Male founders of All Shades Covered speak on their beauty platform for WOC

Channel 4 News reported that black women in the UK spend six times more on haircare products than white women. But what is the beauty buying experience like for black women, who are essentially, the jewels in crown of this burgeoning beauty industry?

Sanmi Ogunmola and Tommy Williams (who made it into the Forbes List – ’30 under 30′) met in Nigeria while working for a fashion and beauty internet startup company. It was challenging for customers navigating the fragmented beauty industry in Nigeria and upon return to the UK, the duo noticed similar challenges here. Flash forward and the e-commerce beauty platform All Shades Covered (ASC), was created, with the aim of providing women of colour (WOC) a seamless and efficient customer experience.


Photo credit: Forbes / ASC

What was the trigger for the inception of ASC?
Both of us have sisters and we’re aware of the effort and time black women spend on sourcing hair products, finding a salon to do their hair and the amount of time spent getting their hair done. Using our e-commerce backgrounds, we saw an opportunity to improve this experience.

When did ASC launch?
We spent months doing research and speaking to people, then had a soft launch of the website in October 2016, where we invited some people to buy hair extensions from the site. We also had some organic traffic generated via word of mouth.

“Coming from an investment banking background, my family were a bit unsure about me moving into hair and beauty, especially when I moved to Nigeria, as I’m not Nigerian.” Now they can see that ASC has become a reality, they’re a lot more at ease.” – Tommy

How did you choose the name, ‘All Shades Covered’?
It’s quite direct and describes whom we aim to cater for. Black and mixed-raced women come in all different shades and tend to receive an inferior level of service when it comes to their beauty needs – which we want to change. This doesn’t stop women of other races from buying our products if they also cater to their needs.

Has there ever been any confusion over what ASC means?
It’s quite funny actually, when we first started some people thought we are a gossip site because of the ‘shade’ / ‘throwing shade’ term. Others thought we sold make up and nude tights. However, when you visit the website it’s very clear that we provide hair extensions and products, so people are catching on.

How does ASC help the avid beauty consumer?
As well as selling hair products and extensions, we can also guarantee the quality of the hair as we know where it comes from. We deliver hair extension purchases within 3 working days, so that customers can get their hair done within that same week. We’re starting with hair products and will branch out into other beauty products, providing customers with a holistic beauty experience.

How did you decide what types of hair extensions to sell?
We did some market research and sent out a survey but the responses were quite varied, from customers preferring straight to lose curl extensions and everything in between! So, we started off with 3 style textures – curly, body wave and straight at 12 -24 inches.

“Selling hair extensions and products for natural hair aren’t mutually exclusive. Some natural hair women use extensions and wigs as a form of protective styling.” – Tommy

How do you ensure the quality of the hair extensions you sell?
We have partners on the ground in China who quality check the hair on various parameters such as, hair shedding rates and strength before and after washing. The hair isn’t Chinese hair, it’s just that the processing factories we work with in China have been able to streamline the hair production process while maintaining quality.

With your focus on hair extensions, do you feel ASC alienates a section of its current target market – black women who have gone natural?
We have hair care products suitable for women with natural hair and those who wear extensions and/or have relaxed hair, so we cater for all segments of our target market. We’re fully aware of the natural hair movement, but also acknowledge, that hair extensions account for a significant proportion of the market and hair style choices of many black women. We also have a blog with tips on how to look after natural hair and maintaining hair extensions /weaves.

How do two men provide tips on looking after natural hair and hair extensions?
Our team is made up of predominately women and we’re about to take two of them on a permanent basis. Some have natural hair, others wear hair extensions – they’re active on social media, passionate and knowledgeable about hair and beauty. We get a lot of advice from them.



Photo credit: ASC

Do you sell any UK haircare brands?
Yes, we do and we’ve recently added some to the site.

Is the ASC customer base only in Europe?
Currently Europe is our biggest market (especially Italy and France), but we’ve also seen some organic customer growth in parts of Africa, including Nigeria, Sierra Leone and South Africa. Expanding into Africa is also key goal for us in the future.

“Because the industry is so fragmented we have ASC hair reps – hair stylists selling our hair extensions to their clients, after which they receive a commission.” – Sanmi

As a new business in a crowded market are you worried about competition?
We like competition, it’s motivation! We’ve done our research and focus on providing the best customer experience. We’re aware of the competition but that doesn’t deter us from our own plans.

Any exciting developments?
Dyed hair extensions and kinky hair! We’ve had a few requests on these, so we’re listening to our customers.

