Black Girl Makeup Magic!
Beauty comes in many shades and Haitian-American chemist Balanda Atis is making sure black women are no longer underrepresented in the cosmetics industry.
Atis, a chemist with the cosmetics company, L’Oreal USA manages the L’Oréal Women of Color Lab in New Jersey and wants to create makeup that works for all women. L’Oreal launched a product line for women of color to answer the need, which Atis says was a good thing, but something more was needed.
“Makeup is personal,” Atis said. “It is what drives each person, but drives each person differently. So it’s your customized look. It’s your customized feel. It’s what you think of yourself. It’s completely personal. “Although we were excited to see the effort being made, we did notice that there was still the concern of the shades either being too ashy, too red and [they] just didn’t cover a large segment of the population,” Atis said.
When the head of the division challenged Atis and her colleagues to come up with a fix, they began to explore the possibilities. The information they collected led to breakthrough results.
“We had the opportunity to travel across the U.S, to different regions of the U.S., as well as internationally, such as South Africa, to gather skin tone measurements to make sure that the shades that we were creating were suitable for a large range of skin tones,” Atis explained.
“What we found is that you can use a really special colorant, called ultramarine blue” Atis said. “And ultramarine blue is a truly clean, vivid, bright, rich color that allows you to go deeper, but as you go deeper, you’re still able to have a very natural color to the skin.”
Atis says many Haitian families expect their children to become doctors or nurses, but she knew she didn’t want a career in medicine. Although she always had a passion for science, she wasn’t sure how to make a career of it.
“When I got my degree in biology I knew I wanted to do something in the science field. I was always interested in science but not quite sure what aspect of science I wanted to go into,” she said. “I started off as a chemist working on mascaras, [and] absolutely loved, loved, loved creating mascara and eye products for women around the world so it was a great opportunity to learn and go even further into cosmetics,” she said.
Balanda shares her joy of science with teenagers by giving talks about the importance of science at schools.
“Being able to showcase and share with others what STEM is — Science, Technology, Math and Engineering — is awesome,” she said. “Most kids don’t have the opportunity to really have a good understanding of how science is used. Most kids just see science as mixing something in the beaker and then, poof, something explodes. But science is so much more than that. Science is in everything that we do. And being able to relate science and beauty together is just fun.”