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Tarun Malkani Discussed The Future Of Black Beauty Businesses At Essence Festival
Tarun Malkani Talked All Things Black Beauty Businesses At Essence Festival Day Three
Erika Goldring/Getty Images for ESSENCE

On the final day of the 30th ESSENCE Festival of Culture, our Passion To Profit series closed out the Beautycon stage. Chairman of Essence Ventures Richelieu Dennis moderated a conversation with PDC Brand CEO Tarun Malkani about the next generation of Black beauty businesses. Fitting, as PDC— who owns brands such as Cantu, Eylure London, and now Dr. Teals— has a strong stake in our community. “Every person has a deep association with Dr. Teals, in the African-American community particularly,” Malkani told Dennis.

Like Cantu, Dr. Teals’ products have had an impact on our body for the past 20 years. “When you’re sore, when your ankles are swollen, when your back hurts, have a headache, that’s where I go to self-medicate,” Dennis said. With the intention to facilitate healing in the Black community, we should support businesses we feel support and represent us, and understand our spending power. “This community has put this product on the map,” Malkani said. “I think you have to respect the physiological needs, the needs for hair and skin. The requirements for the Black community in terms of hair is quite unique.” 

Cantu’s newest brand ambassador Skai Jackson appeared at their Beautycon booth, helping tell the story about the evolution of the brand. “As her target evolves, her audience evolves, that’s how she thinks of Cantu,” Malkani said. From reformulation to product performance, storytelling to community building, Malkani explains how it is important to remain connected to your consumers. However, as brands scale, it often becomes more difficult to maintain trust with your target audience. 

“The bigger you get the more regulations play a role, and the less you understand how to manage through those regulatory changes,” Dennis said. “The biggest downside of it is when your customers think you’re trying to fool them.”

Dennis then explained an issue he ran into with paraben-free hair care brand Shea Moisture, and how the ingredient japonica caused consumers to lose trust in the brand. With parabens linked to cancer, they removed the ingredient and replaced it with the plant extract. But “turns out, over time, japonica started to behave much like a paraben,” he said. “We end up with people saying ‘oh, you guys are changing the formula, you’re watering it down.’” This is similar to what Mielle founder Monique Rodriguez received backlash for: selling her brand to P&G, and losing trust from Black consumers as a result. That said, “always communicate with your consumers,” Dennis shared with the audience as an entrepreneurial learning. “The good things and the bad things, not just the marketing things.”

Essence Festival’s Beautycon Stage Discussed Beauty After Motherhood

There’s no doubt that mothers are the backbone of our community— passing down lessons in strength, confidence, and more. However, motherhood can be a big transition— one that requires an adjustment to self-care and beauty routines. To discuss this matter, today, new mothers Aimee Simeon and Chanen Johnson joined the Beauty After Motherhood Beautycon panel, moderated by senior lifestyle editor Victoria Uwumarogie, on the final day of the 30th ESSENCE Festival of Culture.

“I had all the time in the world, and then I found out I was pregnant,” Aimee Simeon told Uwumarogie. As the senior beauty editor at Well+Good, Simeon used to luxuriate in treatments, from cupping to acupuncture and deep tissue massages. After a difficult first trimester, however, her acne-prone skin (which had been an issue throughout the years) cleared up, but not without bringing other changes to the forefront. “I had to look into products that helped swelling,” she said. “I didn’t deal with hair loss until after I gave birth and my hair just [now] stopped falling out.”

Despite most mothers adjusting to their changing bodies, “snapback” culture pressures mothers to bounce back to their old body after motherhood. “Famous folks will come on Instagram like ‘look at me back in the gym’ and you’re thinking to yourself ‘I’m leaking, I’m struggling, how are you doing this’,” Uwumarogie, a mother of two, said. “I got pregnant six months postpartum and I’m sorry I’m not going to the gym,” Johnson said. “I don’t feel bad at all. We’re all different, we all have different body types.” 

From learning how to do our makeup, to building healthy relationships with our hair, the most important beauty lesson we learn can be passed down to our daughters. “I’m a girl mom, I’m having another girl, I want them to get into the beauty space and enjoy it the same way that I do,” Johnson says. For Simeon, she’s breaking generational curses around having our hair done. “I remember that sitting between my mom’s legs so clearly,” she said. “I just want her to know that I will do anything to make her feel her absolute best. Even if it’s a little crooked pigtail.”

Essence Festival Attendees Learned How Foundation Is Made

In late April, makeup brand Youthphoria faced backlash over the darkest shade in their Date Night foundation. This shade—which content creator Golloria George called out and has since been pulled from their website—was a jet black skin tint with no other pigment than black iron oxide. That, and pressing issues surrounding “clean” and “sustainable” beauty leave consumers with more questions than answers. How are beauty products made? Where are the ingredients sourced? Why are certain formulas trending?

