15 Black Women Who Revolutionized the Beauty Industry

BIPOC are too often excluded from the beauty industry, an industry that is what it is today because of the work of Black and Brown creatives. From the advent of the hairbrush to the invention of conditioner, Black women are behind some of beauty’s most important innovations. In honor of the pioneering forces, we’re spotlighting 15 Black women who completely revolutionized the beauty industry. Check out these amazing creators and innovators below!

1. Madam C.J. Walker

The first self-made female millionaire in history, Madam C.J. Walker was a pioneering force in the hair health and beauty industries. The entrepreneur developed a signature line of hair products, pomades, shampoos, and conditioners specifically formulated for Black women. Walker employed thousands of Black women, taught her employees about financial independence, and consistently donated to organizations like the NAACP.

Portrait Of Madam CJ Walker Portrait of American businesswoman, philanthropist, and activist Madam CJ Walker (born Sarah Breedlove, 1867 - 1919), 1913. She is widely considered the first female, self-made millionaire in the United States. (Photo by Addison N. Scurlock/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
(Image Source: Getty / Addison N. Scurlock / Michael Ochs Archives)

2. Pat McGrath

Beauty mogul Pat McGrath has been shaping the fashion industry for years, conceptualizing makeup looks for literally every single runway show and magazine you can think of. She has helped countless other luxury brands, from Giorgio Armani to Dolce & Gabanna, launch cosmetics lines. Vogue‘s Anna Wintour famously proclaimed McGrath to be the “most influential makeup artist in the world,” and the Queen of England awarded her the coveted title of MBE. In short, McGrath is the most important person working in beauty today. With the opening of Pat McGrath Labs in 2015, McGrath took beauty to the ultimate next level with her own line of innovative cosmetics products. We can’t wait to see what she does next.

ISSA: London Fashion Week a/w 2009 - Backstage LONDON - FEBRUARY 23: Pat McGrath prepares backstage during the ISSA show at London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2009 at Natural History Museum on February 23, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Nick Harvey/WireImage)
(Image Source: Getty / Nick Harvey / WireImage)

3. Lisa Price

Lisa Price is the founder of curly-girl favorite Carol’s Daughter. What started with homemade products in a Brooklyn kitchen has skyrocketed into a nationally-recognized natural beauty brand (we actually have a full interview with the mogul here). From coveted healthy hair butters to coconut-infused conditioners, Carol’s Daughter never fails to deliver quality products specially crafted for textured hair. In 2016, Carol’s Daughter expanded into Target stores nationwide, so these killer products are now more accessible than ever.

BlogHer 21 Biz BROOKLYN, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 21: Founder of Carol's Daughter Lisa Price attends BlogHer 21 Biz on October 21, 2021 in Brooklyn, New York. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for BlogHer)
(Image Source: Getty / Arturo Holmes)

4. Nancy Twine

This lovely lady is the creative force behind the cult-favorite hair care brand Briogeo. Briogeo is a groundbreaking brand that’s taking beauty back to the basics with a natural approach to hair care. With coveted products like the Farewell Frizz Leave-In Conditioner and the Scalp Revival Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo, Briogeo’s high-performance, high-quality hair products have something for every hair type.

The Fifteen Percent Pledge Benefit Gala NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 02: Nancy Twine attends The Fifteen Percent Pledge Benefit Gala at New York Public Library on April 02, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/WireImage)
(Image Source: Getty / Taylor Hill / WireImage)

5. Naomi Sims

Naomi Sims is often regarded as the first Black supermodel. She was the first Black woman to appear on the cover of Ladies Home Journal, a major moment for the “Black is Beautiful” Movement, which aimed to dismantle Eurocentric anti-Black notions of beauty. Sims went on to appear on the cover of Life and The New York Times fashion magazine, before turning her attention towards the business side of the industry, creating a successful line of wigs and authoring several books on modeling.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Exhibition "American Women of Style" NEW YORK CITY - DECEMBER 10: Naomi Sims attends Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Exhibition "American Women of Style" on December 10, 1975 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
(Image Source: Getty / Ron Galella, Ltd. / Ron Galella Collection)

6. Tracey Norman

The gorgeous Tracey Norman was the first Black trans model to achieve prominence in the modeling industry. Throughout the 1970s, Norman graced the pages of countless top publications, including Vogue Italia, Essence, and Harper’s Baazar. Norman also landed a major commercial campaign as the face of Clairol’s popular “Born Beautiful” shade No. 152. The brand brought this barrier-breaking fashion icon back as the face of its “Nice ‘n Easy Color As Real As You Are” line in 2016.

The OUT100 2016 Gala NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10: Tracey Norman attends The OUT100 2016 Gala at Metropolitan West on November 10, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
(Image Source: Getty / Jared Siskin / Patrick McMullan)

7. Beverly Johnson

Supermodel Beverly Johnson made fashion history as the first Black woman to appear on the cover of Vogue and French Elle, paving the way for successive generations of famous faces to do the same. The multitalented creative went on to appear on over 500 magazine covers and had successful career turns as an actor and a memoirist. Johnson was also one of the first women to speak out against Bill Cosby, a brave move that inspired many other women to come forward.

