New Dupont Circle beauty shop helps customers ‘flex their melanin’

Crowds gathered at the Dupont Circle beauty shop during its grand opening.
A customer gets her makeup done at the grand opening of Brown Beauty Co-Op.
After an in-house makeover, customers took photos with a backdrop of balloons and a sign that read. "Flexin' my melanin.'
Women flood the displays, surveying the many different shade ranges available.
A DJ brings music to the shop's grand opening.
Magazines are displayed at the Brown Beauty Co-Op, a new beauty shop created by women of color for women of color.

WASHINGTON — As pop music blared through the speakers, customers packed into the Brown Beauty Co-Op in Northwest D.C. for its grand opening on Saturday afternoon.

Makeup artists and hair stylists helped women perfect their looks before they posed in front of a wall of balloons or a neon sign to snap a quick selfie. The sign read, “Flexin’ My Melanin” — a common theme that day.

Kimberly Smith is a co-owner of Brown Beauty Co-Op and the founder of Marjani Beauty, an online store featuring beauty products tailored to women of color. She started the website after her own experience struggling to find beauty products for her skin tone.

“I wanted to create a place that women of color could come to and all the products were for them — the environment was created for them, with images of people who look like them,” Kimberly said. “I wanted that for myself.”

Amaya Smith, originally from Silver Spring, Maryland, started Product Junkie Naturals, a line of hair products for women of color. With Kimberly’s curated selection of cosmetics, the two African-American women have created a one-stop shop in Dupont Circle for women of color to find all their beauty products.

“It’s kind of a reverse gentrification, bringing black-owned businesses back into the community,” Amaya said.

Monica Lewis, a D.C. native, said she rarely wears makeup because she isn’t able to find the right shades to match her skin tone.

Looking around the store on opening day, she said, “This is unheard of. We usually go to other stores and there’s like a small section for us to go … it’s such a good idea, especially in the District of Columbia. I live in D.C. and there is such a big market.”

Muslimah Carpenter, a student at Howard University, said she made time to go to the grand opening in the middle of finals season. A self-described Instagram influencer with over 30,000 followers on the social media platform, Carpenter said she is passionate about supporting black-owned beauty businesses.

“There’s this whole thing about inclusion now in the beauty community, ‘Oh you need to make our foundation shades,’” she said. “ But there have been companies for years doing this.”

Now, there’s one in Dupont Circle.

And for that, Lewis said, “I’m thankful, just so thankful.”

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