Why Aren’t There More Clean Beauty Products For Black Women?

Black women have long been overlooked and underserved across all industries, an injustice that is finally being brought to the forefront, with Black women leading the movement against racial inequality. To honor just how truly essential Black women are, Unbothered has partnered with Target to share the stories of those who are fighting for inclusivity, challenging stigmas, and prioritizing mental health — stories that shed light on their incredible strength, ambition, and humanity.
For as long as Alicia Scott can remember, the 31-year-old founder of Range Beauty believed she was allergic to beauty products. Her earliest memory is smearing her grandmother’s cream all over her face — and then immediately breaking out. All throughout middle school, she watched as everyone else doused themselves in too-sweet body sprays or slathered on perfumed mall-bought lotions. Any time she did, she’d have a reaction. The same thing happened with makeup. By the time she reached college, she started developing eczema, so she went to the doctor who confirmed what she long suspected: She was allergic to certain ingredients commonly used in products, specifically talc, fragrances, and dyes. Factor in the extremely limited shades available to her as a Black woman, and most makeup — particularly foundation — was completely off-limits. 
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“I used to avoid the makeup aisle like a plague,” says Scott, who relied solely on mascara and eyeliner as her beauty routine for years. “I wasn’t comfortable shopping for complexion products because I knew there wasn’t going to be a match from prior experience: trying to find a shade that didn’t make me ashy, that matched my undertone, that didn’t make my face blow up from irritation because of the ingredients. It got to a point where I’d rather not wear anything at all.” 
After graduating from Virginia Tech with a degree in fashion design and merchandising, Scott moved to New York to work in the industry. It was there, working behind-the-scenes at fashion weeks and campaign shoots, that she noticed a trend: Black and brown models bringing their own makeup kits to set. To her, it signaled a bigger problem — the lack of inclusive shades found both in makeup artist’s kits and in the beauty industry at large. 

Clean beauty is dominated by white women-led brands whose lines are not inclusive — it’s an industry that’s not making melanin a priority.

In 2014, Scott took it upon herself to do something about it. She decided to create a beauty brand that housed an extensive shade range (one that includes undertones), and also had products that were free of toxic ingredients. In other words, products that she could use herself.
“Clean beauty is dominated by white women-led brands whose lines are not inclusive — it’s an industry that’s not making melanin a priority,” Scott says. “A lot of times we see BB creams or foundations and there are only three shades, which is not okay — especially with Black women being exposed the most to toxic ingredients. We should have more options.” (According to a 2017 study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Black women are exposed to significantly more potentially hazardous chemicals through their personal care products.) 
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Four years later, Scott officially launched Range Beauty — an inclusive, clean (no talc, parabens, sulfates, or fragrances), vegan, and cruelty-free beauty brand that caters to “a range of people, a range of skin tones, a range of genders, a range of bank accounts.” And it marked Scott’s first time wearing foundation comfortably. 
Other than being gentle enough for sensitive, irritation-prone skin, Range Beauty’s complexion products are infused with skin-loving ingredients that soothe and hydrate, including calendula flower, chamomile, french clay, vitamin E, and argan oil. But what really sets Range Beauty apart from others is its sheer-to-medium foundation that boasts 21 shades and a full range of undertones.
“Sometimes companies think, ‘Put out 50 shades of foundation and that will solve the problem,’ but it goes deeper than that, because many foundations [on the market] typically have red or ashy undertones, and Black women and women of color have different undertones,” she explains. “Each shade category at Range Beauty has at least three to four undertones: neutral, cool, yellow, and red. It’s really important because someone may find their shade, but if it’s not her undertone, it’s not going to be a match for her.”
It’s only been two years since Scott launched her brand, and she has to pinch herself at the unbelievable support she’s received from consumers, influencers, the press, retailers, and industry peers — including Bobbi Brown, who reached out in March and quickly became Scott’s mentor. Range Beauty has also gotten the attention of celebrities, including none other than Queen Bey, who featured the brand on her site when she did the Black Parade Route and spotlighted Black-owned businesses.
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Now, with the nation’s attention on Black creatives and Black businesses more than ever before, due to the growing momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement, Scott is among the many Black trailblazers being given their rightful due and recognition. “A lot of press opportunities and brand opportunities have come from these companies that are now saying, ‘Okay, we want to do better [by the Black community], and we would love to include you,’” says Scott, who has been reached out to by big-name brands that have discovered her through social media-circulated lists of Black-owned businesses. “Obviously, there’s still sadness around it because why did it take all of this to happen for you to recognize us? But at the same time, I’m taking advantage of it.” 
No matter the political climate, Scott believes supporting Black businesses should be a priority. But it’s not enough for retailers to merely stock a Black-owned business; she insists they must also create support systems to ensure that Black brands thrive in a competitive marketplace. 
“We don’t have the same resources as the big brands that we may be sitting next to on the shelf, so while it’s [great for these retailers] to diversify their assortment, they should also think about what can be done to assist and uplift us, and even the playing field,” she says, listing examples like providing resources, waiving fees, and offering a marketing budget.
As Range Beauty continues to grow, Scott hopes to eventually open at least one brick-and-mortar store, so that she can create a safe shopping space for Black women, a sense of community, an experience she never had growing up, and a “beautiful store where people can come, be themselves, and shop for what they need without having to worry about us not carrying their shade,” she says. “I want as many people to have access to clean and inclusive beauty as possible.” 
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