A-Beauty. Sounds very catchy, if a little cryptic. But what is it? The A stands for African, and it’s one of beauty’s newest “discoveries.” The quotes are needed for this, as most of what’s recently made its way to Europe and the Americas has existed within African culture for centuries.
So why has it taken so long? “I believe the reason that African beauty has been overlooked is that people take it for granted that black skin is inherently good,” says Valerie Obaze, Founder and CEO of R&R Luxury. “What they don’t tend to realize is that much of the youthful look and elasticity our skin enjoys may be somewhat down to genetics, but also has a lot to do with the beauty rituals that Africans have taken part in for centuries!”
And this starts from the very beginning of life. Obaze points out that it’s a tradition in Ghana for a grandmother to bathe their newborn and massage their skin with shea butter. Traditions like this likely wouldn’t have become widely known if not for the global village that is the internet.
“Social media has allowed people to share their skincare secrets and tips which allows others to learn about A-Beauty skincare routines, products, and the fantastic results,” says Obaze. She points to the popularity of African black soap a few years ago as a prime example of the rising popularity of A-beauty. “People were intrigued by its raw, textured look yet amazed by the results it produced when used consistently!”
A-beauty brands in the Market place
Another benefit of the internet has been the walls broken down by e-commerce, democratizing the retail experience for consumers and allowing African brands to ship to whoever’s done a quick google. An additional benefit has been the cross-pollination of beauty tips in Africa. It’s something Obaze has noticed. “Many brands, not just on the African continent, but elsewhere in the world who know and understand the benefits of super ingredients (such as Shea and Baobab) use them in formulations with other active ingredients to create products that are ultra-moisturising and anti-ageing.”
The simplification of beauty is a core aspect of A-beauty. Obaze explains that “The essence of African beauty is that it is simple and timeless. Where other beauty practices focus on layering and 10-step routines, A-beauty is about going ‘back to basics, using fewer products with minimal, plant-based ingredients to achieve ageless, glowing skin.”
And while products like shea have been relatively new to the western world, Obaze views them as mainstays. “[products like] shea have been used by our ancestors for centuries – they are tried and tested, we know they work, and as time goes on, I see more and more people coming to that realization and the A-Beauty industry growing as a result.”
The other byproduct of A-beauty is a natural leaning towards sustainability. “Ethical sourcing is a necessity,” says Obaze. “Many manufacturers of natural ingredients on the African continent, particularly in West Africa, are structured as cooperatives which in their nature are ethical suppliers.”