Professor launches online beauty store with products made by and for black women

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

Kristian Henderson, who works in the Milken Institute School of Public Health, launched an online store Feb. 2 that promotes small businesses with products made by and for black women.

After years of struggling to find beauty products for black women, an assistant teaching professor rounded up all the best brands she uses and put them in one online store.

Kristian Henderson, who works in the Milken Institute School of Public Health, launched the online store BLK + GRN Feb. 2 to promote small businesses with products made by and for black women. The products the store carries – which range from self-care and beauty to home goods and jewelry – are all-natural, free of toxins, cruelty-free and most are made locally.

Henderson, who completed undergraduate and graduate degrees at Yale University in 2009 and 2010, used her background in public health and the history of science to create her company, which focuses on beauty products that also aid the user’s health.

“We really want to connect with people and help them live healthier lives,” Henderson said. “We really want to normalize this idea of self-care and self-love.”

While BLK + GRN caters to women of color, the store’s ultimate goal is to make sure that all people can find the best products for their specific skin or hair type by placing them all together on one site.

“No matter what someone’s restrictions, we really want to make sure that we have products on our platform that meet their needs and that help unite them with products that they wouldn’t have found otherwise,” she said.

Some of the brands, like Hanahana Beauty, take a hands-on approach to supporting women beyond their products by partnering with groups like Katariga Women’s Group to use shea butter made by women in Ghana in their products.

Henderson formerly worked as a hospital administrator at John Hopkins Hospital and sees her new company as a way to approach health in a different way. Through her store, she is able to teach others about natural products and their benefits in an effort to show women how to care for their bodies without harmful chemicals that can be found in most conventional beauty products.

“That’s where the idea of BLK + GRN came from, the idea of being able to help people early on,” Henderson said.

But Henderson said these products tend to be higher priced due to their natural ingredients and the small batches that artisans make of each product. The face cleansers range from $12 to $22, while bath products like soaps and bath bombs cost between $6 and $35.

Her plans for the company include one day partnering with vendors that currently sell through the site to create exclusive content made just for BLK + GRN, she said.

Henderson said a lot of the artisans who sell on BLK + GRN have gone through a journey of learning to prioritize themselves and value self care for their products.

“It’s not something that happens overnight,” she said. “You have to learn how to love yourself and how to take care of yourself, how to prioritize yourself and not feel guilty about that, and just be honest about who you are.”

By creating a site dedicated to promoting self-care and well-being, Henderson aims to inspire girls and women everywhere to embrace their goals. She said when she was young she wanted to be a doctor, but in shifting her career path to match her current interests, she wants to inspire others to do the same.

“We really want to empower women to find their voice and find their passion and chase it and be unashamed about chasing it,” Henderson said. “Supporting BLK + GRN and supporting the artisans is really supporting women on their journey to find happiness and do the things that fulfill them.”

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