When it comes to skincare, sometimes it feels like brands are just putting whatever’s trendy at the moment on the shelves and hoping people buy it. And, for most of us, that’s not enough, especially as Black women. Faced with unique skin concerns the general market is just now starting to address, we don’t have time or money to waste on products that don’t do what we need them to do. And for skincare brand BASE BUTTER, they also didn’t want to waste effort creating items that didn’t really address the needs of their target consumer: Black women.
That’s why the crowdsourced brand was born out of data on 3,000 different Black women’s skincare concerns — versus the ingredient buzzword of the year — and includes a best-selling Face Jelly that has sold out repeatedly this year alone. Co-founders She’Neil Johnson and Nicolette Graves are truly bringing something new to the market with BASE BUTTER and in the interview below, they talk to us about the foundation of the brand and how it’s thrived in the midst of COVID-19.
HelloBeautiful(HB): What did you feel the skincare industry was missing when you launched BASE BUTTER?
Base Butter (BB): During our unofficial skincare journey, Nicolette and I found ourselves self-educating and actively piecing together information to create solutions for our unique skin types and concerns because we were continuously running into barriers as a result of the gaps that exist for Black women in the skincare industry. Between balancing the day to day of building a career and life, implementing health and wellness in a way that resonated with our reality felt almost impossible.
For years we would share new knowledge, experiences, and more with each other and our larger group of friends. After reflecting, we realized it was a similar experience for our counterparts. We had been identified as the ones in our community excited to always share our findings, go the extra mile to read and research, and reluctantly push through our trial and error process. Soon we began discussing and becoming transparent about our skincare journey and struggles through not only our friend groups but a larger community online. So we decided to use the feedback from our community, the knowledge gained, unique skills, and work experiences to build our own formulated solution, BASE BUTTER.
HB: BASE BUTTER is a brand of crowdsourced skincare products, what does that mean?
BB: Our goal is to invest in deepening our relationship with our customers and community in order to develop skincare routines that meet the voiced needs and concerns of Black women. We were inspired by a community research project we launched called Skin Struggles that is still on-going to this day. The Skin Struggles survey has captured the profiles of over 3,000 Black women highlighting their specific skin wants, needs, and frustrations. The data captured in this research gave birth to our hero product Radiate Face Jelly and continues to be our guiding light in continuing to create crowdsourced skin solutions for Black women. (We have a waiting list of 130 Black women who have signed up to be product testers now and in the future.)
The Skin Struggles survey shows us that 88.8% of Black women with an average age of 30 told us that they suffer with skin concerns and 86% struggle to manage and find products that work for their skin type. In addition, this in-house research gives us access to data that lets us know what products our customers are currently using and how they rate them, skincare shopping habits, skin types, and personal perspective about the skincare industry.
HB: Your products are geared toward oily/combo skin, what are the unique considerations for caring for these skin types?
BB: Oily to combination skin needs to be properly hydrated. It sounds counterintuitive when thinking about what it looks and feels like to have oily skin. However, hydration will balance out the sebum production to repair the overall health of the skin. This is key as many people with oily to combination skin go crazy with over-cleansing and harsh astringents, resulting in over-stripping which will cause the skin to overproduce more oil causing more issues with skincare concerns.
HB: The radiate face jelly is said to balance skin, why is it important to have a pH between 4.2 and 5.8?
BB: pH between 4.2 and 5.8 is considered normal. Beyond either point is typically a sign that something is off with your skin. Your skin is naturally more on the acidic side to keep bacteria at bay and keep your skin moisturized. If your pH increases beyond 5.8 it’s likely to look red, dry, and flaky, whereas lower than 4.2 leaves your skin more susceptible to acne conditions. Ultimately, you want your products to keep your skin within the range of a normal pH.
HB: How does this moisturizer balance skin’s pH?
BB: Due to its aloe vera gel base. Aloe vera is within range of healthy skin pH levels. It has an average acidic pH of 5.0. The acidic pH is supportive and soothing for healthy skin.
HB: What are the benefits of your Sustainable Makeup Remover and Pre-Cleansing Cloths?
BB: It is made of thousands of tiny fibers, specially weaved together to create microscopic “hooks.” These hooks help lift and remove excess oils and daily grime. What really makes this a gem is its gentle material and fast-drying capabilities. This makes it great for everyday use, without the worry of microbial growth found on traditional face towels.
HB: How did the push for support of Black businesses in June — in the midst of Covid-19 no less — affect your business?
BB: We’d been out of commission from March to May due to supply issues for our main ingredient — aloe vera — which is also the main ingredient for hand sanitizer. At that time, we received a Poise Bounce Back Grant to help support our business in the midst of the pandemic, allowing us to continue serving our customers the best we could.
The end of May marked our first restock post COVID-19 impact and we sold out in a day. We were shook but grateful and re-opened pre-orders to continue servicing our customers. However, a week and a half later George Floyd was murdered. After that, Black Lives Matter and the push to support Black businesses took off. So though we were prepared to service our current customers we had no idea demand would skyrocket the way we did which resulted in another sell out. Beyoncé ended up featuring us in her directory of Black-owned businesses and the numbers have looked crazy ever since.
HB: You’ve been donating 10% of your profits each month, what are some of the organizations that you’ve helped?
BB: We’re proud to be a Poise Bounce Back Grant recipient, which initially helped support our business in the midst of the pandemic, allowing us to continue serving our customers while giving back to amazing organizations along the way. We’ve donated 10% of all profits from May to now to an organization that is doing critical work to dismantle systemic racism – the Loveland Foundation. The Loveland Foundation brings opportunity and healing to communities of color, especially to Black women and girls. Through fellowships, residency programs, listening tours, and more, ultimately they hope to contribute to both the empowerment and the liberation of the communities they serve.
HB: Why was it important to partner with JOYDAY to launch Finding Yellow?
BB: JOYDAY is a movement rooted in promoting the daily practice of choosing JOY. The mission of Joyday is to facilitate conversations that break stigmas placed around mental health by curating interactive experiences that foster vulnerable conversation and provide real-world solutions. They do this by providing resources, education, and community for people, especially Black people, in need of healing. During times like this, we feel the most basic thing that’s missing is a sense of safety, both physical and psychological. So we wanted to partner with an initiative that was dedicated to providing a space to feel exactly that, safe, especially for Black people.