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One of the best parts of my job (aside from testing out curly-hair products or getting beauty founders to share their skincare secrets) is the opportunity to discover new beauty brands and the founders behind them. There’s something magical about unearthing what seems like a hidden gem or spotlighting a new business, and in 2021, it’s clear that championing female-founded businesses is more important than ever. COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted women, with estimates that 47 million women will be pushed into extreme poverty, causing the wage gap to increase. Basically, our strides toward gender equality within the workspace are slipping (a recent study from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce showed female-owned businesses struggling more than their male counterparts), which is all the more reason to rally behind female founders—not just for International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, but always. If you’re not sure where to start, don’t fret. Ahead, you’ll hear from 28 female founders of beauty brands about their mission, tips for aspiring entrepreneurs, and their hero products. Prepare to be seriously inspired.
WHO: Katherine Power. WHAT: CEO, Brand Builder, and Investor (Who What Wear, Versed, Avaline, and Merit). Why did you found your business? I wanted to reimagine luxury beauty by making it clean, well-edited, and accessible. Merit is everything you need to get ready in five minutes, with high-performing products that will last all day.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? I cannot live without our Brow 1980 pomade. It's buildable and picks up every single little hair. It also contains vitamin B5, leaving your brows better after using it. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? Find something you love to do and then figure out a way to get paid for it.
WHO: Blair Armstrong. WHAT: Founder of Gilded Body. Why did you found your business? I started Gilded Body to change the way we think about bodycare, to shift the view of skincare beyond facecare, and to elevate the bodycare experience. Facecare is essential, as it’s how we present ourselves, but I’ve seen firsthand what can happen when we neglect our body’s skin. Bodycare is an essential part of caring for ourselves.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? I love the Gilded Body Brush because not only is it beautiful, but it also feels so good to start my mornings with dry-brushing. It keeps my skincare looking radiant and beautiful all year long. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? I would advise a young entrepreneur to understand your industry. Understanding your enterprise is an essential factor for success.
WHO: Simone Xavier. WHAT: Founder and CCO of Sigma. Why did you found your business? My husband and I founded Sigma because I wanted to bring solutions to the average makeup user, like myself. Makeup brushes were costly 12 years ago, and selecting makeup brushes as a beginner can be an overwhelming task. After extensive research, we put together our beginner brush set, and that is how Sigma was born!
What is one hero product you love from your brand? We don’t just create brushes (we have an array of makeup essentials), but if you’re new to Sigma beauty, I recommend buying the F80 Flat Kabuki Brush first. This makeup brush changed foundation application when we introduced it to the market 11 years ago. Its soft and flat surface allows for a fast yet smooth application. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? Trust your instincts and needs. If you feel you have an idea of how something can work better or be improved, act on it. Chances are, there are millions of people out there who have the exact needs as you do, and you can be the one to bring a great solution to them.
WHO: Charlotte Cho. WHAT: Co-Founder of Soko Glam and Then I Met You. Why did you found your business? My husband and co-founder Dave and I founded Soko Glam in 2012. It was purely a passion project born out of my love for K-beauty. Our mission is to help all people achieve only good (skin) days ahead through our complimentary Skin Concierge service, education through The Klog, and our trusted, curated selection of skincare products.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? I challenge you to find a more luscious, buttery oil cleansing balm than our Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm. This double-cleansing staple uses an innovative formula packed with vitamin E, sea buckthorn, and persimmon extract to gently melt away oil-based impurities and makeup while also nourishing the skin barrier. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? Do things differently. I would never have come this far if I tried to do what was already out there.
WHO: Carla Oates. WHAT: Founder of The Beauty Chef . Why did you found your business? The Beauty Chef stemmed from my skin- and gut-health issues. As a child, I suffered from eczema and allergies, and my mom took me to see a naturopath who dramatically changed what I ate, removing processed foods and allergens such as gluten and dairy from my diet. My allergies and eczema subsided, so I experienced firsthand the connection of food as medicine—that what we eat can affect our skin and health.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? This is always such a tricky question, as I love all of our products, but I use our Glow Inner Beauty Powder every day. It is incredible for your complexion; it’s so much more than just a skin supplement. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. I genuinely believe that you should do what you love because success requires hard work, so you might as well spend the hard work doing something you wholeheartedly enjoy.
