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hanahana beauty

This Skin-Care Brand Is Breaking Beauty Barriers for Black Women

A conversation with Abena Boamah, founder of Hanahana Beauty.

By: Nandi Howard
Photography: Alec Kugler

It’s been a long time coming for the beauty industry to expand beyond its black-and-white complex, but we can thank brands like Hanahana Beauty for catering to a community who has felt left out of a billion-dollar industry. From hair products to makeup goodies, black women spend nine times more on makeup and hair than any of their peers. While companies have now just started (sigh) to put two and two together, the earned capital from this community has sparked a number of beauty products emerging that cater to black women. Then there comes this confusion about what to purchase, because although you do want to buy the best products, it is equally important to support brands who care about their consumers.

While I was interviewing Abena Boamah, founder of Hanahana Beauty and daughter of two Ghanaian natives, we started talking about the importance of supporting brands who go the extra mile to live their mission. She herself was born in the States but lived in Ghana as a child and is currently residing there in hopes of gaining her Ghanaian citizenship, as well as scoping out natural products for her brand, Hanahana Beauty. After doing extensive research in Ghana, avocado oil, lavender, and mango butter are a few of the ingredients she uses in her lotions, scrubs, and lip balms, but while chatting with her on the phone, we got to talking about so much more.

Read below how Hanahana began, how she chooses her ingredients, and where she hopes her brand can reach.

 

On how Hanahana started:

“I was teaching, and I was having these conversations with the students about what theyre eating—Hot Cheetos, especially—and using on their bodies. And they asked me what did I use on my body, and I remember looking at these products, and I didn’t know what was really in there. My mom used to make shea, but I didn’t like it because it was hard, and then I was inspired by Nikisha Riley making products on youtube, and I was like, I can make my own thing. The recipes I found I didn’t think were actually working for my skin, so I did the research on the oils and the ingredients. It kind of started from there, and that was three years before I started Hanahana Beauty.”

How special it is to her to cater to black women:

“It just is really natural. When I made the products, the intention was to make it for my skin. Black women inspired me to create the product, and that is who the product is for. I think when products are made, black women are not thought of. Now we are [being thought of] for capital reasons and marketing reasons, but I don’t think black women are intentionally thought of. For me, it wouldn’t make sense to not have black women be representative in our photos, because at the end of the day the people making our products are also black women. It’s about the fact that I have a privilege, and I think it’s important for us to be transparent about who is making the product and who is behind the product. I don’t think the beauty industry does that as much.”

On how she finds ingredients to cater to different skin types:

“Shea butter is for everyone. Avocado oil has protein, and that means that it strengthens your skin and hair. It also works for everyone. I look at what the ingredient does. The science of melanin and what it does has to be thought of when creating these products.”

 

On how to choose brands to support:

“Not everyone is genuine. I think it’s about the mission and who’s behind it. We have to also give brands the chance to learn and change, but as a consumer, it’s hard to tell if it’s genuine or not. If I am going to make a brand, I am going to make it authentic and purposeful, because that’s what I want to be as a person. Being able to work with brands like Glossier and see how they interact, I’m like wow, they are showing me who they really are. A company that is run by a white woman can be multifaceted, and why can’t a black small business turn into that? For me, I want to be big, I don’t want to be a small business for the rest of my life. Why not elevate and expand?”

On Hanahana Beauty products:

“We have the Shea Body Butter, I use that all over my body after the shower and in my hair. It’s the consistency, and it’s fluffy, and it’s nice to go in your hair and do your twist-outs, but you can also use it on your skin. The Shea Balm is for your lips, but in the summer this girl told me she uses it for her eyebrows [laughs]. I love using the Exfoliating Bar, and in the summertime, it’s great if you don’t want to use a lot of shea. Our Black and Brown Scrub is new, and I’ve been working on that for two years. That has a natural black soap, which is ashes from plantains in Ghana, and shea, and it has brown sugar. It’s a really nice scrub.”

Her everyday routine:

“Out of the shower, I use Shea Butter. If I’m feeling luxurious, I use the bar. Washing my face, I definitely use the Black and Brown Scrub. Getting ready, I can use the shea butter on my face in the winter, but I really like to use jojoba oil on my face. If I’m not doing anything, I can go out, and I feel really good in that. If I want to put mascara on, I use the orange blush from Glossier and then shea balm for my lips, and I put lip gloss over.”

 

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