Red lipstick, big hoops, and a fully made up face are the norm for many of us and when it comes to skincare we’ve also got preferences including aloe vera for burned or dry skin. But that love of beauty is not just a cultural norm for Latinas, it translates to money spent where Latina buyers represent 18.5 percent of its revenue in the U.S., according to NIelsen. Yet Latina-owned beauty brands, especially within clean skincare, are few and far between in major beauty retailers. There are, however, several small Latina-owned skincare lines including clean skincare line Vamigas, which launched this year and was founded by Ann Dunning and Christina Kelmon.
Kelmon has paternal roots in Oaxaca, Mexico and Dunning immigrated to Los Angeles from Chile when she was nine. Vamigas, named after their daughters with a nod to “amigas”, is a labor of love inspired by their heritage. The line came together after these jefas met through an investors network, Pipeline Angels, where they both were investing in BIPOC startups. Kelmon is one of the few Latina investors in Silicon Valley and CEO of the makeup brand Belle en Argent. Working with fellow Latinas only opened their eyes to the importance of representation and the lack thereof in the beauty industry for Latinas.
“No one is targeting Latinas right now and yet the market is huge,” Dunning tells HipLatina. “Clean skincare products are very expensive, avoid marketing to Latinas, or don’t understand how to market to us at all.”
They combined their heritage and their business savvy skills to develop a brand with botanicals from Latin America, many with Indigenous uses for wellness purposes. “The background for wellness ingredients has been essentially erased. Brands are not using things like chia and Rosa Mosqueta with any reference back to where these come from and so consumers have no idea what they’re using and the power of Latin America.”
Rosa Mosqueta is native to southern Chile and was traditionally used for burns and dry skin among the Indigenous people of the Araucana region. This info is shared on their website in the “Ingredients” section where they explain the history, background, and use of the ingredients in their products which reinforces their mission to amplify LATAM botanicals through Vamigas. Rosa Mosqueta is known for its ability to reduce hyperpigmentation and signs of aging and it’s available as an organic oil for the face and body. Dunning says the Rosa Mosqueta is the product she feels embodies the brand because it “crosses the boundaries of generations and also national boundaries.”
Their other products include the Olinda clarifying cleanser with acai, chia, prickly pear, pampas balancing face mist with yerba mate, acai, witch hazel, and aloe vera, and Luz De Sur oil with eight fragrance-free botanicals. The products range from $24-$34 and besides their website are also now available at Nordstrom, Thrive Market, and HSN.com.This focus specifically on being a clean skincare line stems from their journey with In-vitro fertilization where they learned about phthalate/fragrances and their prevalence in beauty products. They cite studies that show a potential correlation between the exposure to phthalates and brain damage in babies. This was in part what inspired them to pay attention to what they put on their skin and they figured other Latinas would be interested in cleaner options that featured ingredients they might already be familiar with.
“To us in clean skincare, part of the problem is this trend right now to use ingredients from south and Central America like Rosa mosqueta, Maracuja etc. but most of these brands have no people from Latinx communities as founders or in leadership – so in a way it’s taking these ingredients from other territories and benefiting off of them with no benefit to the people of those countries,” Dunning shares.
A Women’s Wear Daily report on Nielsen findings shared that Latinas outspent the general market in beauty by 30 percent even amid the pandemic. We make up 14.1 percent of beauty shoppers, but are responsible for 18.5 percent of beauty spending and that’s the market Dunning and Kelmon are tapping into. But for Dunning and Kelmon, it’s about truly uplifting LATAM and Latinas in beauty. Kelmon explains that often when Latinas are included in the wellness space they’re “almost tokenized” and with Vamigas the foundation of the brand is to honor the ingredients of LATAM while helping Latinas feel comfortable in their bodies.
But it’s more than an ingredient list, they’re raising awareness through their website specifically through their “Vamigas” section with posts like “Latina Skincare Secrets Only Your Abuela Knows”. With products and a digital platform catering to Latinas, both founders share that being by and for Latinas is a powerful thing especially when the brand is completely self-funded.
“We like to say we want to decolonize ingredients by owning part of that market and encouraging other Latina entrepreneurs to do so as well but also to encourage clean brands to add cultural context around ingredients they’re using,” Kelmon says. “These ingredients have a powerful history and come from powerful people of the land. It’s as simple as understanding this and sharing that knowledge and honoring cultures you took from.”