Empties: The B.O.M.B. Edition

The spirit of Black Lives Matter, or a peachy, rose-toned echo of it, is taking hold onYouTube and Instagram, as #B.O.M.B. makeup tutorials make the rounds. For those of you who don’t follow popular Black beauty vloggers, or their friends, #B.O.M.B. stands for Black-Owned Makeup Brands, and it’s a creative way for vloggers to practice and demonstrate their craft while raising consciousness of high-quality Black-owned beauty brands. They are bigging up Blacks who excel in makeup artistry, instead of recycling videos of Black people’s violent and often deadly encounters with the police. Hello!

The smart cookies Alyssa Forever and Alissa Ashley probably had no idea that their tag would last all summer and keep going. Funny thing is that Jackie Aina, the Queen of Black Beauty vloggers and overall Grand Duchess of Color Layering, (in my opinion, anyway) had done a Valentine’s Day tutorial in February. In honor of Black History Month she featured as many Black-owned beauty brands as she could find in her vast, vast makeup collection.

This is great. This is all great, because while this newfound pride and support of Black brands was taking over, my containers of empties was piling up. For months, I figured I’d do a blog post on empties from Black-owned companies. You see it’s one thing to be a beauty vlogger who jumps on a trending tag to raise awareness of your channel, and quite another to be an Afrocentric consumer. To deliberately to search for Black producers of the products one wants and needs, instead of clicking the first thing that comes up on a Goggle search, or making a mad dash out to Walgreens and Target to stock up on the Black-owned brands you know of for a video tutorial. But are the products good enough to stand up next to the well-known high-end beauty brands that Black women are willing to pay so much for? Are they so good that you will hit pan, pump out the last drop of foundation, or scrape the insides of the tube of lip gloss to get every last bit of product? Fortunately for Iman, Shea Moisture, and Black Opal (more on their Black-owned status later) the answer is yes! So here is my rundown of B.O.M.B and Black-owned body brands that have stood up and delivered time and again.

Shea Moisture: Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil


Owned by Sundial Brands, this line says it delivers deep and restorative moisture to dry hair. It does! I put a few drops of the “Intensive Hydration Complex” oil into my hot oil treatment or massaged it into damp hair after stepping out of the shower, and it went a long way to hydrating and sealing my hair for at least a couple of days. That empty jar is the intensive hydrating repair mask, which I used as a deep conditioner once a week.


The Coconut & Hibiscus line work wonders on Baby’s biracial hair. Her curls need as much moisture, care and attention as mine, or they will dry out, tangle and make grooming a frustration for both of us. We go through these regularly, and just the other day we were in Shop-Rite and she put a bottle of their moisturizing spray into the cart. I think I’m going to stock up on Shea Moisture while I can, because you never know when the Dennis family will cash out and head for the sweet life of early, wealthy retirement. Hey, it’s the American way. The Bancroft family did that when they sold The Wall Street Journal to Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox’s parent Newscorp … oh, wait. When is the next sale! Outta my way!

Pooka Pure and Simple


To put it Pure and Simple: I love the Pooka products from my head to my toes. Based in Newark, New Jersey, the company sells its mists, butters, bath bombs and candles online and from its boutique in downtown Newark. Last year Baby came up to me with a box of scrumptious surprises from the store, and said: “Happy Valentine’s Day!” Everything came in a beautiful red box with a white and red polka dot ribbon. This is what’s left of the tins of body butters that they got me, and I’m still working on the Sugar Body Wash, which is in my shower. Matter of fact, I might treat myself to a fragrant scrub down tonight before turning in!

IMAN Cosmetics: BB Creme, Mascara and Foundation Stick


This one is my favorite! Iman makes luxury, high-end quality makeup for women of color, and they are accessibly priced. I’m not a makeup artist or socialite, so I can’t possibly justify owning enough makeup to stock a spare room — and then make an indulgent video on “how I store and organize my makeup.” Beauty rooms are the latest iteration of frivolous spending, just like all those wine refrigerators and wine rooms that populated middle class McMansions before the last recession. Sooner or later, whether because of another big financial awakening, or more realistically, a baby, those rooms will be passe, except for professional, full-time makeup artists. But anyway! Since the beginning of the year I’ve finished off a foundation stick, which had terrific staying power in this heat! The BB Creme is one of my favorite items in her collection, because if I don’t have time for a full face beat, I can smooth it on and go about my day. I’m on my third container, and the one pictured is my second. The mascara is deeply black, and goes on smooth. It doesn’t irritate my sensitive eyes. The products in this picture are just he tip of the iceberg. I’ve gone through several lip and eye pencils and lip glosses — I just remembered to save up some of these empties for this blog.

