A study conducted by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology revealed that 75% of hair, skin and makeup products marketed to women of colour were found to have a high prevalence of potentially hazardous ingredients.
While this may be a U.S. based study, where women of colour only make up 13% of the population, we all know how when the US sneezes the world catches a cold. Maybe even more so because here we are the majority.
However, not all beauty products are harmful, especially now that we live in a conscious society which encourages cruelty-free and ethical beauty practices.
Furthermore, African women have not been sleeping on the need for locally manufactured beauty products and services.
There are indeed women who have spotted a gap in the growing billion dollar industry in Africa and have used the opportunity (and their accompanying passion) to flourish, while also offering the best value for money.
Even in the face of consumers' loyalty to bigger international brands, local beauty entrepreneurs have managed to garner a considerable amount of support from South Africans in the past few years.
Such beauty innovators include the likes of Azania Mosaka, Ego Iwegbu, Linda Jangulo, Freda Isingoma, and Afika Mbandazayo (just to name a few).
But first, we spoke to Lebo Mphela about what beauty entrepreneurship has meant for her thus far:
Lebo Mphela, Malia Nails
What were you doing before you created Malia Nails?
My educational background is Political Sciences and International Relations, and then after I graduated I became a fashion intern at DRUM magazine. A year later I got a job as a publicist at a PR agency in Joburg (Total Exposure).
Even while working there, I sort of knew that I wanted to do my own thing and start something from the root up, and grow with it.
I’ve always liked nail polish and at some point acrylics too, but they always used to damage my nails. I wanted to get a brand of nail polish that is both long lasting and good for the nails, so I did some research for about a year, left my job and eventually started the company in February 2015.
When you started out were you not intimidated by already established and much-loved brands in the industry?
There are so many heavyweight brands out there and people have been using them for years so you have to get people to shift away from that and think, "hey, here’s something new.”
But in my head I thought hey, they started somewhere – everyone starts somewhere.
So not only was I fueled by passion, but I knew that if I didn't start then, when would I start? Ultimately you have more room to make mistakes and grow when you’re younger. And the longer you hold things off, the less likely you'll do it.
What makes Malia different from any other nail polish?
I've always tried to adapt a fashion element into our colours, so our colours are always seasonal. If you're going to put in all the effort into what you're wearing, why not add an extra touch with a colour that complements it?
Also, the product itself is glossy in texture and very longlasting.
Lastly, there are these three toxic chemicals (formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyle pthalate) which are usually used in nail polish, which ours doesn't have. What this means is that when you remove the nail polish your nails won't be discoloured.
How do you navigate having to rely largely on social and financial capital in order to make it?
Firstly, it's very important to do your research and learn to barter skills.
You need to think beyond the monetary limitations and invest more in your learning capacity with regards to research. You also just really need to immerse yourself in your passion and take initiative.