WHO: Shay Paresh. WHAT: Founder of Shayde Beauty. Why did you found your business? Working with established brands, I saw firsthand how skin color was treated as an afterthought—not just in marketing but down to the actual formulation process. My commitment drove my journey to launch and develop Shayde Beauty to address unmet skincare needs for people of color.
WHO: Shani Darden. WHAT: Esthetician and Founder of Shani Darden Skin Care. Why did you found your business? I didn’t always know that I wanted to start my own business. I couldn’t find what I wanted on the market, retinol that had all of the benefits of a prescription without the side effects, so I decided to create one. I launched Retinol Reform in 2013, and the business has continued to grow from there.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? Our Retinol Reform is the ultimate multitasker for glowing, youthful skin by boosting collagen, minimizing fine lines and wrinkles, evening out the skin tone, and keeping skin blemish-free. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! Don’t worry about whether or not people are going to like you. Being uniquely yourself is your greatest asset.
WHO: Katie Sturino. WHAT: Founder of Megababe and Body Acceptance Advocate. Why did you found your business? Megababe is an innovative beauty brand that unabashedly tackles issues often experienced but not often spoken about. From thigh chafe to boob sweat, we shed light on these common issues by creating award-winning, nontoxic, and solution-oriented products that allow people to feel more comfortable and confident in their skin.
Can you share one hero product you love from your brand? . Thigh Rescue is the perfect solution for thigh chafe; I don’t leave home without it. (Get 15% off Megababe with code THELIST15.) What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? Try to find out what your day-to-day might look like because while it can be rewarding, it’s not as glamorous as you might think.
WHO: Lulu Cordero. WHAT: CEO and Founder of Bomba Curls. Why did you found your business? I wanted to create a clean, sustainable, and wellness-based curlcare brand inspired by my Afro-Dominican roots. Bomba Curls is my love letter to curls and coils, and my decadent natural products seek to empower women to celebrate the skin they are in and define their standard of beauty.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? One of the best things about our products is the amazing, all-natural ingredients that we use in recipes that have been passed down through generations of families—including our Forbidden Hair Oil. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? Never forget why you started. Every day as an entrepreneur presents a new struggle, and you will be hit sometimes with challenges that can feel insurmountable, but reminding yourself of why you set down this path in the first place is what will help keep you pushing through.
WHO: Tina Chow Rudolf. WHAT: Founder of Strange Bird. Why did you found your business? The mission of Strange Bird is to make it easier to put ourselves first and representation. I want to help create a world for my kids where taking care of themselves is prioritized and seeing themselves validated in the world around them is their norm.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? Our three-in-one Inner Clarity Cleanser is the only cleanser you'll ever need. It's clay based, so it vacuums your pores. It's mildly gritty, which physically polishes your skin. It's balmy enough to remove makeup, and all of it washes away clean with a milky, foamy rinse. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? Trust yourself enough to do it your way. It's the only sustainable route to get anything done. Not trusting yourself and allowing outside feedback to guide you too much will burn you out, get you lost, and ultimately, you won't get the results you want anyway.
WHO: Kitiya King. WHAT: Founder and CEO of Mischo Beauty. Why did you found your business? I launched Mischo Beauty back in 2013 after not being able to find safe, nontoxic nail polish during my pregnancy with my son in 2011. It was then that I decided to take matters into my own hands (I have a degree in chemistry) to create what I couldn’t find.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? Nailcare is self-care, and so while in quarantine, I've been paying extra special attention to my nails’ health. My go-to nail shade is #NYFW—it's a richly hued midnight blue that I wear all year long because I don't follow the rules. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? Just start! Most people stop before they even begin. There's no way to know everything you need to know about running a business before you start. You will figure it out as you go.
