Why I Only Used Black-Owned Beauty Products For A Month

Photographed by Rachel Cabitt.
Years ago, my dad and I were searching for a post office at the peak of the busy holiday season. Maybe it was luck, or a Christmas miracle, but we ended up finding a strip mall store that was clean, uncrowded, and headed by a friendly man who assured us that our presents would make it to grandma in plenty of time. "We'll be back, brotha," my dad said to the owner, dapping him up. On the way home, he explained the importance of supporting Black-owned businesses — if we don't support our own, who will?
I send my own packages (and pay my own bills) these days, and experience a teeny bit of guilt whenever I think about that conversation. I live in Brooklyn, which used to be home to an abundance of Black-owned shops and restaurants when I was growing up, but things look different now. I order on Seamless with no thought as to who's making my food. The majority of my wardrobe is from Asos, not Africa. And while I still get my hair braided by my go-to girl from Ghana, my product collection is all over the map.
Vlogger Jackie Aina once challenged her 1.4 million subscribers and non-Black YouTubers to take on the Black-owned makeup brand challenge, also known as B.O.M.B. Of course, she crushed it — and introduced her followers to some dope brands, too. I was happy to see that other vloggers and influencers followed her lead, but this challenge didn't get nearly as much traction as 100 layers of lipstick, nail polish mountains, or Cheeto curls.
Dozens of small, Black-owned brands come across my desk...but I can admit that I often prioritize the glitzier prestige brands. Why, though? These beauty and skin-care lines are created for us and by us, and often have more personalized selections made for darker skin and natural coils.
With that in mind, I took on my own version of B.O.M.B. challenge. For an entire month, I only used Black-owned beauty products (makeup, skin, hair, and body) and ended up learning so much about myself — and discovering a ton of new favorites. Scroll on to see how it all went down.
This story was originally published August 17, 2017.
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Anyone who knows me knows that I'm an Urban Skin Rx girl, through and through. Splitting with my Even Tone Cleansing Bar was probably the most challenging part of this experiment, honestly. So, to work around it, I searched for skin care with salicylic, kojic, and hyaluronic acids — elements that were important to my routine before this.

DermHA, founded by licensed esthetician Mildred Bell, is a lesser-known brand that comes in plain packaging... but, like my mom always said, it's what's on the inside that counts. Typically, when I switch up my skin care, my face retaliates. I didn't have that issue with this gentle formula, potent enough to give the ol' 1-2 to my bumps and wipe all of my makeup off, too.

DermHA* Acne Skin Cleanser, $35, available at dermHA*.
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After washing my face, I usually slick on a little bit of Vitamin C serum. This one brightens just like my favorite Super C serum from USRX. My face looks so glowy and radiant, I don't even need highlighter — even if I did find a new favorite. (More on that later...)

DermHA* Acne Skin Brightening Serum, $48, available at dermHA*.
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It only takes a few pumps of this moisturizer to protect and nourish my melanin — and it layers like a dream underneath my tinted moisturizer. God bless, Bolden.

Bolden SPF 30 Brightening Moisturizer, $28, available at Bolden USA.
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It was hard to say goodbye to USRX — but downright painful to split with my one true love: Nars Velvet Matte Skin Tint. God, I love that stuff. The Skin Tone Evener BB Creme, a popular pick from Iman's line, was thisclose to stealing my heart, if it weren't for the reddish undertone. Still, it held me over for my month-long experiment and goes on buttery smooth, too.

Iman Cosmetics Skin Tone Evener BB Créme in Earth Deep, $20.49, available at Walgreens.
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I go without makeup most days, but can't leave a two block radius without swiping my beloved Boy Brow on. It's just SO good. And easy, too. I don't have the patience required to fill my brows in with pencil.

Since I couldn't find a tinted brow gel from a Black-owned line (if you have a favorite, hit me up in the comments below), I settled on trying my hand with this dual-ended Tyra Beauty pencil. It was thin enough to etch those little hairs in just so — and came attached with a clear gel to set everything in place, too.

Tyra Beauty Brow.Set.Match Dual-Sided Brow Definer in Deep Brown, $22, available at Tyra Beauty.
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Over time, I've experienced one too many contour kits with shades that just don't work for me. This was the first time I actually found a product that was too deep for my dark skin. The Deeper Than Deep shade of this stick, which appeared to be a chocolate brown in online swatches, looked black on my skin. Good for a night out — not so much for my summery, no makeup-makeup aesthetic. I'm keeping this baby in my kit for special events, though.

Tyra Beauty Sculpt In A Stick Face Contour in Deeper Than Deep, $25, available at Tyra Beauty.
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I stumbled across this color corrector while looking for a concealer. Best discovery ever. I tap on this soft formula before concealing my under-eye bags, acne scars, and anything else I don't want anyone to see — and my "problem" areas even out instantly.

