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The First Black-Owned Clean Makeup Brand at Sephora Just Hit Stores

With LYS Beauty, founder Tisha Thompson set out to create an inclusive and affordable clean beauty brand.
By Renee Cherry
September 09, 2021
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Over the past 18 years, Tisha Thompson has worked in the beauty industry in various capacities. Originally an accountant and makeup artist on the side, she then transitioned into the product development and marketing side of beauty, a role that gave her a "front-row seat" to product performance and application, an opportunity that delighted her as a makeup artist.

Throughout the years, Thompson noticed a glaring lack of representation in the beauty world and made an effort to push for change. "As I climbed the corporate ladder, I had more autonomy to be able to say, 'Hey, I'd love to do more to showcase diversity and more to showcase communities we may not be creating a product for,'" she says. While vice president of marketing and innovation of the beauty brand PUR, she helped develop a foundation line with 100 (yes, 100) different shades which launched in 2019. Shortly after, she decided it was time for another career transition — this time she'd continue to move the needle as a brand founder. (Related: Black-Owned Beauty Brands You'll Love for Great Hair, Skin, and More)

Thompson went on to launch LYS Beauty (which stands for "love yourself") in February 2021. It hit the Sephora website shortly thereafter and became the first Black-owned makeup brand to meet retailer's Clean at Sephora guidelines. Today, LYS Beauty debuts at Sephora stores nationally.

In February, LYS Beauty launched with a Triple Fix Serum Foundation (Buy It, $22, sephora.com), Secure Skin Gripping Serum Primer (Buy It, $20, sephora.com), No Limits Matte Bronzer (Buy It, $18, sephora.com), Higher Standard Satin Matte Cream Blush (Buy It, $16, sephora.com), Triple Fix Setting Powder (Buy It, $18, sephora.com), and Speak Love Glossy Lip Treatment Oil (Buy It, $12, sephora.com), all under $30 and informed by Thompson's background as a makeup artist.

"Having insight from being on the front line made it so much easier for me to create products that are easy to use, that are functional, that work and perform," says Thompson. The Serum Foundation, in particular, has become the brand's hero product. "With the shade range, we wanted to make sure that there were options for golden, neutral, pink, and red undertones for each shade," she says. They're lightweight yet pigmented enough to show up on all skin tones, a rarity in the clean beauty space, she says. (Related: Why You Should Consider Buying Clean Beauty Products)

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FYI, "clean" doesn't have a standardized definition in the beauty industry. Thompson wanted LYS Beauty to meet the requirements for the Clean at Sephora seal — and then go beyond it. "We look at that, honestly, as a baseline," she says. "That is just to even be in the conversation, to even say things are 'clean,' but we go a step further. We don't use fragrance, silicones, PEGs, glycols." (FYI, fragrance is a common cause of allergic contact dermatitis; silicones are controversial because of their potential effects on the environment once they're washed down the drain; and PEGs and glycols are controversial because they are petroleum-derived.)

That's not to say that Thompson only wanted to focus on what was to be excluded from the products. She wanted to formulate them with ingredients that would benefit skin. She describes the makeup products as "skin-care infused," noting that they were made with common concerns among people of color in mind. "A lot of times you see brands focus on anti-aging and we do have ingredients that could target that," she says. "But one of the biggest things brands don't really focus on is hyperpigmentation and dark spots, and a lot of women of color have challenges with that. So I made sure that almost every product we create has ingredients to help improve that." (Related: How to Deal with Hyperpigmentation In Your Skin)

In launching LYS Beauty, Thompson hoped to fill a persistent gap in the clean beauty space. It seems to be lagging behind the industry as a whole when it comes to speaking to a diverse group of customers, she says, attributing the issue to a lack of women of color in head positions at clean beauty companies. "Creating the products to make sure that they work for everybody and being diverse can't be an afterthought," she says. "It has to be a part of your strategy."