• In Kenya, the beauty and cosmetics industry has become the new hub of investment that is pulling in both foreign and local entrepreneurs to establish new lines of beauty products.
  • Despite its attractiveness, however, 70% of women say they still don't feel represented in the images they see on beauty brands every day.
  • This contradiction propelled by mainstream beauty industry is what pushed one Brenda Wangeci to launch her beauty line targeting ordinary African women.

The beauty industry is one of the biggest money spinners in the world today. It is valued at $532 billion, according to a new report from retail analytics firm Edited.

It is no wonder why everyone wants a slice of the fast growing industry from wealthy business magnets in the west and Asia to enterprising entrepreneurs in Sub Saharan Africa. 

In Kenya, the beauty and cosmetics industry has become the new hub of investment that is pulling in both foreign and local entrepreneurs to establish new lines of beauty products.

A cosmetic shop in Kenya. (Coastweek)
A cosmetic shop in Kenya. (Coastweek)

As of 2017, Kenya’s color cosmetics market was estimated to be worth Sh5.4 billion and was expected to hit upwards of Sh 6.6 billion by the end of 2018.

Despite its attractiveness, however, the beauty industry is packed with lies, half truths and utter ugly facts that has refused to go away. To date, global brands continue to impose unrealistic beauty standards, presenting a narrow view of who women are, what they should look like, and what they can achieve.

As a result, 70% of women say they still don't feel represented in the images they see on beauty brands every day, according to a survey done by Dove in partnership with Getty Images and Girlgaze early this year dubbed #ShowUs.

Somebody had to stand up for African women

Brenda Wangeci, founder, Untamed Beauty Kenya.
Brenda Wangeci, founder, Untamed Beauty Kenya.

Ordinary African women have it even harder and continue to be fed with lies that only ‘lighter and thinner’ women are the true definition of beauty.

This pure contradiction further propelled by Kenya’s mainstream beauty industry is what pushed one Brenda Wangeci to say enough is enough and launch her beauty line targeting ordinary everyday women often shunned and looked down upon by beauty brands.

“Untamed Beauty is a cosmetic line which focuses on providing luxury high quality products for less to the Kenyan/ African woman in mind while shattering all stereotypes of beauty.” Wangeci, the founder of Untamed Beauty told Business Insider SSA.

Untamed Beauty Kenya.
Untamed Beauty Kenya.

Brenda, who in her 20’s modelled for fashion designers in Asia and Middle East and too many times was passed for a job because she was either too short, too skinny or too dark, says she is on a mission to disrupt and diversify the existing beauty ideal. 

“I’ve always been passionate about the Beauty industry and I knew when I quit my corporate career I would get into it.”

And so when she quit her 9am - 5pm job as a lawyer specializing in compliance, she decided to create a product that celebrates African ordinary women not vilify them.

“I was inspired by the fact that the local market is ready for Kenyan brands that are authentic, designed with the Kenyan market in mind while providing great quality. I’m also inspired to be in the game and being a rebel who shatters all stereotypes of beauty while sending the message to all Kenyan/African women to show up unapologetically and feel beautiful in their own skin.” says Ms. Wangeci.

The birth of untamed Beauty

Brenda Wangeci uses models who represents ordinary women on the streets and features natural Kenyan women of all shades and shapes you won’t otherwise see on billboards.
Brenda Wangeci uses models who represents ordinary women on the streets and features natural Kenyan women of all shades and shapes you won’t otherwise see on billboards.

Ms. Wangeci then pumped her entire life saving worth Sh6 million ($ 60,000) and launched untamed Beauty Kenya with ordinary Kenyan women in mind. 

“I also wanted to bridge the gap by offering luxurious products for less. Most luxurious products are highly priced and out of reach for most Kenyans. Untamed beauty offers high quality products that are affordable.”

So far, her company has five products ranging from Lipsticks, Eye Shadows, Face serums, to Anti-aging hair spray. African skin tends to dry up and become ashy when dry and most beauty products in the market today don’t offer much help since most of them were made with white women in mind, Wangeci says untamed beauty is different. 

“Our quality is top notch but affordable. Our products have been designed with Kenyans/ Africans in mind. From the shades and hues. We are Kenyan and we will sell Kenya to the World.

We source our lipsticks and eye shadows from Korea. Our Serums are made in Paris, France. Our Shea butter is from Northern Uganda while our Anti-Aging gray spray is from Egypt.”

Going local 

 Untamed beauty incorporates local slang words in their products to connect with Nairobi’s millennials and those young at heart.
Untamed beauty incorporates local slang words in their products to connect with Nairobi’s millennials and those young at heart.

To endear herself with Kenyan women, Wangeci uses models who represents ordinary women on the streets and features natural Kenyan women of all shades and shapes you won’t otherwise see on billboards.

She has also incorporated local slang words in her products to further connect with Nairobi’s millennials and those young at heart.

“We decided to name our products in a way that the Kenyan market could relate. It has been received very well by the market.”

Her business has not been short of its fair share of challenges though. Her main challenge is lack of local capacity to fulfil her orders.

“We must source everything from abroad. Even the containers. For instance, I couldn’t get containers to package our shea butter locally and I had to buy the containers from India. Another challenge is that we are up against major international players who have a massive marketing budget. Convincing the market that our products are just as good as the international players if not better but also more affordable.”

Best move of her life

Untamed Beauty is a cosmetic line which focuses on providing luxury high quality products for less to the Kenyan/ African woman in mind while shattering all stereotypes of beauty.
Untamed Beauty is a cosmetic line which focuses on providing luxury high quality products for less to the Kenyan/ African woman in mind while shattering all stereotypes of beauty.

That said, Ms Wangeci is glad she made the move to take on the global beauty industry worth $532 billion and she is currently enjoying her small victories as she eyes the ultimate price.

“One of our eye palette – NairoBerry went viral which made Kenyans curious about us. Our campaign video was also received very well as most women could see themselves in our models. So far we have received great reviews on our eye palettes and lipsticks as well.”

At the end of it all, Ms Wangeci says it is time African women show up unapologetically and be their true selves knowing that they are beautiful just the way they are.

“The time for Kenya and Africa is now. The whole world is looking at us and this is the time to show what we are made of. It’s an exciting time to be alive. We are changing the narrative one day at a time.”