It’s no secret that beauty spaces — and investing spaces, for that matter — look overwhelmingly white. Widespread racial representation is only now getting a foothold, while the numbers of Black- and Latinx-owned brands granted any kind of significant funding to grow their beauty business remain pitifully low. Last year, Jaé Joseph and Briana Wise came together to form the Black Apothecary Office (BAO), an accelerator program designed to invest in and equip small Black- and Latinx-owned beauty lines with resources, education, and tools to help the businesses thrive. Today, their expansion mission continues with the launch of BAO Essentials, the brand’s debut skin care line available exclusively through BAO’s new e-commerce site.
Built partially in homage to “bodega beauty”, or naturally created beauty essentials made locally and sold at affordable prices to the community, Bao Essentials is capturing that intimate, local-led spirit. “BAO is about culture and community,” Joseph explains in a press release, “and we wanted to develop something reminiscent of storefront or ‘bodega’ beauty that specifically caters toward our audience…we were able to develop a product line that we feel best serves the essentials and ‘clean beauty categories.”
Aptly named, the line does provide the essentials as it launches with four core products, each housed in sleek, minimalist packaging and named to pay tribute to the founders’ Caribbean heritage.
Papaya enzymes are the star ingredient of this launch, long considered one of the best skin-clearing exfoliants available — and its natural anti-inflammatory properties make it ideal for soothing stressed skin. First in the lineup is the BAO Essentials Dunia Papaya Enzyme Cleanser, a gentle yet robust foaming cleanser that lightly carries away makeup, buildup, and other impurities to reveal clean — never stripped — skin. The Cedella Papaya Enzyme Toner is a refreshing alcohol-free toner that helps rid the skin’s surface of lingering dirt and debris after cleansing. Gentle enough for morning and evening use, the toner delivers a smooth, radiant complexion with a name to match — Cedella means “beautiful one.”
Protecting your delicate skin barrier with biotin and collagen amino acids, the Jalissa Papaya Enzyme Protection (named to mean “noble and attractive one”) is one seriously multitasking daily moisturizing lotion. While cucumber, kiwi, and sage extracts restore hydration to thirsty skin, those all-important fruit extracts promote cell turnover for soft, clear skin. Rounding out this debut collection is a rich night cream, the beautifully named Empress that not only mainlines moisture right into the complexion but also promotes firmness, radiance, and inflammation regulation. In fact, the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) ingredient mimics molecular energy to effectively supercharge aging skin cells.
BAO Universe, the company’s newly launched e-commerce platform, won’t just be home to BAO Essentials, either. The site will also highlight and sell selected Black- and Latinx-founded beauty brands, including some of their own BAO accelerator program alumni. This not only gives consumers the chance to buy from curated BIPOC-owned brands but also helps build those businesses. As co-founder Briana Wise put it, BAO Essentials can effectively function as a blueprint for the other brands they’re building up in the accelerator program. If this debut line is any indication, it’s going to be one seriously massive blueprint.