Black-Owned Beauty Month Takes Wing—and Whew, Are My Arms Tired

In selfies as in journalism, the angle is everything. Me on Day Two of the Black-Owned Beauty Month challenge. (While the tweaks were minimal, if you think I’m putting an entirely un-retouched pic in this header, you’ve lost your mind.)
In selfies as in journalism, the angle is everything. Me on Day Two of the Black-Owned Beauty Month challenge. (While the tweaks were minimal, if you think I’m putting an entirely un-retouched pic in this header, you’ve lost your mind.)
Photo: Maiysha Kai

It’s officially happening, y’all—I survived my first weekend of The Glow Up’s Black-Owned Beauty Month—or Black-Ass Beauty Month, as it’s already fondly known in my household. And nearly four days in, I’m already exhausted. (No, really, my arms are aching.)


Day 1

Where do we begin? Well, at Sephora—the three Sephoras in downtown Chicago I visited within 24 hours, to be exact. You see, I was on a mad search for their black-owned/helmed brands, which required going to State Street on Thursday night to discover they only carried Fenty, the corner of Ohio St. and Michigan Ave. on Friday after work to see their full selection of Pat McGrath, and finally, further down Michigan Ave. to locate the Parisian-based Black Up—which store associates pointed out as one of their few black-owned brands. (Note: It’s definitely black-founded, but ownership seems to be up for debate. Not an ideal start to our experiment, but I was curious about the products, and ended up in luck when I discovered that a phase-out meant the line was on sale for 50% off.(Score!)

But back to that Fenty, which I went to revisit, since I was badly foundation-matched (and accordingly, turned off) upon the brand’s release in 2017. As the brand has just released 10 new shades to their Pro Filt’r line, in addition to 50 concealers ($26), I just knew I’d find my foundation match ($34) this time. And I did—within the original 40 shades, just one down from the one I’ve been loathing for a year.

And though the polar vortex was just beginning to ease in Chicago, I still managed to break a sweat on Friday night. Remarkably, my full face of Fenty—including my favorite red, the Stunna Lip Paint in Uncensored ($24)—didn’t budge. This became somewhat disconcerting when sweat beaded up and rolled off the surface. In fact, even after I came home and showered, my makeup threatened to stay on, until I applied oil-based cleanser.

Which leads me to another issue I encountered on Friday night, due to poor planning/over-optimism on my part. Though we are the kings and queens of the nut butters, our presence is profoundly lacking in the in-store skincare market—which means I had to get innovative and/or cheat (slightly) when considering my options for face cleanser, moisturizer, and a basic but vital necessity like deodorant.

Trust me, these are not issues you want to be forced to resolve on the fly—as us black folk do, I got creative, finding a body spray by Sienna Naturals I’d picked up years ago at AfroPunk. The brand currently focuses exclusively on haircare, but the spray, which I sealed with a little argan oil I’d gotten from Morocco (hey, it’s in Africa, so... black-owned), then sprayed again, has been a low-activity substitute as I await the arrival of better options from ordered from Oyin Handmade and Marjani Beauty.

Okay, so maybe that wasn’t a cheat, but some of you might consider this one: with subzero temps leaving my hair and skin parched (not too mention all the matte makeup why isn’t anything moisturing anymore?), I broke down and bought some essentials from Shea Moisture on Friday night. Yes, I know Sundial brands is now owned by Unilever, but if you think Rihanna wholly owns Fenty Beauty, I’ve got a new album to sell you.

Day 2

Anyway, on the subject of black ownership, I want to talk about BlackUp. Though as recently as 2015, when the brand entered Sephora, there was speculation that French founder Bernard Fabrice Mahabo was ousted from the company, conflicting reports indicated otherwise.


With that in mind, I approached BlackUp with equal parts curiosity and trepidation—and it forced me to consider an amendment to our scope, since a number of black-founded brands readily accessible to us in store are either partly or wholly owned by non-black entities. Are we supposed to just throw those brands away? I have thoughts that require a deeper dive, so we’ll be returning to that topic in another post soon.

Nevertheless, after reaching for Black Up’s Mattifying Tinted Moisturizer ($19.75) as a hopefully gentler alternative to Fenty’s full coverage matte foundation (since my skin is already prone to dryness), I was deeply disappointed to find my closest match far more olive than even my yellow-olive complexion could handle. Like, I looked green for real, y’all. Maybe it was an oxidation issue, but though it photographed well enough (see below) I don’t see myself revisiting it.

Illustration for article titled Black-Owned Beauty Month Takes Wing—and Whew, Are My Arms Tired

Another minor bummer? The colored mascara I was excited to try ($24), which was a gorgeous cobalt in the tube, but a subtle navy on my lashes. I’m going to try a primer next time, but meanwhile, I’ll likely stick to Black Up’s waterproof liquid eyeliners ($24) and kohl pencil liners ($11.90) which were pretty magnificent, in terms of pigment. And as brow-obsessed as we black girls are, it’s worth noting that Black Up was one of the few brands that offered me an eyebrow pencil option ($19.50)!


There’s more...much more. But we’ve got more than three weeks to go, so let’s save some for tomorrow, shall we? So far, so black—we hope.

Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?



I really enjoy reading these dispatches, yet at the same feel lost in the maze of brands, labels etc. I need to have a talk with my soul mate or simply pay closer attention to her makeup routines. lol

I do admire how honest & bare you are with your readers, showing how much you trust them. Not to be out of place, but you don’t need the adorning - you are just simply very attractive & top-ranking, and the vibes say both inside & out. You are blessed.