Too often, the best beauty stories go Untold, solely based on a person's skin color, religion, gender expression, disability, or socioeconomic status. Here, we're passing the mic to some of the most ambitious and talented voices in the industry so they can share, in their own words, the remarkable story of how they came to be — and how they're using beauty to change the world for the better. Up next: Shontay Lundy, founder of the POPSUGAR Beauty Award-winning brand Black Girl Sunscreen.
I grew up not having a lot of knowledge of skin care. I was washing my face with Dove before the age of 23 when I went to my first dermatology appointment, and that was for a few different reasons. The women around me — my grandmother and my mother — weren't really into skin care, and I didn't really need much. I, fortunately, didn't have issues with acne — I'd get a pimple here and there, but my skin was pretty clear.
When I started working in corporate America, with the steady paycheck and health insurance came a copay of like $30 to go to the dermatologist. I went, and she asked me what I washed my face with, and when you tell a healthcare professional that you wash your face with soap, they cringe. So she was like, "OK, well, I have a cleanser for you." I was hooked on that cleanser forever, and then it was discontinued. I had to quickly pivot and find a cleanser and moisturizer that I was rocking with for 10 years. It wasn't until I became a woman of the sun — traveling a lot, enjoying outdoor activities, and just finding that glow from within — that I decided I had to start protecting my skin from the sun. I created Black Girl Sunscreen, and that was the first time I wore sunscreen in a daily capacity.
"It's not about selling sunscreen, it's about knowing the pros, the cons, the benefits, and the dangers of wearing and not wearing sunscreen."
Some people are on missions to start beauty brands with a roster of products, but my story was a little bit different. Black Girl Sunscreen started off with one product (now we have three). I had this product, and I wanted women of color to be able to get sun protection that wouldn't leave them with a white residue. Fast forward to 2015, and our influence resonated with the community to do something different than what we were raised to do. To change the behavior of an adult is very difficult. It's exciting, but at the same time, we work very hard. I truly believe that, regardless of what you do, if you work very hard, then the reward will come. We're happy that people are becoming educated on sun safety, and that's really what we wanted at the end of the day. It's not about selling sunscreen, it's about knowing the pros, the cons, the benefits, and the dangers of not wearing sunscreen.
Pitching my idea was pretty anxiety-filled because you don't know what an investor is looking for or what's going to pull at their heartstrings. It could be the social impact it has, it could be your product alone, it could be your demographic, it could be because you're extremely profitable. I think the unknown was the hardest part, as well as finding someone who aligns with who we are and understanding that Black Girl Sunscreen isn't for everyone, and that's OK!
Black Girl Sunscreen, to me, serves as motivation, inspiration, and empowerment. It's really the community that we're building. The community telling their friends and their loved ones about the pros of sun protection. The BGS team, we're everywhere we can be. That could be at events, trade shows, beauty expos — it's having these conversations on video and television to engage with people. Because not everyone will have an open mind to this product, but you can't just do a one-and-done. It has to be continuous and consistent.