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    8 Beauty Brands Worth Shopping This Holiday, According To A Beauty Director

    Here's a mix of affordable and high-end beauty brands to shop this holiday season, and they're all black-owned!

    We hope you love the products we recommend! All of them were independently selected by our editors. Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page if you decide to shop from them. Oh, and FYI — prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.

    Hey y'all! My name is Essence, and I'm the beauty director here at BuzzFeed. One perk of the job is getting weekly shipments of different beauty products to try, so I thought I'd share some of my latest faves in time for the holiday!

    1. Every shade of the AJ Crimson Hi-Shine Lipgloss is universal, and the formula leaves my lips looking naturally juicy.

    Swatches of AJ Crimson Hi-Shine Lipgloss on different skin tones.
    ajcrimson.com

    Lately I've been HEAVY into glosses. I think working from home in the pandemic has me gravitating to more natural, effortless looks that I can whip up really quick for a Zoom chat but still look amazing and put-together. And AJ Crimson's Hi-Shine Lipgloss, specifically the shade Reply All, has been one of my go-to's! First of all, if you're unaware, AJ Crimson is a titan in the beauty industry with a list of celebrity clients and a namesake beauty line that was a trailblazer in shade range and inclusivity before representation became a trending topic. The Hi-Shine Lipgloss is one of the AJ Crimson Beauty products that further proves the line is a strong standout amongst the competition, even to beauty professionals like myself who've seen and tried everything.

    Not only does each shade of Hi-Shine Lipgloss work for every complexion, but it glides on for the easiest, mess-free application. It looks great whether on top of a lipstick or on its own, and it gives my lips the perfect amount of sheen without overdoing it. Every shade is a neutral so it just depends on if you want something more pink, which I personally love for the spring/summer, or something more brown, which I usually wear in the fall/winter months. The gloss has really strong staying power so I'm not re-applying all throughout the day, and it literally feels weightless unlike some gloss formulas that leave my lips feeling cakey or sticky. It's a yes for me!

    Get it from AJ Crimson Beauty for $22.

    2. BeautyStat's Universal C Skin Refiner got rave reviews from the beauty community, and it did not disappoint!

    Still shot of BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner vitamin C serum.
    shop.beautystat.com

    I've seen reviews everywhere about this product so I was super excited to try it. BeautyStat's Universal C Skin Refiner isn't like your usual Vitamin C serums, as it's more like a lotion or moisturizer in texture. But it's fast absorbing and surprisingly lightweight, and there's no cast or sticky residue after application either. It's an acid so there can be a tingling sensation, especially when I use it after exfoliation, but that's to be expected with any Vitamin C product.

    My favorite thing about the Universal C Skin Refiner is that it works fast. I saw improved evenness in my skin tone and my texture was smoother with each week of use. Additionally, the formula is so well-made, which makes total sense because the creator Ron Robinson is an actual beauty chemist. The product is formulated with 20% pure Vitamin C, plus:

    -epigallocatechin gallate: green tea's most active component, which works with Vitamin C to promote youthful skin.

    - squalane: a derivative of olive seeds providing lightweight moisture suitable for most skin types.

    - tartaric acid: an organic acid that provides the optimum pH level for skin absorption.

    Ten out of ten recommend!

    Get it from BeautyStat for $80.

    3. Herbal Glow Signature Body Butters are formulated with natural, hydrating ingredients so that my skin stays hydrated even in the coldest months.

    Product shot of whipped Herbal Glow body butter.
    herbalglowus.com

    To be honest, heavier moisturizing formulas like butters or creams are all I use in the cold months because they're strong enough to combat the weather and keep my skin soft and supple. I hadn't heard of Herbal Glow's body butters until my unboxing, but I was an instant fan after applying a small scoop to my hand. And then I applied it to my whole body after a shower and OMG I'm obsessed! The Herbal Glow body butter is whipped to the utmost perfection so it's not super hard or stiff, but malleable and easy to spread. The formula melts once I rub it in my hands and it leaves my skin feeling so soft and hydrated, but not greasy. A little also goes a long way so I don't have to waste a lot of product to reap the benefits. There are currently three different formulas (Shea + Oats, Lemon + Carrot, and Rose + Lavender), plus a customizable option in which you can select your size, texture and scent. Each formula has its own natural ingredients, like shea butter, rosehip seed butter or sweet almond butter, to create its signature scent and hydrating benefits. The moisture also lasts all day, so once I apply in the morning my skin remains soft and smooth all day long.

    Get them from Herbal Glow for $15 - $20.

    4. Áuda B Beauty Luxury Vegan Nail Lacquer comes in a variety of shades, and one swatch goes a long way.

