For too long, women of color have been underserved and undervalued by the beauty industry. Today, a cohort of powerful BIPOC beauty founders are on a mission to change that. Amongst them is Dr. Melodie Davis-Bundrage, founder of LUV + CO., a clean color cosmetics brand focused on serving the diverse skin tones and skin challenges of women of color. We sat down with Dr. Davis-Bundrage to learn more about her brand, her products, and her vision of the future.
What is LUV+CO.?
LUV + CO. is a conscious color cosmetics brand that helps women of color feel accepted, seen, cared for, and unconditionally beautiful. We celebrate wellness, diversity, spirituality, and the absolute necessity of self-love both physically and emotionally. We believe in unconditional beauty,no matter your skin tone or skin challenges.
How did you start it?
LUV+CO. (originally LUV Mineral Cosmetics) started in 2013 when I won a pitch competition at the esteemed Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia. I competed against 100 other companies seeking investment for their brands. My pitch included the story of my personal skin challenges, health issues that impacted me and my child, the lack of diverse options in clean beauty for my skin tone, and my dissertation research linking toxic ingredients to health disparities in Black women.
After a series of pitches over the course of a full academic year, I was named Next Top Entrepreneur and started the product development and product testing for an extended range of SKUs while also completing my Ph.D. I chose the name LUV for the brand because it was a recurring theme in market research: Black women felt that the beauty industry discriminated against them and didn’t care enough about them to stock quality, healthy products formulated to meet the needs of their skin. They didn’t feel love, so our brand was created to do that.
What sets the brand apart?
LUV + CO. is a Black-owned, conscious, prestige lifestyle brand that centers the needs of women of color in our formulation process. We stand apart because the number of color brands that focus on our segment is minimal.
Gen X and Y women of color need quality color cosmetics to address needs specific to their skin and lifestyles. This may include mixed undertones, deeper skin tones, higher levels of pigmentation, hyperpigmentation, uneven tone, and various types of acne. They want products that represent wellness, modernity, freedom, and artfulness. Color products need to be clean, highly pigmented with safe ingredients, and non-irritating.
Stress impacts our customers’ lives and skin–they need products that not only help relieve this stress but are also multifunctional and easy to use. We offer an edited, stress-free, and multi-functional color regimen for busy professional women of color. Our foundations are formulated with minimal white powder to eliminate gray/ashy tones, match undertones better, and illuminate the skin. Our products also eliminate many ingredients linked to health disparities including talc, parabens, gluten, phthalates, synthetic dyes, and fragrances. The brand is also certified PETA cruelty-free, and some products are vegan.
How do you see it fitting into the market and filling a consumer need?
LUV + CO. fills the need for artisan-quality color cosmetics formulated to help wellness-minded women of color creatively cope with and care for stressed skin. All our products provide moisture, coverage and are long-lasting.
We fit into the marketplace at retailers that cater to Gen X and Y women that appreciate culture, are inspired by color, see beauty through love and acceptance, and shop a full range of healthy color products.
I am a SCAD stress heart attack survivor coping with challenged skin. There are many women like me that need healthy, clean products that cover, blend, and provide color to feel and do their best. Our beauty products and tools empower our customers to live freely, creatively and on purpose.
Does LUV+CO have a mission? If so, can you tell us about it?
Our mission is to help equalize eco-beauty and contribute to a more diverse range of healthier color product offerings. Our goal is to be able to give back primarily to SCAD heart attack research (which is known as the younger, healthy woman’s heart attack) and secondly to ADHD/Autism programs for children of color. We chose these causes because of the scientific links between some make-up ingredients and heart disease and learning disorders in children.
While formulating, we focus on eliminating ingredients linked to health disparities (in Black women in particular) and their children including heart disease, anxiety/mental health, learning disorders, endocrine disruption, and reproductive challenges.
Where would you like to see the brand in the next year? Next five years?
In the next year, I would like to see the brand expand its retail footprint by partnering with an appropriate larger retailer, both on shelf and through e-comm. As a former make-up artist educator, it is my hope to provide brand education and work with merchandising/marketing teams to inspire customers to purchase clean products whether they were originally “looking” for a clean product or not. Within the next five years, I would like to see a growth in the number of retailer doors and the addition of two additional products housed in eco-packaging to round out our line.
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