19 Black Women Who Broke Beauty Boundaries & Made History

The beauty industry has made a lot of progress over the years thanks to the tireless work of women of color. Doors flew open when Madam C.J. Walker invented her hair-care line for curls over a century ago. Endless styling possibilities emerged after Lyda Newman introduced a more efficient, synthetic hair brush in 1898 and Theora Stephens patented the modern-day curling iron in 1980. Old-school mindsets shifted when, in 1974, Beverly Johnson graced the cover of American Vogue. More recently, young girls were inspired when Lupita Nyong’o was named Lancôme’s very first Black beauty ambassador.

While there is still a long way to go toward accommodating women with darker complexions and offering products for those with textured hair, many mainstream brands, like Bobbi Brown, L'Oréal Paris, and Revlon, have done an outstanding job of acknowledging women of colour as key consumers.

This level of progress leads us to reflect on a select group of Black women responsible for major advances in beauty over the years, including many of the firsts that have helped push the industry forward. Now more than ever, it's time to celebrate female accomplishment and push for greater change. Ahead, see 19 game changers in the hair, makeup, and modelling worlds.

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