What does the future hold for ASC?
We want to be a renowned beauty brand online and on the high streets.

You can check out the ASC website, which currently has a 20% spring sale and keep up with them on Twitter.

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Black hair and beauty, hair extension, kinky hair, ombre wigs, makeup for black women, natural hair, hair extensions, weave, hair weaves, black beauty


Is buying makeup becoming too techy?

Whether behind the scenes or at the forefront, technology has been used in cosmetics for years. Whether it be skin, dental or body enhancements. But now technology is becoming an integral piece of the customer buying experience, when it comes to every day makeup.

Walking through the makeup counters during Christmas sales in some of London’s department stores, women are still buying makeup in person. Although, as our lives become busier and with the increased use of personal technology devices, it seems nothing can escape the technology age.

I’ve sat in the chair at a beauty counter, where the MUA tries different shades of blush, eye shadow or face powder. It can be a nice feeling, having your own personal MUA whose only aim is to make you (hopefully) look good/feel great (so they can make that all important sale of course!). However, do we really need that human personalised touch or can we just do it ourselves?

Screenshot credit: L’Oreal website

To name only a couple, L’Oréal’s Shade Genius and No7 Match Made apps, have given consumers the independence to find their own ‘perfect’ makeup match.

I don’t think MUA’s at cosmetics counters will become obsolete from our department stores, but their necessity will diminish, as cosmetic brands embrace technology and put the power in our hands.


make up, lipstick, lip gloss
You can try on lipstick virtually to find a shade you like.

Screenshot credit:


Even smaller brands like, The Lip Bar have a section on their website where you can virtually test which lipsticks and glosses suit you, then buy at the click of a button. You’re busy, on the go, don’t have the time to pop into a shop; select the face shade that is closest to yours and voila!

darkskin models
@Ohwaawaa is the model and face of The Lip Bar

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Is Black Beauty still in the shadows? Iman and Philomena discuss

Yes, we are still talking about this issue, why? Because it’s still an issue! There has been an effort by big brands to make foundations for darker skin tones. In 2014, Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o became the first black ambassador for Lancôme. In 2016 L’Oréal UK launched #YoursTruly campaign, where they expanded their foundation range covering 23 shades.

This is all great, but darker shades are not always accessible on the high street for the everyday woman. British plus-size model, Philomena Kwao caught up with the legendary African Supermodel, Iman to discuss.

Iman face powder has been my staple for years, I love it! Before using it I didn’t wear face powder as I never found a shade I was completely happy with. Even when I had acne, I didn’t wear makeup partly because I didn’t have confidence I’d find my shade but also because I didn’t want to add anything else to my already troubled skin.

Iman cosmetics

It’s good that big brands are expanding their ranges, but I don’t think we should just give our money to them on a plate. There are other brands which have included products for darker skin tones a part of their core ethos and we should be supporting them too!

L’Oréal was established in 1909, and in 2016 they expanded their range. Hmmm…ok, I guess as the saying goes “better late than never”, can be applied here?

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Black model survival kit

The Fashion industry is definitely being called to account on its failings in providing an environment where all models are provided with the services required to do their jobs. These failings are chronic; the only reason they’re coming to light is because of social media and the fact that black models are just fed up!

It seems like, black models can’t just turn up to work and expect a makeup artist to have products that complement their skin, oh no no no! They need to be prepare just in case… This isn’t an issue 100% of the time, but it’s more prevalent than it should be, especially as it occurs at international shows.

If you’re a stylist / make up artist / hairdresser on an international model show, you need to be prepared. Just like any other job, in any other industry – be prepared/ equipped to do your job. Some argue it’s laziness but I also think it’s ignorance. Part of a solution to the problem is to just have more ethnic make up artists, who understand skin of colour and different hair textures. We don’t just need diversity on the runway but behind the scenes too!


Leomie Anderson
The (Victoria) secret’s out! Leomie Anderson walks the runway during the 2015 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show (Photo by Michael Stewart/FilmMagic)

Discovered while she was at school, twenty-something model from London, Leomie Anderson, modelled for Victoria secret, Tom Ford, Chloe, Moschino, and Vivienne Westwood.  Leomie has been very vocal about her black model experiences in the fashion industry and felt compelled to help her fellow models out, buy laying down what’s in her ‘model survival kit’.

Hairdresser at fashion show: “Why do you think you need different products from everyone else?”

Leomie Anderson: “Babes, ’cause I’m a totally different race, of course I need different products!”