Pre-GRAMMY Gala & GRAMMY Salute To Industry Icons Honoring Julie Greenwald & Craig Kallman - Arrivals BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 04: (FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Beverly Johnson attends the Pre-GRAMMY Gala & GRAMMY Salute to Industry Icons Honoring Julie Greenwald & Craig Kallman at The Beverly Hilton on February 04, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
(Image Source: Getty / Axelle / Bauer-Griffin / FilmMagic)

8. Grace Jones

Who could forget a face like Grace Jones's? With a futuristic sense of style and a uniquely androgynous aesthetic, Jones has left a major mark on nearly every industry. She’s been a disco queen, a new wave rocker, a Bond girl, and a fashion model. You name it, she’s killed it. Her boundary-pushing creativity has paved the way for countless more provocateurs to challenge conventional.

Grace Jones Signs And Discusses Her New Book "I'll Never Write My Memoirs" WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 29: Singer Grace Jones signs and discusses her new book "I'll Never Write My Memoirs" at Book Soup on September 29, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Vincent Sandoval/Getty Images)
(Image Source: Getty / Vincent Sandoval)

9. Naomi Campbell

The 1990s would not have been the 1990s without Naomi Campbell. The British supermodel was the first Black woman on the cover of French Vogue. At the height of her career, Campbell walked on pretty much every catwalk there is, starred in global ad campaigns, and graced the covers of countless publications. Campbell has also been vocal about the pay disparity between herself and her white counterparts, calling out beauty brands and fashion houses for discriminatory hiring practices. In 2018, she was awarded the prestigious CFDA Fashion Icon Award for her considerable work in the industry.

Schiaparelli : Runway - Paris Fashion Week - Haute Couture Spring Summer 2023 (EDITORIAL USE ONLY - For Non-Editorial use please seek approval from Fashion House) Naomi Campbell walks the runway during the Schiaparelli Haute Couture Spring Summer 2023 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on January 23, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Estrop/Getty Images)
(Image Source: Getty / Estrop)

10. Rihanna

Nine-time Grammy award-winning musician Rihanna is taking the beauty industry by storm. After a decade spent making chart-topping bops, Rihanna founded the skin-tone inclusive cosmetics line Fenty Beauty in 2017. The brand has quickly turned into a multi-faceted fashion empire celebrating people of all shades and sizes.

Rihanna's Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 4 presented by Prime Video - Step & Repeat SIMI VALLEY, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 09: In this image released on November 9, Rihanna attends Rihanna's Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 4 presented by Prime Video at Allied Studios on November 08, 2022 in Simi Valley, California; and broadcast on November 9, 2022. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Imagesfor Rihanna's Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 4 presented by Prime Video)
(Image Source: Getty / Emma McIntyre)

11. Kellie Brown

Fashion blogger Kellie Brown is breaking the industry’s stick-thin body barriers. Not only does Brown have an amazing sense of personal style, but the “And I Get Dressed” YouTube star founded #FatAtFashionWeek, an online initiative spotlighting the beautiful bigger women in the fashion industry.

Black Excellence Brunch Honoring Tabitha Brown Hosted by Trell Thomas and Danielle Young LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 19: Kellie Brown attends Black Excellence Brunch honoring Tabitha Brown Hosted by Trell Thomas and Danielle Young at Baldwin Hills Residence on September 19, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
(Image Source: Getty / Leon Bennett)

12. Maria Borges

Maria Borges was the first Black model to wear her natural hair for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Her bold move prompted the brand to end its archaic, Eurocentric practice of requiring its models to wear hair extensions on the runway. Hair discrimination in the fashion industry is pervasive and specifically targets BIPOC. Borges’s VS moment called attention to these discriminatory practices and put pressure on fashion houses and retail brands to make meaningful changes.

GQ - Men Of The Year Awards 2022 - Photocall At Hotel Kimpton St Honore Paris PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 29: Maria Borges attends the GQ Men Of The Year Awards 2022 at Hotel Kimpton St Honore Paris on November 29, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by Julien Hekimian/WireImage)
(Image Source: Getty / Julien Hekimian / WireImage)

13. Iman

Somali supermodel Iman is one of the most recognizable faces from the 1980s and 1990s. Apart from playing muse to the likes of Gianni Versace and Yves Saint Laurent, Iman is also an avid activist, philanthropist, and the founder of Iman Cosmetics, one of the first cosmetics lines to cater specifically towards BIPOC.

The Fifteen Percent Pledge Benefit Gala NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 02: Iman attends The Fifteen Percent Pledge Benefit Gala at New York Public Library on April 02, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/WireImage)
(Image Source: Getty / Taylor Hill / WireImage)

14. Alicia Keys

Singer-songwriter Alicia Keys is more than just an incredible vocalist, pianist, and activist. The Grammy award-winning musician is an ardent supporter of the No Makeup Movement, an initiative focused on emphasizing every individual’s natural beauty.

The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating "In America: An Anthology of Fashion" - Arrivals NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 02: Alicia Keys attends The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating "In America: An Anthology of Fashion" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 02, 2022 in New York City (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue)
(Image Source: Getty / Dimitrios Kambouris)

15. Jackie Aina

Beauty blogger Jackie Aina was the first influencer to take home the NAACP Image Award for her advocacy and activism in fighting discrimination in the beauty industry. With her transparent product reviews and tutorials, Aina is using her platform to challenge beauty brands to do better for Black women.

Fashion Trust Arabia Prize 2022 Awards Ceremony At The National Museum Of Qatar - Inside DOHA, QATAR - OCTOBER 26: Jackie Aina attends the Fashion Trust Arabia Prize 2022 Awards Ceremony at The National Museum of Qatar on October 26, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Fashion Trust Arabia)
(Image Source: Getty / David M. Benett)

We can all do more to support Black businesses these days. Head over HERE for 15 Black-owned salons around the U.S. you need to know about!