In this week’s episode of Lipstick on the Rim, Molly Sims and Emese Gormley, chat with Molly’s dear friend, Nyakio Grieco. Nyakio is the founder of the clean beauty brand, Nyakio Beauty, and most recently Thirteen Lune, an e-commerce platform dedicated to the discovery of Black and Brown-founded brands.
Get ready for discussions on melanin-rich skin, changing the beauty narrative and how she turned pain into purpose.
Nyakio: “I’m a first-generation American of Kenyan descent, and my parents took me to Kenya for the very first time when I was eight years old to meet my grandmother. She was a Kenyan coffee farmer. She didn’t speak a lot of English. I didn’t speak a lot of Kikuyu, and so the way we bonded was spending time on her farm. At the end of the day, she would take Kenyan coffee beans and she would crush them. Then we would add and mix oils in. She also grew rods of sugarcane on her farm and we would pick the sugarcane. We would literally exfoliate and get this like kind of glowing skin. It was a ritual that I practiced with her. So I really believe that’s when my beauty journey began.”
Nyakio shares how she has always purchased beauty products from people who aren’t Black or Brown with the expectation that they would work on her skin and hair. “I personally am working with ingredients that come from the Earth. The Earth doesn’t know what color you are“, says Nyakio.
The heart of her products are the three face oils. Nyakio explains that the face oils are, “an ode to my grandfather and understanding the power of oils to treat the skin.” Nyakio also mentions that the number one seller is their rescue oil. It is an oil that is naturally colored green, and when you add green to redness and irritation it soothes that targeted area. “People with any kind of irritation or redness in their skin love it. It gives you that glow from the inside out“, says Nyakio.
“I’ve always preached that you have to use oil to fight oil. I think the easiest way to understand it is that our skin is actually made up of oils, and as we age, we lose those oils”, explains Nyakio. She goes on to describe that the best way to treat our skin is, “to feed oil back into your skin.”
She mentions how she is a beauty fanatic and how she always wants to try every treatment, but her dermatologist reminds her that she should only do gentle treatments. “Melanin-rich skin is more prone to things like hyperpigmentation and it is also a little drier.” When it comes to at-home products, “I always say patch test first. Don’t put it all over your face. Patch test, read reviews and always err on the side of clean.”
Molly and Emese ask Nyakio what her experience has been like as a business owner. Nyakio mentions how resilience is not something that is not taught, “it is something you learn through life’s challenges. I think that I have a lot of resilience. Also, I am sharing my own family’s beauty secrets. I am sharing secrets from women around the world who I felt have long been underrepresented in premium beauty. It is almost like I have a duty to get back up on that bike because I have to share these stories.”
“This year was a pinnacle moment of this Black Lives Matter movement and it rocked me as it did so many others. In the summer of 2020, I saw myself and my brand showing up on all of these lists, like top 20 brands to shop, top 20 people. My following and my sales went up 400%, and I thought it was interesting because I wasn’t an overnight success. I’ve been at this for 18 years, but all of a sudden I had all these eyeballs on me and the brand. While was great that we’re selling a lot of products, it was also built on the precipice of this heartbreaking time. I’m laying in bed in tears, worried for the future life of my children. How can I get excited that I’m selling a lot of face oil? I just wanted to lay there and cry and be in a room by myself in the dark, but I had to take my kids to school. Right. It’s that conflict of like, get yourself up. So I did. I decided to take my pain and turn it into purpose.”
“Being a black female founder is what led me to Thirteen Loon.” She discusses how during the summer of 2020 she was looking at all these lists in the magazines and, “I was blown away by how many black-owned brands there were in the world that I had never heard of. And they’re talented and beautiful with stunning packaging and incredible formulation. I’m a black female founder, and I’d never even heard of him. It would take hours to go through one list because there would be a few of us at this retailer, a few of us at this retailer. I couldn’t believe how many beautiful brands there were, and how long it took to shop these lists. There’s so much talent in the world that’s not being harvested. But in my head, I was like, why is there not a retailer that’s housing all of these beautiful brands and that creates products for people of all colors.”
Thirteen Loon launched with 13 black-owned brands. They implemented a 90-10 rule meaning, “90% of our brands will always be brands created by BIPOC founders. Then 10% of our brands are to foster allyship. So that means it’s not necessarily a Black or Brown person who created this brand, but it’s a founder who has long been thinking about melanin-rich skin and textured hair. Their formulations as well as really moving the needle for diversity.”
Molly: We are really believers in backing women. We’re really trying to put the word out there that women are really hard on women and we’re very judgy. We need to slowly start to change that.”
Nyakio: “Absolutely. I think that, especially as women, it’s something that I think I’ve learned we are nurturers. It’s going against our grain to not be kind, to not lift others up to it. It doesn’t feel good. It’s not right. And it doesn’t serve anyone.”
Emese: “I always feel best when I see my girlfriends happy and thriving. When I see someone struggling or I see a friend hurting in our specific group of friends, we all put on our little hats and try to figure out how to fix the problem. How do we fix this? How do we empower? What do we do?”
Nyakio: “I believe that when women come together, magic happens. Women will truly heal the planet. Women will raise really incredible men. And so there’s no choice but for us to come together. I do believe that. So much of that kind of cattiness that exists within women or jealousy or whatever that might be, it’s something I’ve always resisted because I know it comes from a place of pain and I don’t want to feel like I’m in pain. I want to enjoy, and I want to feel gratitude. And so it’s really about serving one another and serving yourself at the same time because it has to start with self-love.”