Today, we found out in The Lab. To kick off the final day of the 30th ESSENCE Festival, panelists and cosmetic chemists Sister Scientist and Javon Ford joined ESSENCE’s senior beauty editor Akili King on the Beautycon stage to discuss. In the 1990s, “[brands] would take a medium-toned foundation that’s made up of white, yellow and red pigment, and they would just add black,” Ford told King, which caused ashy-looking, dull makeup with no undertones. Calling out Youthphoria, “they’re not really looking at human skin. Black is not a mixing color,” he said. 

Despite brands like Fenty Beauty and WYN Beauty putting darker shades first, it is more common for brands to have a wide range of lighter-toned foundation, with limited shades for melanated skin. This is because most brands do not see Black consumers a profitable market to cater to. However, according to Sister Scientist, Black women spend almost three times the average beauty consumer. “These brands really didn’t think that we were spending money,” she said, investing only in shades for the general population. Now, “multicultural [people are] the general population.” 

Meanwhile, as “clean beauty” is on the rise, other conversations about sustainability, chemicals, and how ingredients are sourced have come to the forefront. “There is no universal or federal-regulated standard for ‘clean beauty’,” Sister Scientist said. For most brands and retailers, they define clean beauty as holistic products devoid of “chemicals” or containing sustainably-sourced ingredients. “The fear-mongering and misinformation on social media is running rampant,” she said. “Everything has some sort of chemical in it.”

Ford acknowledged the irony of the term “clean” as a harmful preservative-light or preservative-free marketing tactic. “Clean products are the main ones being recalled nowadays,” he says, saying they may be contaminated with mold, fungus and bacteria. Nevertheless, “we have a lot of champion ingredients, like retinol and hyaluronic acid [in beauty products],” King said. Using a certificate of analysis, chemists receive these buzzword ingredients to then work with in the lab, before going to brands and retailers. Much like the beauty industry as a whole, and as Sister Scientist said, “there are a whole lot of layers; it’s like lasagna.”

Serena Williams Reflected On Her WYN Beauty Journey At Essence Festival

Just ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics, four-time Olympic Gold Medalist Serena Williams joined Cari Champion on the Essence Festival Beautycon stage to chat about her new brand WYN Beauty. While we’re familiar with celebrity beauty brands—Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, Beyoncé’s Cécred, and TPH by Taraji to name a few—Black athletes rarely join in. “Obviously I wanted something that could represent me and the way I look,” Williams told Champion. 

Like Olympians Flo Jo and Sha’carri Richardson, Williams has long been a beauty icon in her sport. “Beauty is however you make it,” Williams said. From her beaded hairdo in a 1998 photoshoot by Annie Leibovitz (which Zendaya recreated for her Challengers press tour) to her signature winged eyeliner, and now being a licensed nail tech, the WYN Beauty founder has long rested her case as one to watch in the beauty industry. 

So, when she announced the launch of her new brand, we knew she was filling a gap—but not just between makeup and sports. Shade inclusion has been a long-standing fight for darker skin tones and despite the push Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty has had, other brands like Youthphoria are an unfortunate reminder of the work still left to do. “I could never find anything in my color,” she said. Turning her personal struggle into a profitable business, Williams’ turned her passion to a profitable business via hard work, planning, and investing in quality products. “You want to create something that lasts … that’s something I don’t think a lot of brands take into consideration. For you that was top priority,” Champion said.

Additionally, being so busy as mother, founder, and athlete, Williams noted that she created her brand to fit her lifestyle needs.  “I like the word ‘active beauty’,” Williams said. “I don’t necessarily want to put on a full face of makeup. I want to put something on that I can wear every day.”

Although she launched just over three months ago, WYN Beauty is now one of the most known movement-centered beauty brands. From her Nothing To See Concealer to the new Big Vision Tubing Mascara, and 36 shades of SPF skin tint, hydration and inclusion mixed with movement-proof makeup help keep her look set in place all day. Between bridging the gap between sports and beauty and finding innovative shade solutions, putting Black women and athletes first is at the top of Williams’ list. “I want the people [that are] a part of the company to be a part of the big win.”

Kysre Gondrezick Discussed Redefining Beauty Standards At Essence Festival’s Beautycon Stage

From texturism to colorism, featurism to transphobia, the Black community is often told beauty does not look like us. With most of us growing up internalizing racist, homophobic and fatphobic definitions of beauty, we take on the responsibility to help each other unlearn harmful ideals. At the 30th ESSENCE Festival of Culture’s BeautyCon™ stage, the ESSENCE senior beauty editor Akili King sat down with WNBA athlete Kysre Gondrezick about how to tap into your natural beauty—and define beauty on your own terms. 