I started using Iman Cosmetics in 2012, which is kind of late considering that she has been around since 1994. The reason was simple logistics: I couldn’t find them in nearby drug stores or Target, and my unrelenting busy schedule pretty much shut down any chance of me devoting time to hunting down the products I wanted. They are a little more accessible to me now, and I will not be sleeping on it.

Black Opal: True Color Pore Perfecting Liquid Foundation, Concealer and Lip Pencil


I know, I know. Black Opal‘s status as a fully Black-owned company is dubious at best. But never mind all that. The newest liquid foundation, the True Color pore perfecting foundation, is a miracle. It goes on fairly wet, but dries to a skin-like finish. I slapped this on once while running out to Costco with Hubby, and one of the women working there completely gushed when she got a closeup look at my face. I hadn’t even applied any of their magical finishing powder. And it was summer. This has quickly become one of my favorite liquid foundations these days. I might even show my face in a selfie — it’s that good! LOL. The concealer works … but offered lighter, and I found myself using an orange concealer from LA Girl on top of it to really correct the dark areas around my eyes. The lip pencils are outstanding! Look at that nub. Enough said.

Now, about its B.O.M.B. status: From what I could gather, the company that makes the color cosmetics and skin care line, BioCosmetic Research Labs, is owned by Mana Products, Inc., which itself is owned by a man named Nikos Mouyiaris. While Africa is vast, that doesn’t sound like any name from the continent I’ve ever heard. But my guess is that the women who developed the skincare line are Black, including Dr. Cheryl Burgess, a high-profile dermatologist and a woman named “Donna” who claimed to be involved in developing the skincare line, at least according to comment section of an article in this NYU student paper. So there you have it.

As I Am and Karen’s Body Beautiful


I don’t know why I combined these two products. Maybe I was tired after my workout and was rushing through taking the pictures? But the As I Am cleansing co-wash was a must during Baby’s swim class days, for rinsing her hair in the shower afterward. The Karen’s Body Beautiful sealing butter is a terr-i-fic product to seal moisture into damp-dry hair after washing and conditioning. I picked this up at a Circle of Sisters expo last year, and used it in lieu of my Aethiopika Hydrate & Twist Butter from Qhemet Biologics. It was also a great stand-in for the miraculous Alma & Olive Heavy Cream, also from Qhemet Biologics. (Nothing against the latter. I just ran out and needed to replenish with something so I could maintain my moisture routine.) Founder and CEO Karen Tappin has a wonderful thing going on, if this is any indication.

Entwine Audition Kit: Teeny Tiny Coils


I picked up this handy kit at a Circle of Sisters event in New York a couple of years back. They were selling like hotcakes for just $10, and the package contained pretty much everything that you need to wash, condition, moisturize and style your hair. The package also contained a deep hydrating conditioning hair mask, which imparted terrific moisture to my hair during my washing process. But I threw out that envelope. I would say the best components of this kit are the deep conditioner, and the two small pots of styling products. Not only is this a handy way of trying out products, but it’s a perfect travel kit, too. Everything you need for up to two washing cycles is in this kit — which is also TSA compliant!

Difeel: Body soaps


I snatched up this line of body soaps from Sunflower Cosmetics, Inc.,  in my local beauty supply store while stocking up on barrettes and ponytail holders for Baby, and all sorts of hair things for myself. The soaps go for $3.99 a bar, but they aren’t cheap quality. They cleanse effectively, and leave the skin feeling smooth and moisturized. At first I bought just a couple, then went back again for a few more. There’s just one tiny drawback: I’m not sure if it’s wholly or majority black-owned. The photo on the back of the Black Soap has a picture of a Black man working on the product, while the company’s listing at Manta.com says it is owned by a guy named David Kim. Maybe they co-founded it, and Mr. Kim is the managing principal or something? I’ve reached out to the company, but knowing these small operations, it could be a while before they reply.  I’ll update as I get new information.

And that wraps up my first blog post on Empties: B.O.M.B. edition (technically also B.O.B.B., for Black-owned beauty brands. But who’s checking?). These are my current tried and true products that deliver on the creators claims on the package with the added bonus of helping to build financial autonomy and independence for Black people. If you know anything about how financial values shape American society and our mores, you know that Black Enterprise’s DOFE Principles and F.U.B.U. are not reactionary declarations of “exclusion” and “reverse racism.” They are indispensable values for any minority in this country to live by.


