Birchbox Gets Unbothered: A Popular Subscription Box Gets a ‘For Us, By Us’ Curation

Photo: Birchbox/Refinery29

It’s not news that black women are the beauty and hair care market’s biggest spenders; as Nielsen research famously revealed in 2017, black women spend approximately nine times more on beauty and hair care than our white counterparts. And yet, until recently, we have been persistently ignored and marginalized by the same market we help keep afloat, with the industry still scrambling to respond to the rising (and well overdue) influence of black and brown women in the beauty space.

Enter Unbothered (not to be confused with Jemele Hill’s podcast of the same name), Refinery29’s online platform for black millennial women and femme empowerment, which recently partnered with nine-year-old subscription box brand Birchbox on two exclusive hair and skincare kits curated by and for black women. The collections—the “Stay Radiant” kit and the “It’s Your Crown” kit, created especially for 4C hair—include crowd-sourced picks from the Unbothered community and “address black women’s biggest beauty priorities, needs and concerns,” according to a release on the collaboration, which read, in part:

The partnership showcases each brands’ strengths—leveraging R29’s UnBothered audience and platform, alongside key community insights, paired with Birchbox’s mission to make it easy and efficient to discover the best beauty products...

The kits were curated based on insights from Refinery29’s Unbothered community and represent a commitment from Birchbox to better serve women of color.

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Photo: Birchbox/Refinery29

Two may feel like a small start from one of the world’s biggest and best-known beauty subscription services. But while not exclusively comprised of black-owned products, we did take note that in addition to focusing on black beauty, the collaboration is supporting black-owned (in most cases, black female-owned) businesses, as well (even the package illustration, created by queer illustrator-designer Loveis Wise). We were pleased to see an array of several of our favorite black-owned beauty brands—including Briogeo, TGIN, Oyin Handmade, Mielle Organics, Bolden skincare, Alaffia, and Lauren Napier. The “for us, by us” component is apparently also due to feedback from the Unbothered community, as the release explained.

As the first step of this initiative, Refinery29 conducted surveys and focus groups with over 1,500 black women in its ‘Mad Chatter’ community, its most highly engaged and richly profiled audience members, to uncover their beauty priorities and pain points. Birchbox and Refinery29 editors then used those insights to guide the direction of the kits - focusing on 4C hair (the most tightly coiled hair type) and glowing skin - and sourced products that would be most useful to this audience. Fifty percent of products across both kits are from black-founded brands, an important factor identified by this community as a priority...

Beyond the two kits, Birchbox plans to continue working with and investing in these black-owned and black-founded brands, and is in conversations with them about additional ways to partner going forward.

“We are so excited to partner with Birchbox, to help diversify their offering authentically, by actively reaching out to the community they are seeking to serve,” said Danielle Cadet, Managing Editor of Refinery29 Unbothered. “As a platform that has always been centered on black femme empowerment, Unbothered is proud to bring these kits, designed for and more importantly, with black women to our audience. Beyond delivering a product that helps fulfill her beauty needs, this collaboration celebrates her individuality and natural beauty the way it should always be celebrated.”

Specifically, each kit includes:

Stay Radiant Complexion Assortment ($38, with a total value of $118)

  • Alaffia Coconut Reishi Hand & Body Cream
  • Bolden Brightening Moisturizer SPF 30
  • Dr. Jart Skincare Peptidin Radiance Serum
  • Lauren Napier Flaunt Face Wipes
  • MAC Retro Matte Lipstick in Mixed Media (full-size!)
  • ModelCo Shimmer Whip in Mai Tai
  • Specific Beauty Dark Spot Correcting Pads
  • Sunday Riley Good Genes
  • Urban Skin Rx Even Tone Cleansing Bar

It’s Your Crown Hair Kit Assortment ($38, with a total value of $93)

  • Aquis Rapid Dry Lisse Hair Turban
  • Aquis Pre-Wash Spray
  • Briogeo Deep Conditioning Mask
  • Bumble + Bumble Hair Hot Oil Ampoules
  • DevaCurl Hair Finishing Oil
  • Mielle Organics Rosemary Mint Scalp & Hair Strengthening Oil
  • Oribe Curl Gelee
  • Oyin Handmade What the Hemp Deep Conditioning Mask
  • Qhemet Biologics Amla & Olive Heavy Cream
  • TGIN Miracle Repairx Strengthening Shampoo

“I have been so inspired by how Refinery29 Unbothered has created a valued, trusted space that speaks to me as a black woman, and it’s been a privilege to tap into their community to dive deeper on what they need and want from a brand like ours,” said Kima Cooper, Birchbox’s Director of Content and Community. “We’re doing a lot of work internally to make meaningful changes from an inclusivity perspective, and improving our product assortment is a critical piece of that. It’s deeply personal to us that we build a product offering that makes black women feel seen. Creating these kits is one step of many to double down on our commitment to better serving them.”

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Of course, we can’t point out Birchbox’s latest triumph without also pointing out a few black-owned subscription box companies that have been long invested in this work. Our favorite? Curlbox, which does the curating for natural textures for us, and has turned us on to some of our favorite black-owned products. Cocotique is another great option for experimenting with black beauty products from smaller brands you might not know.

Still, we applaud Birchbox and Unbothered for doing the work and giving us even more options—with our help, of course. For more information on the Birchbox x Refinery29 Unbothered kits, visit Birchbox.com.

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About the author

Maiysha Kai

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. Minneapolis born, Chicago bred, New York built. Nuance is her superpower.