“Beauty comes from within and not from the exterior,” Gondrezick told King. “As long as we keep chasing illusions of beauty we’re always going to be altering ourselves. I took off the lashes, I took out the lip fillers, I took out the breast implants, and I just went all back natural,” she shared for the first time on the Beautycon stage.  

Meanwhile, with athletes like Tina Thompson and Skylar Diggins-Smith leading her beauty inspiration growing up, Gondrezick is now turning to ‘90s beauty for inspiration, leaning on the “JLo bun” as her signature look. “Now just being my most authentic self, I’m attracting everything it is that I want,” she said. “Deservingly so, because of the gifts that God has given me, I covered up for so long.” Taking these lessons to the hoop, the former Chicago Sky athlete keeps hair and makeup off of her face, leaning on products her mother recommended, like Noxzema, Neutrogena Treatment Pads, and collagen. “Mothers know best,” King added.

From skincare to health and wellness, discipline is Gondrezick’s biggest beauty advice. “There are vibrational foods that make you feel better,” she said. Drinking ACV-enriched water, plenty of greens, and reducing sweets helps her maintain the health of her body. “I notice that it does have an effect on my mood, it has an effect on my skin, I’ll start breaking out,” she said. “The best form of self-love is truly discipline. If you can learn to have accountability with yourself and be disciplined you’ll see it flourish in other areas of your life from the inside out.”

Essence Festival’s HairTok Panel Highlighted This Season’s Hair Trends

NaturallyCurly‘s Ask a Curl Expert franchise joins leading stylists in the beauty industry to discuss the latest trends, products, and hair care tips for all textures. On today’s Beautycon stage at the 30th ESSENCE Festival of Culture, NAHA-winning hairstylist Michelle O’Connor and celebrity hairstylist Tippi Shorter chatted with NaturallyCurly editor Desiree Johnson about “Hair Tok,” the side of TikTok pushing out all the must-try hair trends. From the viral braided baldie to 4C hair maintenance tips, inviting the pros into community-led conversations helps sift through all of the hair advice for your most healthy scalp, texture and style. 

This season, protective styles take the front seat while our exposed scalps call for extra care. “It’s hot, it’s humid, it’s sweaty, and itching is what I’m fighting to do at this very moment,” Johnson said. When taking care of our roots and scalp, Shorter reminds us of a necessary fact. “I think a lot of people forget that our scalp is skin and we need to treat it as such,” she said. “Our scalp needs a routine.” According to the AAD, our hair sheds between 50 to 100 strands per day—even in braids. “If you let that multiply by six weeks that’s how much hair you’re going to lose when you take those braids down,” she said. “You have to shampoo because if you don’t release it then you could get [unintentional] locs.”

Beneath protective styles, like wigs and braids, learning to care for our natural hair as we unlearn texturism is a crucial beauty lesson as well. “Celebrities are really peeling back the curtain and truly showing us their real hair,” Shorter told Johnson, as her favorite beauty trend at the moment. With Beyoncé debunking myths about hair health and wigs, Doja Cat turning her 4C texture into a single cover, and Rihanna making the big chop her new look, the natural beauty movement has hit the hair care industry hard—as has the bob. “The French bob with the bangs but then also, softening the bob and making it more pixie-like,” Shorter said, coining the look as the “bixie.” 

Regardless of trends, however, O’Connor said the biggest misconception with hair care is thinking we can handle our texture aggressively. “I see professional hairstylists going in with harsher chemicals, I see… how it’s brushed, how it’s maneuvered with a heavy hand,” O’Connor said. We all remember how it feels to sit between our mother or grandmother’s legs, or even at the salon, as they yank through our coils and burn our scalps. “It requires more delicate hands, more gentle chemicals, it requires all of that.” 

While part of the conversation to unlearn unhealthy relationships with our hair is treating our texture with care, the other part is knowing which products and techniques actually work. Instead of going from style to style, Shorter suggests taking a break between looks. “We have to roll back because with that we’re having broken hair, hair that doesn’t reach its full potential from a growth perspective, scalp issues, hair loss, hair thinning,” Shorter said. At the root of textured hair care, choosing products and techniques, “it’s education and understanding what you’re doing.”

