Plant-based Skincare: African Businesswomen Creating Beauty Products Global Consumers Need

By Shaan Khan

Image by silviarita from Pixabay

Browsing the aisles of health & beauty in your local supermarket will quickly reveal the state of modern beauty products. Fragmented into sections; the shelves are dominated by the power players of the market who each want a slice of the cake with their real estate on the aisle.

It’s total control over mainstream shopping centres throughout the modern world. Mass production & distribution is the main aim of the game when being an uncontested supplier to the billions living urban lifestyles.

The lack of complacency, and corporations driven predominately on excess profit, has revealed a fundamental flaw to the big shark’ business models, and civil unrest grows.

A Thing Called ‘Ethics’…

Factory manufacturing for mainstream beauty products operate on the principles of cheap, fast production with long shelve-lives. They want to pile a pyramid of stock, and they want to do it more efficiently than industry competitors and even the pharaohs.

Ethics, on the other hand, have seemingly not been at the forefront of executives’ minds in the beauty business. Chemical use for production has been great at slamming targets for the power players, but as the menacing skin condition of dermatitis is on the rise worldwide, experts in the field are beginning to blame beauty product manufacturers as the cause for playing mad scientist.

Adding to the list of unethical missteps is the harmful treatment of animals; putting them under dangerous experiments or slaughtering them for meaty components.

Here to save the day is the messiah of beauty & health; plant-based products—yielding as much benefit as a quantitative supply as chemical-induced, animal-based products.

Edging past the champion competitor in this race; plant-based products score the market victory for not requiring needless harm and being deemed ‘safer for human skin’.

Who would have known, right? Well, our ancestors. Who lived holistic lifestyles for millennia but then urbanisation came, ‘the rat race’ as some say, and we wanted to do things fast, so labs & factories became our friends for help with beauty, whereas the farms and rural lands became a thing of the past that we would take for granted.

Well, not anymore! With the growth of pro-sustainable technology, efficient holistic lifestyles, and the existence of decentralised online business; harvesting plants are less of a laboursome chore than before, and now, part of the modern—using what grows from the ground to nourish our hair & skin.

In this new age of progressive activity, a forgotten discovery has been made again, that the land of Africa is blessed with the richest of beauty nourishment! And who holds the key? African women. Primed to be successful international businesswomen within this new cultural landscape of beauty to capitalise upon. The world is now their oyster.

The Beauty Riches of Africa

The land of unique wildlife has also been blessed with an assortment of unique plants great for human health & beauty. Some of the highly prized commodities are made of the following plant-based ingredients:

  • Shea butter – this vegetable fat is found in a nut grown from a plentiful source of wild shea trees that spread so far & wide; it’s coined as the “Shea Belt”, spanning from both the farthest, horizontal points of Central Africa. The main benefits are to heal & soften skin and hair. The demand is highest in Europe who seek the ingredient as a skin moisturiser.
  • Qasil – made from crushed up leaves from The Horn of East Africa’s infamous gob trees, this sustainable cultivation has powered skincare in the area for thousands of years. In the modern world, Qasil is a globally attractive commodity used for shampoos, face masks, soaps, and face wash.
  • Argan oil – sourced from kernels harvested from Morocco’s many argan trees, this prized commodity from consumers worldwide has done wonders to their hair & skin and Morocco’s society and economy. So much so, the nation celebrated its first international day of Argania this year (2021) in celebration of the tree’s blessing upon Moroccan lives through empowerment.
  • Baobab oil – founded from the illustrious Baobab tree that comfortably fits into the quintessential picture of sub-Saharan Africa that gets plastered onto near every postcard. Such a unique tree comes with one-of-a-kind beauty-boosting properties; the oil is dense with skin & hair enriching’ fatty acids that can also help treat eczema & prevent inflammation.

The Gateway into The Business

Fortunately for you eager entrepreneurs, the web is teeming with tips & tutorials on harvesting ingredients and crafting your DIY product and packaging. Information on the matter is fed to you by experienced players in the game who will tell you what you need, the cost and how much you’re expected to profit.