WHO: Jennifer Harper. WHAT: Founder and CEO of Cheekbone Beauty. Why did you found your business? There is a lack of Indigenous representation in the beauty space, and I wanted to fill that gap because representation saves lives. Every Indigenous youth should see themselves in a beauty brand that is working to create safe products with less impact on the planet.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? I'm proud of our growing Sustain collection, specifically the lipsticks. They do not feather while still offering highly pigmented pops of color. Each tube uses 85% less plastic than a conventional lipstick and is made of biodegradable paper. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? If you are not creating a disruptive product, it is crucial to have a clear mission for creating that product and standing behind it. For example, I know that the last thing needed was another beauty brand, but I felt it was important to give a voice to Indigenous youth and create a brand that echoed that.
WHO: Taylor Frankel. WHAT: Co-Founder of Nudestix and Nudeskin . Why did you found your business? My mom, sister, and I started Nudestix to solve a common problem. We felt there was a lack of brands in the beauty industry that celebrated and embraced multitasking, effortless, and "less is more" beauty.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? It’s so hard to choose, but I love our Tinted Cover Foundation. It is the perfect lightweight, skincare-infused, and natural-finish foundation that both evens skin tone and treats your skin. It is ideal for someone who loves a natural, minimalist finish. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? It is so important to have both an emotive and rational reason to exist. Also, it is so critical to have a clear point of differentiation. How is your product or service adding value to an incredibly saturated industry?
WHO: Trinity Mouzon Wofford. WHAT: Co-Founder and CEO of Golde. Why did you found your business? Golde was inspired by my own experiences as a consumer in the wellness space. I wanted to make self-care easier, more approachable, and fun for all.
WHO: Lin Chen . WHAT: Founder of Pink Moon. Why did you found your business? Pink Moon originally started as a boutique consultancy that helped female-founded, eco-minded, and ethical beauty brands grow. I expanded Pink Moon into a digital WellCare space and boutique last summer, which has been an expression of pure joy because it allows me to support other female entrepreneurs while helping women experience transformative self-care.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? I love our Rose Quartz Gua Sha Tool. Rose quartz has a beautiful energy, cultivating self-love, compassion, and kindness, and this Gua Sha Tool helps me unwind my day and give love to my skin. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? Be active in networking! Networking will help you find potential employees, customers/clients, mentors, partners, investors, etc.
WHO: Olamide Olowe. WHAT: Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Topicals . Why did you found your business? Growing up, I had a ton of skin conditions like acne, hyperpigmentation, post-barbae folliculitis, and boils and never found a brand that resonated with me. I knew firsthand how having these skin conditions affected my self-esteem and, eventually, my mental health. That’s why at Topicals, we take the focus off of having “perfect” skin and put the emphasis on making the treatment experience more enjoyable or, as we like to say, “Funner Flare-Ups.”
What is one hero product you love from your brand? Faded is a brightening and clearing gel-serum that fades your most stubborn marks, scars, and spots. It’s gentle enough for those who experience hyperpigmentation and erythema. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? Develop a unique insight and learn to storytell around the fact that you are the best person to bring this idea to life. Successful businesses are built around intuitive knowledge of an under-tapped category.
WHO: Cherie Hoeger. WHAT: CEO and Co-Founder of Saalt. Why did you found your business? The spark for Saalt came from a phone call I had with our aunt in Venezuela, who had gone without pads and tampons for years due to shortages of basic consumer staples caused by political instability. I immediately began researching what reusable options were out there and began working to create what I hoped would be the perfect menstrual cup that would be great for beginners and the mainstream consumer.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? In addition to our flagship product, the original Saalt Cup, we also offer a Saalt Soft Cup, which is made with an ultra-soft silicone formula that is designed to be both gentle and super comfortable for those with bladder sensitivity, cramping, or discomfort with firmer cups. This is the cup I use every month! What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? My advice is to use your business as a force for good and embrace your influence to do good in the world. In an era where cheap and disposable products offer far more profit, I hope new, young entrepreneurs will instead choose better health for their customers and our planet. There is so much every business can do to maximize their social impact while simultaneously decreasing their environmental footprint.