Koyvoca Orange Color Corrector, $12, available at Koyvoca.
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Out of all the brands I reached out to, I was most excited about this one. We've sang MDM Flow's praises, a brand created by cosmetic scientist Florence Adepoju, many times over on this site for a reason: dope packaging, clever names, and poppin' pigment. I wore a cherry red liquid matte to my sister's high school graduation, and it didn't move once — from the procession to the cap toss.

MDM Flow Supreme New, $23.37, available at MDM Flow.
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If sneakerheads love their Jordans, makeup enthusiasts love their Juvia's Place. Admittedly, I'm not really one for eye makeup because I wear glasses... but it's impossible not to swatch (and try) these insane pigments that show up and show out. You can't go wrong with any of the brand's palettes — if you can manage to get your hands on them — but my favorite right now is The Warrior, with so many matte and shimmery nudes that fit me. Finally.
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Out of all the categories that I had to swap out, I knew that hair would be a breeze. Since I'm newly natural with delicate coils, I already use mostly Black-owned brands that I trust. Carol's Daughter is one of them. During my challenge, I didn't wash my hair that often — and I definitely didn't cowash enough. The almond milk range from Carol's Daughter atones for all of those sins. My favorite is the Ultra Nourishing Hair Mask. I could practically hear my parched ends whispering "thank you" in my ear.

Carol’s Daughter Almond Milk Daily Damage Repair Set, $32.40, available at Carol’s Daughter.
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Lately, I've been cooling off on the twist-outs and letting my true texture shine through. On the occasions where I do have a little bit of time to put some small twists or braids in my hair, I reach for this cream. It coats my hair like a dream, and smells ridiculously good. If I apply it liberally enough, I don't need to touch up with curl cream and oil in the morning. Win!
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And for the mornings where I don't have time to do anything, I spritz and scrunch some of this spray to awaken my crushed curls.

Vernon François Re-Vamp Moisture Spray, $32, available at Vernon François.
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I love anything black and white and striped. Because of that, this cotton head wrap got a whole lot of mileage throughout the month.

The Wrap Life Teshie wrap, $25, available at The Wrap Life.
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At any given time of the year, I'm ridiculously sweaty. So sweaty that I've sampled every "clinical strength" deodorant and antiperspirant — men's and women's — at my local Duane Reade.

That being said, I figured that natural deodorant would be like bringing a knife to a gun fight. And uhhh... I was right. The bar was definitely soothing, as it's made with African black soap, aloe vera, and vitamin E. But that's irrelevant to me during a New York City summer. I felt so self conscious about having to hold the overhead bar during my morning commute; I just can't own the pit stains, I'm sorry. Needless to say, I ended up switching back to my real antiperspirant well before the month was over. Hey, I tried...

Nubian Heritage African Black Soap 24 Hour Deodorant, $8.99, available at Nubian Heritage.
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You're damn sure not about to catch me out here being ashy. This fast-absorbing Shea oil was such an improvement from my typical baby oil gel. Seriously, the beginning of bare leg season wasn't as scary with this in my shower caddy.

Bolden Butter Mint Shea Oil, $24.50, available at Bolden.
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Mented is unbeatable when it comes to nude lipsticks for chocolate girls and guys. I shouldn't have been surprised that their new nail polish collection was just as good. I loved painting my toes with Brown & Bougie (and loved the name, too).

Mented Nude Nail Collection in Brown & Bougie, $8, available at Mented.
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And for my fingernails, this bubblegum pink from Lisa Lacquer (started by Lisa Wilson, a beauty editor) looked sweet as candy.

Lisa Nail Lacquer in Millennial Pink, $7, available at Lisa Lacquer.
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Photographed by Rachel Cabitt.
Before I B.O.M.B.-ed, I was a little nervous about finding products that I'd fall for in every single aspect of my routine. I work in beauty, but can sometimes be rigid with my selections. My month helped me break out of that rut — and I ended up finding products that were in some cases even more suitable for my skin, hair, or body.

It was great getting to know the stories of some of the owners, too — many of them are young women who chose to take matters into their own hands after feeling excluded from the industry. Black girls really are magic!

There were a few businesses that seemed skeptical to send over products for consideration, and some brands didn't have the best channels of communications — two issues that plague a lot of small businesses, not just Black-owned ones. And yeah, some of the products I tried didn't possess the same quality as my faves. But, as with any startup, there's always room for growth.

I'm back to my Boy Brow and my Velvet Matte Skin Tint for now, but I'm still sprinkling a number of products from my challenge into my daily routine — and look forward to the day when my whole vanity is FUBU, through and through.

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