, and more—all of the essentials. I realized I could rebuild my entire makeup bag with Black-owned brands.
What is Conscious Consumerism?
Conscious consumerism is a relatively new term but an old concept, Lawrence Glickman, a professor of history and American studies at Cornell University, explains to me.
His book, "Buying Power: A History of Consumer Activism in America," details the history of this practice. "Conscious consumerism is about consumers trying to cut through the anonymity of the marketplace to assert some sense of morality into their economic transactions," Glickman says. "We want to consume in alignment with our values and our ideals."
As a Black woman, closing the racial wealth gap is an idea I cannot ignore. I would rather spend my hard-earned money in spaces that create opportunities for Black wealth to exist.
Conscious consumerism is about consumers trying to cut through the anonymity of the marketplace to assert some sense of morality into their economic transactions.
In today's marketplace, it's easy to look up a brand on the internet to determine if it aligns with my moral values. Still, in the past year, shopping patterns have changed. "I would say [the pandemic] has raised consciousness about our obligation to places we buy things from," Glickman says. "I was conscious when I was buying takeout from a restaurant. I wanted to make sure to support the workers there."
The Challenges of Conscious Consumerism
However, it's important to acknowledge that activating your conscious consumer may come at a cost. It takes time and effort to research a brand, and it often costs more to buy directly from an independent seller than a mass retailer.
"Sometimes consumer activism can feel like a luxury not everyone can afford," says Glickman. "I think this is an area where people might even desire to be conscious consumers, but not everyone feels they can do it within the constraints of their lifestyle."
Activists combat those deterrents by giving people necessary tools and by doing research, Glickman explains. Marketplaces are now pooling Black-owned brands in one space, and businesses can now designate themselves as Black-owned on specific platforms.
The Black-Owned Products I've Added to my Makeup Bag
This makes for an overdue change where Black brands are easily discoverable, even in the beauty realm. Ahead, I’ve compiled a list of the Black-owned beauty brands that will be responsible for my daily face from here on out.
I house all my Black-owned beauty products in a makeup bag created by a Black woman. With more than eight years of professional experience, Atlanta-based makeup artist Ashley Gray’s work ranges from clean beauty to high fashion editorial looks.
Her vegan leather makeup bags are the perfect size to keep the essentials. The bags come with a built-in mirror for on-the-go touch-ups. The inside is also equipped with a drawstring feature to keep products snug while traveling.
TLB's tinted moisturizer has replaced my foundation, and I'm never going back. The formula has SPF 11 for sun protection, blends like butter, and provides just enough coverage.
With shades ranging from "My Fair Lady" to "Cocoa Bean," TLB founder Melissa Butler says it was important for her brand to serve more than style. Butler says she wants people of all ages, races, and experiences to shop TLB not just because it's a Black-owned brand but because they can find value in the products offered. "Our customers come from all walks of life," says Butler. "Our business wouldn't be the same if our message didn't reflect that."
Creamy coverage reigns supreme in UOMA’s brightening concealer. With more than 15 shades to choose from in this collection, finding the right one to enhance your under-eye area is a breeze. Founded by Sharon Chuter, a Nigerian-born former beauty executive, UOMA was one of 12 Black-founded beauty brands added to Nordstrom’s Inclusive Beauty assortment in February 2021.
Mented co-founder KJ Miller and I have this in common: we both go through roughly one eyebrow pencil a month. This particular offering from Mented is long-lasting, and I’m a huge fan of the precision tip, which creates hair-like strokes.
Miller and her co-founder, Amanda Johnson, launched Mented with nude lipsticks first. Then, they expanded into different cosmetic categories. If you want to make the switch to Mented’s brow pencil but aren’t sure which shade is best for you, their website has a shade comparison guide to assist.
Lashes amplify every look, be it an everyday beat or full glam. With Camara Aunique's selection, you can even get into character. Each lash is named after an iconic woman from the Bible who embodies strength. The Ruth Lash, my personal favorite, is "for the loving, devoted and compassionate woman."
Founder Camara Aunique Helps—a professional makeup artist and Brooklyn native—has taken it a step further by offering 2-in-1 adhesive eyeliner. The felt tip doubles as glue to keep your lashes in place.
LYS Beauty launched exclusively at Sephora in 2021 and has six shades of its satin matte cream blush. Each of the colors revives your complexion instantly. Tisha Thompson created the brand to dispel the myth that deep shade ranges and clean, high-performance products can't co-exist.
Thompson is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and incorporated the Delta symbol in her brand packaging of LYS. "The Delta symbol, which represents change, is a nod to one of our brand pillars," says Thompson. "I created LYS to change the way people view clean beauty, but also how we treat, speak to, and love ourselves."
A quick glide of this highlighter will give your skin an HD glow. The translucent balm comes in a convenient roll-on stick that is easy to blend and pack in your travel bag. Ami Colé debuted with three products in celebration of melanin-rich skin. Founder Diarrha N’Diaye, a Senegalese-American woman, went from working in the beauty industry to building her own brand. Many parts of Ami Colé’s story are anchored in Senegalese culture—from the use of Senegalese models in her brand visuals to incorporating the country’s baobab tree in her formulas.
There is nothing subtle about Danessa Myricks’ cosmetic line. A little goes a long way when it comes to the bold colors of the Vision Flush collection. Each liquid color can be applied to the eyes, lips and cheeks—something Myricks says makes her products more approachable and accessible.
“So many people have challenges creating looks or understanding which colors go together, and I love creating things that can be used everywhere to make makeup simple,” Myricks explained. “It's an easy 1-2-3 approach, so that when you discover a color or texture that you love, you can use it anywhere and everywhere.”