The State Of Beauty Panel At Essence Festival Discussed The Power Of A-Beauty

Cultural skincare products, trends and even standards have taken over the beauty world. From K-Beauty’s 10-step routines and glass skin serums to red lipstick and the “French pharmacy” buzz in French beauty, the standards often revolve around what’s trending at the moment. Now, with African pop stars like Tyla, Tems and Ayra Starr increasing in visibility and brands pumping out routines for melanin-rich skin, African beauty, also known as “A-Beauty,” is starting to gain more and more traction. “A-Beauty is currently having a cultural renaissance,” moderator of Essence Festival’s “The State Of Beauty: The Power Of A-Beauty” moderator Tariro Makoni said on the Beautycon stage today. 

Panelists Sabrina Elba, Delanique Millwood and Abena Boamah-Acheampong weighed in. “Historically, there’s been a slight appropriation of these ingredients… the culture behind that ingredient has been lost,” Elba told Makoni. As the founder of skincare brand S’Able Labs, she centers her Somali roots. Her products target hyperpigmentation (which disproportionately impacts darker skin tones) by blending science with African botanicals. The use of plants like Somalia-native qasil, West African black seed, and South African rooibos shows part of A-Beauty can be using effective ingredients.  

Meanwhile, A-Beauty brands found on Millwood’s new retail platform Skintellect, including Koba skincare and Boamah-Acheampong’s Hanahana Beauty, show the other sides of the trend. “A-Beauty is a social responsibility,” Millwood says. According to a BBC investigation, brands L’Oreal and Estée Lauder are linked to child labor in their supply chain, meanwhile Madagascar’s over 580 million dollar vanilla industry is powered by children and poverty. “That opens up a bigger question: we’re doing it as a smaller brand, what are the bigger brands doing?” Elba said, calling out Unilever, L’Oreal and Estée Lauder for African exploitation. 

From ethical sourcing to fair wage, “sustainable farming needs to become front line in the conversation when it comes to A-Beauty,” Elba continued. “There’s a level of responsibility when that person’s survival is directly related to those ingredients. Their crops are their capital.” For Boamah-Acheampong, this means offering loyal consumers equity in Hanahana Beauty and paying farmers above market rate for their ingredients. “We have the opportunity not only to utilize ingredients but reflect on sustainability from the producers to farmers and in our community.”

Ashanti Lation Shares Her Favorite Hair Care Tips At Essence Festival

At the first Masterclass Demo on the 30th ESSENCE Festival BeautyCon™ stage, celebrity hair stylist Ashanti Lation shows us a step-by-step of her favorite hair trends and tips. The founder of VIP Luxury Hair Care and stylist for ESSENCE Festival performers Victoria Monet and Ari Lennox has been busy mastering the latest celebrity-approved techniques, tips and tricks. 

Below, Lation shares her top 5 pro tips for a New Orleans heat-surviving silk press––and every look in between. 

Pro tip 1: Shampoo the scalp first

“You want to take warm water, if you have low porosity hair, and let it get fully saturated,” she says, just like a sponge. “A lot of people like to take the shampoo and put it on their hair first. No,” she warns. “Shampoo always goes on your scalp [first] and let it run down.” Opposite that, she recommends using conditioner on the hair shaft first, then work it up. “You don’t want to clog the pores on your scalp [with conditioner].”

Pro tip 2: Clean your hair tools

You may underestimate how often you should clean your hair tools, which is more than just pulling hair out of it. “Clean your tools, your combs, brushes, curling irons,” she says. “Everything that you use for that process needs to be disinfected every single time.” From using family members’ hair tools to going to the hair salon, building up on tools can make your scalp itch, especially for eczema-prone skin.

Pro tip 3: Detangle from under the shaft

Instead of snapping through your curls, a part of hair care is actually caring for your hair. “Y’all detangling your hair, you’re tearing it up,” she says. This means knowing how to hold the brush. While many people may hold the handle and comb from the top of the hair, Lation recommends holding the brush in your palm and combing from underneath the shaft. “If you’re taking your time and detangling from the bottom up, it goes through every time,” she says. “That’s a tip to make sure you’re not ripping your hair.”

Pro tip 4: Let the hair cool down before pressing

You should use a heat protectant––like Fenty Hair’s The Protective Type or Amika’s Heat Defense Serum––both at the blow dryer and flat ironing stages. “While the hair is still warm, I like to lock in the heat [with heat protectant] and let it cool down,” Lation says. “That’s what makes the press last longer.” Using this pro tip can help your silk press last about three weeks, even in New Orleans heat. 

Pro tip 5: Press the hair slowly

Lation debunks the myth of passing over the hair multiple times. Instead, she recommends pressing the hair slowly, with one, long pass. “This is a slow dance, this is not a fast song, this is not a bounce song. Take your time,” she says. To not damage your hair, she also suggests using a ceramic iron for more fine hair, while titanium can be used for thicker, stronger hair. “Fine hair just can’t take all that,” she says. “These steps are also going to help you keep your curl pattern