My Top 10 Consignment Scores

A funny thing happened to my wardrobe after I got married, bought this house with Hubby, and we had a child. The amount of money I spent on myself dropped off dramatically, and I saw an inverse relationship between the amount of money I spent on my new clothing and accessories purchases, and the name-brand quality of my retail scores.

Lucky for me, this renewed pragmatism around my personal finances coincided with the discovery of consignment shopping, particularly a crop of boutiques specializing in vintage and other gently used high-fashion items. So how have I made out with this kind of bargain shopping? I certainly can’t afford any of the pieces high on the couture food chain at New York Fashion Week, which just wrapped up, but I did make a few excellent purchases over the years, while improving my wardrobe and polishing my style. Not bad, for a commoner.

Here are my most favorite (at the moment) fashion scores from the consignment stores.

Juliet Dunn

Juliet Dunn “Calypso dress” with string halter
Purchased from: a thrift store

Adrianna Papell Ribbon Black Cocktail dress Cost: ~$65 (The beaded clutch is from Ann Taylor)

Adrianna Papell
Ribbon Black Cocktail dress
Cost: ~$65
(The beaded clutch is from Ann Taylor)

Fuzzi silk

Fuzzi silk “Belt Buckle” dress with sash
Cost: < $150

Sparkled Gold Tunic Cost: < $50

Sparkled Gold Tunic
Cost: < $50

Jill Stewart black and white splattered gown with wrap &amp pin neckline and high slit Cost: < $120

Jill Stewart black and white splattered gown with wrap &amp pin neckline and high slit
Cost: < $120

Red Chanel 2.55 classic double flap shoulder bag Cost: ~$65

Red Chanel 2.55 classic double flap shoulder bag
Cost: ~$65

Galian brown & white zig-zag striped clutch (w/leather-in-chain shoulder strap) Cost: < $35

Galian brown & white zig-zag striped clutch (w/leather-in-chain shoulder strap)
Cost: < $35

Massimo Dogana handbag, w/ green snakeskin Purchased from: Karma Consignment, Newark, N.J. Price: $200

Massimo Dogana handbag, w/ green snakeskin
Purchased from: Karma Consignment, Newark, N.J.
Price: $200

Tori Burch tote: ~$35

Tori Burch tote:

Sam Edelman Booties Purchased from: Luxe Newark Cost: ~ $75

Sam Edelman Booties
Purchased from: Luxe Newark
Cost: ~ $75

What I also love about consignment shopping is that the settings vary: converted apartments in large Victorian houses, store fronts in bustling neighborhoods a few doors down from Indian and Caribbean restaurants. One of my favorites is — or was, since the owner closed up shop and retired — a place called Talie’s Attic. The store operated out of two rooms in the back of an old brick commercial building on the main strip of an affluent suburb, about a 15-minute drive away. Talie’s unassuming retail space was packed to the gills with racks of women and children’s clothing. The setting and merchandising reminded me of the little shop in “The Bodyguard,” where Rachel Marron picked through the racks of discarded clothes — while picking on Frank Farmer.  🙂 Baby and I developed a consistent routine of stopping into Talie’s after church to sift through the racks to find little confectionary dresses, a charming pair of Mary Janes for her, or for me, colorful silk blouses and designer leather handbags. Talie’s never failed, and she and Baby developed a nice little friendship, too.

There was another store, Runway, from which I was planning to buy a few items. But the problem was that my employer at the time began to struggle a little, and we had to really be watchful over discretionary spending. So, I couldn’t indulge in the giant Gucci hobo bag, and although that beaded red dress with spaghetti straps was a perfect fit, and the owner did her best to talk me into buying it, I couldn’t think of where I would wear it. It had to stay in the store, and we both mourned that one, I think. I never got to shop Runway again, because I think the store closed up.

Another favorite is a store, in the same town, that sources only high-end clothes and accessories, priced competitively with what you might find on eBay. It was one door down from a Milk Money franchise, where I once SCORED a wool Rothschild winter coat for Baby, with matching beanie. The whole set was adorable, and every single time I dressed her in that set to cart her off to church, she looked so sweet that …

So those are a few of my little consignment runway picks. Don’t sleep on consignment, people. Lower prices, higher couture!