    Áuda B Vegan Nail Lacquer in shade "front row."
    audabbeauty.com

    So here's the honest truth: I rarely do my own nails. Like hardly ever. I look at going to the nail salon for a mani and pedi as a pampering, self-care experience, so cutting, filing and polishing my own nails just isn't my thing. But then a global pandemic happened and close proximity to people was ill-advised unless they were essential workers. So as of late I've had no choice but to maintain my nails, and Áuda B Beauty Luxury Vegan Nail Lacquer has made the job fairly easy.

    Áuda B Beauty Luxury Vegan Nail Lacquer prides itself on offering both classic and trendy shades while also prioritizing the health of its consumers by creating non-toxic, PETA-certified formulas. In fact, according to their brand site, it's even safe for pregnant women and children. Áuda B is also free of harsh chemicals, like toluene, formaldehyde and parabens, which are commonly found in cosmetics.

    In addition to the formula being top-notch, the brand also offers an incredible and exciting range of shades. Every color you could possibly think of, plus all the blends in between! I noticed that when applying, the polish swatches right on and it doesn't leave any patchy streaks. You know how you have to keep applying coat after coat with some polishes for a smooth, even application? Well, there's none of that with Áuda B. If I want to layer up for a desired look then I can, but it's not required to get a solid, pigmented finish. You know it's good stuff when high-fashion labels like Fe Noel and Tadashi Shoji select the brand as the vegan nail lacquers for their models at New York Fashion Week! And if it's good enough for luxury fashion, it's good enough for me.

    Get them from Áuda B Beauty for $18.

    5. Epara Eye Serum proves that big things come in small packages. And yes, it's just as luxe as it sounds!

    Image of luxury black-owned beauty brand Epara's eye serum.
    eparaskincare.com

    So let's skip the small talk. This 15 ml bottle of eye serum costs $147. It's from a luxury skincare brand, Epara, and its market are people who choose to invest a bigger buck in their cosmetics. I knew when I opened the thick, embossed box and found the glass bottle perfectly sitting upright in the center, almost like a royal crest on display at a museum, that the price tag would be hefty. And as a woman in my 30s more intentional about consuming luxury and more intentional about what I put in and on my body, I LOVE THIS FOR US!

    Before we even get into the performance of the product (spoiler alert: it's great!), there's a void of luxury created by Black people and marketed to Black people in both the fashion and beauty space. There's long been this notion that Black consumers devalue luxury brands, when in reality research shows that high-fashion brands benefit from increased brand awareness, relevance and sales when Black celebrities, often hip-hop artists, verbally nod the brands or collaborate with them. According to a 2017 essay by Business of Fashion, Gucci's Dapper Dan collaboration drove brand searches "across the e-commerce sites Lyst aggregates." The essay also reports that Virgil Abloh’s Off-White became "the third-hottest fashion brand in the world in Q3," while "the massive 217 percent spike in searches for Christian Louboutin shoes since June is attributed to [Cardi B's] 'red bottoms, bloody shoes' hit 'Bodak Yellow.'" And in recent years, we've seen more luxe Black fashion designers, like LaQuan Smith and Pyer Moss' Kerby Jean-Raymond, get the mainstream attention they deserve.

    Beauty, however, seems to be lagging behind fashion in this regard. Makeup artist of all makeup artists Pat McGrath made huge waves with the launch of Pat McGrath LABS, her namesake makeup line which is significantly more expensive than a lot of competing brands. But there's still a lot of room for more luxury Black-owned beauty. Brands like Epara aren't just a symbol of how far Black creators have come in the disproportionately white luxury space, but they're absolutely essential for inclusion and equity! So yes, I enthusiastically welcome Black-owned brands that make tiny bottles of serum that cost more than my groceries for the week.

    Now onto the product: It's the bomb dot com, y'all! The top is also an eye drop applicator, so as you twist it off the serum goes into the narrow cylinder tube and is ready for application. The dropper fills up, but I never use the full amount. I've had it about two months now, using it in the morning and at night, and the bottle is still close to full. At this rate, I could easily see the product lasting close to a year. I apply a dab to each under eye and gently pat it in. It's a fine formula that spreads with ease and absorbs in an instant. The founder, Ozohu Adoh, sources her organic ingredients from Africa to maximize effectiveness. The Eye Serum's key ingredients are plankton extract for hyperpigmentation, bamboo silk for sebum absorption, and ash tree bark extract for under eye bags, shadows and dark circles. I can already feel that my under eyes are more bouncy and hydrated. I don't really struggle with dark circles so I can't speak to the results there, but I have noticed that my under eye area looks more radiant and bright — more awake if that makes sense. I truly love everything about the product: the ingredients, the story and the experience.

    Get it from Epara for $147. Also available in 7 ml size for $77.

    6. Briogeo Be Gentle, Be Kind Avocado + Kiwi Mega Moisture Superfood Mask makes detangling a breeze and works moisture miracles on coarse hair.

