If you, like me, aren’t blessed to live in a warm climate during the winter months, no doubt skincare rises on your list of concerns on a seasonal basis. As the temps drop, our melanin is more vulnerable than ever to ashiness—not to mention the inevitable chapped lips and windburned cheeks. While skincare may not immediately come to mind when you think of holiday gifts, the fact is if you’re human, you’ve got skin, and if you’ve got skin, it needs care. (And as we’ve repeatedly noted, black may not crack, but it will crease if you’re not careful.)
So, why not show someone you care with the gift of skincare this season? No shade whatsoever to The Root’s resident all-Palmer’s Cocoa Butter-and-nothing-else devotee, but it’s actually not recommended that you use the same product all over your body (most body lotions are too pore-clogging for your face). While Palmer’s is indeed fantastic and emollient and “the butters” remain ubiquitous as go-to’s in the black community, there are a plethora of brands made for us, by us, with the present-worthy polish needed to keep our skin feeling loved in the hopeless place that is the winter months.
The first thing you notice when you meet Nyakio Greico is her smooth, gleaming brown skin—the woman literally looks lit from within. Her secret? Her eponymous skincare line, Nyakio (pronounced “Neh-KAY-oh”). This “clean and green” skincare line, founded 18 years ago by the former entertainment exec, was borne of her family’s beauty secrets—her grandmother was a Kenyan coffee farmer and her grandfather was a medicine man. Though raised in the United States, Nyakio visited Kenya as a child, and recalls that “at the end of the day, [my grandmother] would take her coffee beans, she would crush them, and she would use rods of sugarcane to exfoliate her skin—that sort of stuck with me.”
When Nyakio and I met at Essence Fest this year, she told me about the impetus for beginning a beauty brand, which started out of her Los Angeles apartment. “I really did feel that not only black-owned beauty brands but the continent of Africa, was missing,” she shared. After initially selling her wares at upscale retailers Fred Segal in L.A. and Jeffrey in New York, she then became one of the first black-owned beauty brands to launch and sell exclusively on HSN.
“There’s not that many women in prestige who look like me, as founders,” said Nyakio. “This really gave me the opportunity to tell that story in a bigger way.”
But while the inspiration may be African, the ingredients are global—not only does Nyakio source ingredients from all over the continent, but also Asia, South America, and southern Europe—and all of the ingredients and benefits are printed with her gorgeous, highly creative packaging. Seriously, opening one of her products is an experience, in and of itself.
“Now, it’s not only based on my family beauty secrets but beauty secrets I’ve learned in my travel, as well, as well as secrets I’ve learned from my girlfriends...I’m all about my girlfriends; I think that girlfriends sell the beauty more than any advertisement ever could.”
Well, girlfriend, there’s more, as these luxury-level formulas are as powerful as they are pretty. Innovation meets tradition in Nyakio’s balms, creams, condition-specific oils, and my favorite: a Chinese rice-based, mix-to-your-preferred consistency Exfoliating Cleansing Powder that will change the way you exfoliate. And all are available for an accessible $22 to $49 each (if you regularly shop prestige skincare, you know this is a reasonable price point).
But as delightful as it would be to find a box full of Nyakio under the tree, there are other black-owned brands we’d love to receive this season, including:
Bolden was another of our Essence Fest faves this year, and we can’t recommend the family-based brand’s cruelty-free products enough. Treat someone special to their scientifically-backed kits (currently $33-$88.50), formulated specifically for people of color. Package it in one of Bolden’s beauty bags for a gift that gives a lasting glow.
If there’s one product I now refuse to do without, it’s R & R Luxury’s Shea Oil ($15; preferred scent: Lemongrass). This super-hydrating formula keeps skin gleaming year-round—and empowers the women in Ghana, West Africa, who source the shea used for this female-owned brand’s products. And you can empower women here in the States, too—R&R’s product line is sold at the black female-owned, all-natural marketplace Blk + Grn.
Want to help someone start a new skincare routine? Shea Radiance is the one-stop, black-owned body shop that is instantly habit-forming. Putting an elevated spin on the African black soap and shea butter we all know and love (their body wash and antioxidant body cream are in daily use at my house), Shea Radiance is a gift they will want to keep giving themselves—and you can buy them by the bundle ($18-$60).
Faraç Beauty may be new on the luxury skincare scene, but their super-rich face creams have longevity as the goal. Keep your melanin moisturized and nourished with their cruelty, paraben, sulfate and phthalate-free formulas, created with different skin needs in mind. Not sure which to give? We recommend a duo (now on sale for $70)—but you can also gift a sample trio ($15) to help your loved one find the perfect fit.
There are makeup wipes, and then there are Lauren Napier makeup wipes. These luxury makeup removers have a cult following in the fashion industry and a very exclusive ethos: this black female-owned brand only makes one type of product in two sizes for three skin types, with perfection as the goal. Take stocking stuffing to the next level with a single pack ($10-$25) or a bundle ($25-$50), and help them take it all off.
We haven’t encountered a better all-purpose, affordable, something-for-everyone brand than Alaffia, which bolsters its all-natural, ethical body, face and hair care product line with an emphasis on empowerment in Africa. Take a tour through their site and try not to get lost in the offerings for women, men, kids, and babies, all of which are great for the skin and a reinvestment in the continent. Buy a set ($23.80-$83.60) or create a gift basket of your own for a very lucky recipient.
Feeling moisturized yet? There’s more to come...and less than two weeks until Christmas and Kwanzaa. Get shopping!