WHO: Dimitra Davidson. WHAT: President and COO of Indeed Labs. Why did you found your business? At a young age, I knew that taking good care of your skin was critical in maintaining a healthy appearance. Yet, I could not find products that addressed my skincare concerns, products that worked, that were affordable, and with ingredients that I trusted. Indeed was born out of the needs that I had as a consumer.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? Right now, I am obsessing over our new lip products. For as long as I can remember, I have used lip gloss but found myself frustrated by how they dry out my lips. We decided to launch a fantastic lip product to hydrate and treat the various concerns on and around the lip area, leading to our Hydraluron+ Lip Treatment. It has been a huge hit. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? It is imperative that you know who your consumer is and listen to them. Do not lead in the industry with merely a product. Today’s consumers demand a lot from brands, and without the consumer in mind, it does not matter how great a product you have.
WHO: Kimberly Dillon. WHAT: Founder of Frigg. Why did you found your business? I wanted to create self-care for the people who don't know how to self-care. We aim to develop supercharged beauty products that defend against the impacts of stress on the hair, skin, and body using cannabis and adaptogens.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? Our Attuning Hair Potion, hands down. It is like a facial for your scalp. The CBD and CBG soothe the scalp from any irritation and balance oil production. Then, we use a few ayurvedic herbs like ashwagandha to boost hair growth for thicker hair. It's game-changing. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? I am a big believer in the multi-hyphen life, so explore lots of income streams to start, some passive, some more active. This way, you can satisfy all of your creative ideas and have a few things to evaluate with data to know where you want to lean in more or lean away from.
WHO: Margarita Arriagada . WHAT: Founder and CEO of Valdé Beauty. Why did you found your business? To encourage women to discover their true selves and fully manifest their essence. In this alignment with our true self, it lies a purpose, inner strength, conviction, and beauty that transcends the physical.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? . Our Valdé Armor + Refillable Lip Set for sure. The Armor is a celebration of our inner beauty, strength, and a reminder to be armor for each other. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? All is possible with conviction, passion, and love for the concept or impact one wants to make. Do not give up.
WHO: Charlotte Knight. WHAT: Founder and CEO of Ciaté. Why did you found your business? I founded my business to bring runway looks, products, and creativity to retail shelves. As a session artist, I continually analyzed the white space and challenged myself on how I could disrupt it.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? My current favorite Ciaté product is our new I Am Woman Palette, which is a 24-panel eye shadow palette that we’re launching for International Women’s Day. All the shades are named after incredible women throughout history who have inspired me and my team at Ciaté. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? Surround yourself with seasoned mentors who can be your sounding board and go-to as you plan your adventure into this fantastic industry, and as my mother says, “Leap and the net will appear.”
WHO: Nickie Nougaisse. WHAT: Founder and CEO of Curls Dynasty. Why did you found your business? I started Curls Dynasty because I was tired of my love-hate relationship with my hair and inspired by my three closest friends' struggles with their 4c hair. On my journey, I discovered that our common enemy was dryness due to a lack of moisture retention. I went to work putting together a system that quenched our hair’s thirst and resonated with textured sistas worldwide.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? I cannot live without Pumpkin Mint Deep Treatment Masque—it is the foundation for perfect moisture-protein balance that keeps my hair right where it needs to be. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? When I was starting out, a lot of people told me that the market was already too saturated. Do not be intimidated by this! If you have a good idea, a good product, and you're hungry enough, you can carve your own lane.
WHO: Josie Maran. WHAT: Founder and CEO of Josie Maran Cosmetics. Why did you found your business? Over 15 years ago, I worked as a model and actress and was constantly in the makeup chair. Over time, I noticed the products that were used were wrecking my skin, so I decided to make chronological beauty products, which are conscious, efficacious, and sustainable beauty rituals that empower people’s lives.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? I start my skincare ritual with our Whipped Argan Pro-Retinol Body Butter. It’s this tub of pink love, which has all the fluffy, hydrating goodness and has naturally sourced beta-carotene (a form of vitamin A) from pink algae lagoons. It provides those fantastic retinol benefits all over your body without the usual irritation. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? If someone tells you something isn’t possible, prove them wrong.