    Product shot of Briogeo Be Gentle, Be Kind Avocado + Kiwi Mega Moisture Superfood Mask.
    briogeohair.com

    If your hair is thick and/or curly then you know all too well the importance of hydrating and nourishing products that penetrate every strand, from roots to ends. I was excited about the Briogeo Be Gentle, Be Kind Avocado + Kiwi Mega Moisture Superfood Mask because I generally love a good mask, and the scent of perfectly ripe fruit greeted my nose passage ways as soon as I opened it. The scent isn't too intense though; it's just right. I was also an instant fan of the texture. It's nice and creamy, and for hair in need of a restorative or hydrating treatment it just makes me feel like the product is going to work better if it's somewhat thick and creamy versus thin and runny.

    Application is a breeze, as you apply it to your hair after shampooing and let it sit for about 10 minutes. I find it easier to first separate the hair into four sections, and then pull the product through each section. After a section is masked, I then do a chunky two-strand twist and secure it with a hair tie. I noticed that as I was working the mask into each section, my hair was also easier to detangle with my fingers and my wide-toothed comb. Once the ten minutes were up, I rinsed out the mask and my hair was so incredibly soft! It also looked more lively, like the curls were more shiny and bouncy. Because the mask also detangled my hair, styling was significantly easier! It's definitely a treatment that I'd continue to use; probably every other week.

    Get it from Briogeo for $36.

    7. Bomba Curls Forbidden Hair Oil is the answer to my dry scalp's prayers.

    Dominican Bomba Curls Forbidden Hair Oil with coffee beans.
    bombacurls.com

    If you don't suffer from dry scalp then baby you don't feel my pain *Beyoncé voice*. The New York winter wreaks HAVOC on my hair and my scalp, so I was excited to try Bomba Curls Forbidden Hair Oil for the first time. I read a little about the brand and learned that the founder, Lulu Cordero, started creating her own products after suffering with traction alopecia. After treating her own hair and scalp, she launched Bomba Curls inspired by organic beauty treatments from her home in Dominican Republic.

    The Forbidden Hair Oil smells very clean and natural, which is the first thing I noticed. The ingredient list is also simple, as it contains soybean oil, castor oil, black cumin seed oil, coffee seed oil, rosemary extract and a little fragrance. The product claims to moisturize hair and scalp, and boost follicles to promote growth. Since my concern is dryness, I applied the oil directly to my scalp and hair after shampooing and I let it sit with my conditioner for 10 minutes. When I rinsed, my hair had a natural sheen; but more importantly, my scalp felt soothed. If you've ever had dry scalp, then you may be familiar with that tight, itchy feeling even after you've shampooed and conditioned. But that wasn't an issue after a good cleansing and oil treatment with conditioner. To restore the oil after I rinsed out the conditioner, I detangled my hair for styling and then applied drops of oil to my scalp and worked it throughout my hair. I noticed a definite difference in between my wash days, as my hair looked glossier and my scalp was significantly less flaky and dry than it usually is. I'm super pumped that I have a new addition to my usual hair staples.

    Get it from Bomba Curls for $22.

    8. I expose skin year-round and The London Grant Co. Sheer Glow Body Oil gives me that shimmery effect from head to toe.

    Hands applying The London Grant Co. Sheer Glow Body Oil.
    londongrant.com

    If you've ever seen my IG, then it doesn't take long to gather that I love a skin moment. And whether showing my legs, décolletage or back, it's important that all exposed skin looks radiant — even in the winter. Because of that, body oils are a constant in my beauty routine. At any given time I have a minimum of five oils on my vanity. Unboxing my goodies from WOC was the first time I'd heard of The London Grant Co. and my insides got warm and excited when I spotted their Macadamia Safflower Sheer Glow Body Oil. And let me tell you, it's a 125 ml glass bottle of sheer goodness!

    It's fragrance-free, vegan, cruelty-free, non-toxic and pure, and the ingredients include coconut, grape seed, jojoba, apricot, macadamia, sunflower, rice bran, and safflower oils, plus plant-based Vitamin E. I apply it as a last layer to my skin, so after I rub in my lotion or body butter I wait about a minute and then layer on the Sheer Glow Body Oil. My skin instantly, and I mean INSTANTLY, glows and glistens. I hate how colder months make your skin look less lustrous than it does in the summer, and this oil 100% combats that for me. And if I really wanna glow, I mix the oil in with a body luminizer (like this one from Danessa Myricks Beauty!) and then I have the bronzey and glisten effect. The consistency isn't too thick that I can't spread it, or too thin that it runs through the cracks of my fingers; it truly is a perfect body oil in consistency and results.

    Get it from The London Grant Co. for $39.

    Any other brands and products I should be checking for? Let me know in the comments below or in my DMs. Also, follow @WOCworldwide for major career inspo and resources!

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