As the beauty industry continues to progress in providing diversity and inclusivity to women of color, it’s no secret that there is still a long road ahead. As a W.O.C. with a darker skin tone, I have expressed my frustration on numerous occasions with the lack of beauty products made available to women of my complexion.
I can recall a previous trip to Ulta in search of a new foundation that would aid in oil control. After browsing around for a few minutes and being unsuccessful, I requested help from one of the three white makeup artists nearby. Right off the bat, I could sense this energy of unfamiliarity of my complexion from the woman who agreed to assist me. I gave her a little background on my skin and told her what I was looking for. To make a long story short, she pointed me in the direction of their “darkest shade,” which was still not a match for my skin tone. I went from feeling embarrassed to looking at the bigger picture. It was then that I realized an entire spectrum of women were missing from the beauty industry, which was no fault of mine or the MUA.
So, you can imagine my excitement when I found out about Brown Beauty Co-Op, a Sephora-like beauty hub coming to the D.C. area, exclusively for women of color. Best friends Kimberly Smith (Marjani) and Amaya Smith (Product Junkie) are coming together to provide a one-stop-shop for W.O.C. with a variety of skincare, hair, and beauty products. Located at 1365 Connecticut Avenue Northwest, the 1,000-square foot store is scheduled to open in December, according to Washingtonian.
Brown Beauty Co-Op will feature products from both up-and-coming brands to established brands, all focusing on darker skin tones. Some of the beauty brands include Marena Beauty, Hue Noir, Christal Cosmetics, and Joliette by Afrodeity. However, it is important to note that the term women of color is not limited to black women only.
“We want to be able to serve a lot of other women who are underrepresented in the market like Indian and Latino women,” Kimberly and Amaya explain. “It’s important to acknowledge there are a lot of similar experiences across cultures.”
Kimberly Smith has been living in the culturally diverse D.C. area for roughly ten years and like myself has expressed her frustration with not being able to find products that suit her as a woman of color.
“Having lived and worked here for the past ten years, it has always just surprised me how culturally diverse it is, yet when it comes to beauty, I can still go into stores and not find products for me,” she says. “To me, that’s quite unbelievable. It’s not like we are in middle America. In this region, we make up a huge percent of the population at all different levels of socioeconomic status.”
According to Washingtonian, Brown Beauty Co-Op will have a salon space for makeup application and hair tutorials, open for both appointments and drop-ins. Kimberly and Amaya will be holding pop-ups and events, positioning the store as a community space where women of color can feel empowered.
“I’ve gone to the ethnic aisle in Target or CVS and it is like chaos and comedy in there,” says Amaya Smith. “Women of color have always sort of been relegated to this random aisle where people are like picking up paper towels and toilet paper, meanwhile, you’re trying to figure out what product works for you. We wanted to create a store that said ‘this is for you.’ A space that carries beauty products that affirm you and actually meet your needs.”