Screenshot: The Lip Bar

Target is fast becoming the mass-market hub for black-owned beauty brands. Customer demand for high-quality products with a luxury feel aimed at a black and brown audience—ticketed at drugstore price points—has been pent up for decades. This is in response to shifting demographics as much as customer needs; by 2028, the majority of Americans 18-25 years old will be people of color for the first time in history.

The flood of affordable, accessible and increasingly natural products aimed at black and brown consumers shows no signs of slowing on Target’s shelves. This month, cult favorite the Lip Bar, founded by Detroiter and former financial analyst Melissa Butler, joined Target’s roster of in-store offerings.

The Lip Bar’s range of vegan, cruelty-free, deeply pigmented liquid lipsticks is just the latest high-quality, for-us, by-us product to land a spot next to cornerstone brands in the ethnic category, like Carol’s Daughter (now owned by L’Oreal) and Iman cosmetics (now owned by Procter & Gamble), both top sellers since debuting at Target in 2014 and 2012, respectively.

At press time, I counted 17 black-owned brands available at Target. Fourteen out of those 17 lines were natural-product ranges, a fact that reflects the growing concern among women in our community about moving away from chemical agents in our beauty routines, in everything from natural-hair products to lipstick to body lotions.

In conversation with The Glow Up, Melissa Butler says frankly, “I am not passionate about makeup.” Rather, she is passionate “about changing the narrative around the way black women are sold cosmetics.”

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What Butler realized was that no one was answering the question for the robust customer base buying natural-hair-care products as to where they could also buy natural or organic makeup brands.

Butler took a nontraditional route to sell her products to the popular big-box chain. With nerves and business acumen developed as a former Wall Street financial analyst, she contacted Target’s cosmetics buyer directly. Big conglomerates control the color-cosmetics aisles; it’s a near impossible feat for independent brands to get distribution without the backing of a L’Oreal or a Procter & Gamble (backing Carol’s Daughter and Iman, respectively) secured as an aid to initial entree into Target.

But even though Butler went directly to the store’s buyers, there are no shortcuts to the front of the shelf when it comes to a multibillion-dollar retailer like Target. The Lip Bar has been available via Target.com since October 2016, proving itself through “messaging that sets us apart.”

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The Lip Bar speaks to customers through the use of nontraditional models and positive messaging that tells women they are already beautiful.

As Butler says, “Our lipsticks add to their overall health and beauty, and we offer the highest-quality natural and organic products at about 60 percent less than comparable brands.”

The Doux
Photo: TheDoux.com

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Courtney Foster, a spokesperson for Target, spoke to The Glow Up about the growing family of brands directed at an ethnic audience, not all of which are wholly black-owned: “This winter, we launched more than 10 new brands, including the Lip Bar, the Doux, Urban RX and Koils by Nature, bringing our total multicultural beauty assortment to more than 100 brands.”

How much is this market worth to Target’s bottom line? Foster says, “Though we cannot disclose sales information, we will continue to invest in our multicultural offerings and grow our assortment to include offerings that we believe will resonate with our guests.”

With an estimated $46 billion beauty market in the U.S., of which black women account for roughly 22 percent of the total spend, that sales number has to be quite significant. Target is the third-largest retailer in the world, with 1,822 stores in the U.S. alone, as well as online sales, and a continued commitment to pledging 5 percent of net profits to charities based in the communities served by the retailer.

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All of this is good news for the black-owned brands populating Target’s inventory, as well as for our communities, as it has enormous potential to create positive cash flow back into communities of color.

Koils by Nature
Screenshot: KoilsByNature.com

Of the 10 newly launched brands, there are a few standouts for us here at The Glow Up: The Doux, a natural-hair-care brand based on old-school hip-hop aesthetics is the definition of funky-fresh packaging—Bonita Afro Balm, anyone? The line is aimed at everything from locs to perms, so you don’t have to bounce around between product lines to get the the look you or your family might want.

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Meanwhile, Koils by Nature blends bases of Jamaican castor and argan oils that double as hair treatments and body butters in unisex scents, providing a solution for the whole family to use in a single pared-down product line.

Although it’s not black-owned, Urban Rx was developed with black and brown women in mind: It’s a simple one-step makeup remover, cleansing mask and facial wash in a solid gel formulation.

What do all of these products have in common? A luxury feel and a nice price. As Melissa Butler says, “I want to make black women feel really special, and it means a lot to me to be able to do it at a very real price point.”