Venturing into the online rabbit hole of the A-Beauty game myself, I stumbled upon useful YouTube videos that delve into the process gone into the business of DIY hand soap made with shea butter. Here is the list of videos, including their descriptions:

  • Cultivating & Creating Shea Butter – Whether you plan to get your hands dirty yourself or want to learn about the local labour gone into sourcing the necessary ingredients for your future product, this video highlights African women workers producing shea butter for employers & partners. This form of handmade labour is worth supporting financially in your potential business endeavours due to its profitability margin and empowerment of fellow women.
  • Crafting DIY Body Whip w/ Shea Butter – Once the ingredients and materials are set, you can begin crafting from the comfort of your own home. Videos such as this give you the basis of development and ideas on creating your own DIY product.

Dabbling into the business & marketing side of A-beauty, there is a range of options for people with various financial leverage. Whether you’re a business of one or many, social media is the name of the game, and the internet is your ticket to play.

You or your employees must bring eyes to your creation. On apps such as Instagram or TikTok, there is a world of content that is all about beauty. Users flock there for the latest trends & innovation, and you need to show them what you’ve got!

Let’s take the company, Baraka Impact. Instagram is their shiny & polished branch that connects production & distribution. Their official page hosts diversified content. Some straight from the assembly table to strike confidence in the company’s quality of service. Other posts give a glimpse into the lives of people benefiting from the company’s product; this includes the labourers with fair work or consumers with fresh skin.

Screenshot captured from Baraka Impact’s Instagram page

A-beauty entrepreneurs dress their Instagram pages with an appealing mix of glamour & raw imagery; consumers want something shiny but also practical & ethical. So maybe investing in a professional-grade DSLR camera or a photographer will be your best bet at getting your message across.

 But your business has more footsteps to take in the internet world; Baraka Impact is a prime example of a business with many trails. Following these trails of the A-beauty company is easy, thanks to the use of signage.

You might have stumbled upon the Instagram page through the searchable tagline of ‘Shea Butter’, but upon arrival, you notice a link-tree link in the bio.

Once you click on the link after being impressed with the page’s content, you’ll find virtual doors to the online platforms the company operate on.

  • Contest page – Baraka Impact has produced a Google Docs page for product formulators to fill out & input a unique recipe incorporating the company’s new ingredient: Kombo Butter. The winning recipes from contestants will secure them a cash reward, allowing for Baraka Impact to conduct practical experimentation through the use & support from consumers.
  • History page – A webpage solely dedicated as a fact sheet surrounding the company’s timeline working with women & communities through fair trade. Any investigatory conduct into the company ethics should land them onto this page to build up a thorough image on the company’s humanitarian efforts.
  • Recipe page – Baraka Impact detail the recipes & instructions on this page, establishing themselves as a hub of support for others, rather than just a sole retailer. The act garners the company increased attention since consumers now rely on them for news, information, products and more.

The A-beauty company, Belle Skin, have business trails that branch out even further with more fruitful ideas for you to feed off:

  • An independent website hosting the products for sale where customers make their purchases. Also, facts and inspirational stories about the company’s work are hosted here in the form of blogs & landing pages. To add, the website also includes a section for anyone to apply in becoming a retail partner for the company to expand product visibility all over Africa & beyond.
  • A YouTube page documenting the companies journey to shed light on their treatment of workers and the process of product creation. The founder of the company, Skybelle, is the primary host of the YouTube channel whose passion and outgoing nature is easily noticeable in the content.

Screenshot captured from Belle Skin’s website on the shop section

Digging up these avenues for online notoriety can typically take a team effort. But it’s a tried & tested project resulting in a growing trend of start-up’s success. In fact, a little search on these new players in the plant-based beauty game will flood your screen with examples after examples of A-beauty businesses. Want to learn about their stories of success in hopes to shadow their footsteps? Here you are:

  • Lionesses of Africa – an article that looking back at now, covered the roots of the trend back in 2016, with its insight into 28 African women entrepreneurs behind A-beauty start-ups and their success of business establishment & growth.
  • Sagal Jama – this up & coming beauty brand started by young Somali entrepreneur, Sagal Jama, has been an inspiring road to success and an insightful read on what travelling between the UK & Somalia taught her about the untapped demand for plant-based ingredients from her home country that can benefit the Western world.
  • Byrdie – the story features 23 recent A-beauty brands and gifting them each an overview with the aim of promoting plant-based beauty.

Articles like this in their own right are promoting A-beauty businesses, and you never know, if you’ve got a compelling story & product, you might one day get featured in one!

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