Pictures: Premier Model Management

After modelling for around six years, Leomie dishes out what she believes are the top 5 products every black model needs to survive at fashion shows.



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Get nude for Valentine’s Day

I love Stylist Magazine; apart from being free there is always a range of interesting topics applicable to women of different races. Although I’ve seen some men reading it on the train too!

Stylist has done live debates about the lack of make-up for darker skin tones including the nude debate. Models from different ethnic backgrounds have featured in the magazine, which advertises a range of beauty products including afro haircare brand, Mizani (L’Oreal seem to want to cater for afro hair now. Or maybe it realises there are ££££ to be made). Of course I’m aware that other publications feature health and beauty topics related to women of different ethnicities, but as a mainstream publication Stylist has become more inclusive.

Why was I impressed when Stylist printed a double page spread called “African Beauty”, by Suzanne Scott, highlighting the natural resources of the Motherland which have become staple in western beauty products?

The fallacy that western and Asian beauty ingredients (which do have their benefits) are superior to those from Africa is ebbing away. From the solid mounds of Shea butter made across the continent including Ghana / Nigeria, to baobab tree seed oil harnessed in Botswana / Zimbabwe and marula tree oil from Namibia / Swaziland, Africa’s raw materials have been used by its people for centuries. It seems that fighting acne, stretch marks and maintaining soft cleansed skin is important to women (and men) around the world and has been so for thousands of years.

From a simple nut...Shea butter a.k.a Ori, ghariti, Nku Photo:
From a simple nut…Shea butter a.k.a Ori, Ghariti, Nku

With beauty comes nudity.
There’s been a growing trend toward nude makeup; giving the illusion that you’re not actually wearing makeup or of a more ‘natural’ look.  This nude style has slipped into fashion, with dresses and shoes also advertised as ‘nude’. Up until now, I’ve been on my own silent protest regarding ‘nude’ products, mainly because the majority of them are not nude for all!

Does this matter?

Yes it does.

If a company makes a dress, shoe or eye shadow for example, and calls it ‘nude’, it’s supposed to represent the natural colour of skin. If only one colour is defined in this way, then every other natural tone is excluded. Personally, I’ve never bought a product described as nude that doesn’t resemble my skin colour because it’s false advertising or is targeted at a specific consumer, which obviously isn’t me!

I’ve been lucky to find tights that match my skin tone (described as ‘chocolate’ on the label) locally by a brand called Gypsy, but this hasn’t always been easy. Thank goodness there are other brands providing more choice for ‘nude’ tights including a variety of skin tones, such as Brun et Noir Hosiery. Before Marks & Spencer started selling ‘chocolate’ tights they, like most high street stores had ‘nude/natural/tan’ tights which only came in one shade. It’s not just hosiery that has limited the description of ‘nude’ to one shade; the makeup industry has been culprit too. This is why when I saw the article in Stylist ‘This is not the only nude’, I thought, “at last someone states the obvious!” The title sums up the article perfectly; in it there are six broad categories for skin tones and natural coloured makeup which compliments each tone with the quote:

“Now is the time to reclaim the word ‘Nude’ to mean shades unique to the user.”

Hit the nail on the head!

You shouldn’t need an excuse to treat yourself but Valentine’s Day is hot on our heels, whatever your relationship status find your nude, and treat yourself!

The categories according to Stylist are below (I’ve added in pics of celebs who I think fit into each) 🙂

Type 1 – Very fair, always burns in the sun, hardly tans

Patsy Palmer - Eastenders' finest Photo:
Patsy Palmer – Eastenders’ finest











Type 2 – Fair, burns in the sun, tans with difficulty

Lucy Liu - Charlie's Angel Photo: Huffington Post
Lucy Liu – Charlie’s Angel
Photo: Huffington Post
















Type 3 – Fair, burns but tans gradually

Aishwarya Rai - Bollywood favourite Photo: Bing Images
Aishwarya Rai – Bollywood favourite
Photo: Bing Images













Type 4 -Medium, hardly ever burns, tans with ease

Jessica Alba - Fantastic Four Photo: Bing Images
Jessica Alba – Fantastic Four
Photo: Bing Images














Type 5 – Brown, rarely burns, tans profusely

Michelle Obama - Who is the First Lady of them all? Photo: Bing Images
Michelle Obama – Who is the First Lady of them all?
Photo: Bing Images













Type 6 – Dark brown, deeply pigmented

Lupita Nyong'o - Flying the Kenyan flag in Hollywood Photo:
Lupita Nyong’o – Flying the Kenyan flag in Hollywood

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