This month, I will feature snapshots of black beauty history. Expect to see images, products, tastemakers, artists, models, and films that have shaped our world in terms of fashion and beauty today.

Most casual students of black history know about historical hair product impresarios and entrepreneurs – women like Madame C.J Walker, Annie Malone and Madame N.A Franklin are known names that are celebrated parts of our history. But in terms of actual makeup products made for women of color back in the day, far less is known or widely discussed.




According to good ol’ Wikipedia, “Before the 1970s, makeup shades for Black females were limited. Face makeup and lipstick did not work for dark skin types because they were created for pale skin tones. These cosmetics that were created for pale skin tones only made dark skin more gray. Eventually, makeup companies created makeup that worked for richer skin tones, such as foundations and powders that provided a natural match. Popular companies like Astarté, Afram, Libra, Flori Roberts and Fashion Fair priced the cosmetics reasonably due to the fact that they wanted to reach out to the masses.[15]

This is not to say that before the 1970’s, makeup intended for black women didn’t exist. It did. These products may not have perfectly matched or blended, but there was makeup marketed towards women of color.



Many of the products were powders, or creams – such as Hi Hat powder which was made in Tennessee, and came in shades of  “High Brown,” “Copper Bronze,” “Teezum Brown,” or “Toasted Chestnut.” Most often the packaging featured models with fair skin and straight hair, despite the target market.


Lucky Brown Cosmetics were made by Valmor Products Co., out of Chicago — the brand’s founder was famed art collector Morton Neumann – he is also credited for having created the brand’s art, but according to this very informative blog, Charles C. Dawson did much of the artwork but received little of the credit.




Valmor Products also produced Sweet Georgia Brown and Madame Jones brand products, which included things like powders and more controversial products like “brightening” night creams, as well as “black-o-lene” hair cream/coloring agent and “hair glow-ene” pomade. Posters for some of these items are available at I’ve also seen these kinds of vintage posters at the HQ of Chicago’s own Bronzeville Historical Society.


In the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, these were the kinds of cosmetics items being marketed to women of color, and this is how it was being marketed to us. In the 1970’s we saw the advent of a new era in cosmetics made for and marketed to black women who were embracing their identities and leaving these whitewashed images behind. I’ll get to those in another installment of 28 moments in black beauty history!

Do you remember seeing any of these packages around? What products did your mothers or grandmothers use? I’m so fascinated by our beauty history and the lack of exposure of it online!

For more, read Styling Jim Crow: African American Beauty Training During Segregation

Vintage Powder Room

Black Betty Posters.



Sabbio says:
February 5, 2013, 8:09 am
How highly interesting this all is! You're so right, we don't have much infos about that and what's fun is that I was aksking those questions to myself a few days ago as I worked on a book about the history of make-up in which, of course, no mention was made to black women (except for the 1980s-90s)and I was wondering how the ones wanting to enhance their natural beauty would do... and thanks to you today I have some elements :)
pam neal says:
February 8, 2013, 11:29 am
very interesting read :) learned something today
Erica says:
February 10, 2013, 8:15 pm
Wonderful article. It's time to speak to my elders to get some history about their makeup back in the day....Thank you Queen for writing about a fascinating topic.
Havilland says:
February 4, 2014, 8:57 pm
Thank you so much for posting this. Interesting indeed! Great information for women (and men) this black history month.
Kalana says:
February 5, 2014, 1:02 am
Sabbio might I ask what book you were working out of the other day? I am writing a dissertation on similar topics and would love to hear where others are sourcing their information from.
Splendiferous Weddings says:
August 14, 2014, 11:53 pm
Unquestionably believe that which you said.Your favorite justification seemed to bee on the internet the easiest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while people consider worries that they just do not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whkle thing without having side-effects, people could take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks
Yolanda says:
March 9, 2017, 6:16 am
Thank you so much for this article. It is so difficult to find the history of makeup for black women,especially black women currently living in Africa.


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