WHO: Remi. WHAT: Founder and CEO of Freck Beauty. Why did you found your business? Remi: I have forever admired and been obsessed with freckles—I wish there were a more exciting story, but to be honest, that’s it. I never thought I would wind up in this industry, but along the way, I realized that the world was missing a beauty brand with an attitude that didn’t play by any rules, and that’s how Freck Beauty came to be.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? . Our Freck OG product is the hero of all heroes! With it, you can create the most natural (or wild and bold) faux-freckle look in literal seconds—it’s pure magic. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? Don’t be scared to make mistakes and forge your path. Freck Beauty came to life in the least “traditional” manner (via a Kickstarter that pretty publicly flopped), and I have made some screw-ups along the way. But I think our authentic approach is why the brand resonates so well with our community!
WHO: Lesley Thornton. WHAT: CEO and Co-Founder of Klur. Why did you found your business? I founded Klur as a brand I had always expected but never experienced—a clean, well-considered, sustainability-driven, inclusive, expert-lead beauty brand.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? I love our Elements of Comfort Body Oil. It grounds me like nothing else, and it’s my favorite full-body ritual for decompressing. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? You don’t have to be profoundly passionate or purpose driven in your 20s. Young entrepreneurs have time to start and fail many times. Be curious about all things pertaining to self-growth and entrepreneurship. The only goal should be to have fun and stay focused on learning as many skills as possible.
WHO: Chloe Kwak. WHAT: Co-Founder & Co-CEO of 107 . Why did you found your business? For a long time, I dealt with eczema and numerous health issues. I have tried various remedies, but nothing really worked for me until I met this fantastic aged-old secret vinegar that led me to inner and outer wellness. I had to share it with the rest of the world, so I founded 107.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? This is always a difficult question for me because each product that we have in our line is unique in its own way. But I’ll say our Chaga Jelly Low pH Cleanser. I love it because cleansing is the most crucial step in starting your a.m. or p.m. routine, and this cleanser is gentle but doesn’t strip away natural oils. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? Building relationships with your customers is essential. They will be your supporters, advisors, and best friends. Enjoy the adventure of being an entrepreneur!
WHO: Niambi Cacchioli. WHAT: Founder of Pholk Beauty. Why did you found your business? I founded my business because the natural-beauty category wasn’t targeting my needs as a Black woman with oily-combination skin. I wanted to make the cultural connection between these powerhouse natural ingredients and melanated skin.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? Our Aloe Lemon Balm Mist is my ride-or-die product. I can use it all day, and it’s alcohol-free and versatile and can be used throughout the day. And because I wear a face mask all day, it helps control maskne. What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? My advice (especially for introverts) is to honor the gift of being introverted. It took me a long time to accept the role of being a “founder.” Introverts are often very observant. We are very gifted in serving our customer community because we know how to pay attention to what they need, and that’s invaluable.
WHO: Diane Read . WHAT: Founder Mo Mi Beauty. Why did you found your business? From as early as I can remember, my mom had always looked to the garden when it came to well-being, which further inspired me to learn about time-honored beauty ingredients, traditions from around the globe, and infusing them with modern personal care. I founded Mo Mi [mō-mee] as a beauty and lifestyle brand for everyone interested in sustainable, plant-based products that celebrate our diversity.
What is one hero product you love from your brand? The Styling Jelly provides a lightweight, flexible hold that holds shape to hair while keeping it soft, naturally moveable, and smelling incredible. . What advice would you give a young entrepreneur looking to break into the industry? Don’t be afraid to ask questions, seek advice from industry professionals, and pivot to a better solution when you learn that something can be better. What you are creating is best when it's something from a topic you're passionate about.
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