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Three Black Beauty Pioneers You Should Know About

Three Black Beauty Pioneers You Should Know About

Throughout history, the black community has had an immense impact on multiple industries, notably the beauty industry. It seems only fitting to honour the black women and men who have paved the way for the booming business we all know today and made its evolution and growth possible. This Black History Month at Nudest, we are paying tribute to beauty pioneers who invented everything from the powder you use each morning to the hairbrush you use to detangle those lustrous locks every night.

Anthony Overton

Initially selling baking powder and other food ingredients to drug and grocery stores, Anthony Overton created Overton Hygienic Manufacturing Co. in Kansas, 1898. Overton was the first person to successfully market cosmetics for black women with his “high brown” face powder after he realised the lack of options in cosmetics for women of colour in the early 20th century. His realisation prompted the creation of 50 other beauty products including hair creams and eye makeup marketed towards black women.  

Anthony Overton

Anthony Overton

Photo: Courtesy of National Museum of American History

Photo: Courtesy of National Museum of American History

Madam CJ Walker

Formally known as Sarah Breedlove, Madam CJ Walker is thought to be the first African American woman to become a self-made millionaire. Born in 1867 in Louisiana, Madam Walker overcame a plethora of obstacles to establish her business, including a condition that caused her to lose much of her hair at an early age. She travelled across the country promoting her hair growth serum specifically created for black women, which eventually became a bestseller in the black community. Her business grew exponentially, and she increased the number and variety of products offered. Walker’s philosophy of “cleanliness and loveliness” was spread throughout communities with the hope of advancing the status of African-Americans in society.

Madam CJ Walker

Madam CJ Walker

Photo: Courtesy of Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Photo: Courtesy of Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Lyda Newman

Lyda Newman is credited with inventing the modern hair brush we use today and received a patent for her invention in 1898. Newman created a brush with evenly spaced bristles and a detachable compartment at the back so that excess hair could be easily removed. This paved the way for many more practical and hygienic brushes to follow. A hairdresser by trade, she was also a well-known women’s suffrage activist and and needless to say, a key contributor to today’s beauty industry.

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Lyda-Newman-patent.jpg


These are just a few people who laid the foundation for beauty products we still use today. Along the way, several other pioneers have contributed to progress in the beauty industry by creating black-owned businesses and striving to cater to an often forgotten market. Not to mention, the strong support and fierce loyalty of the black community itself when it comes to black-owned businesses. It is a loyalty that has been carried out through generations and continues to grow every day.

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