Written by Kerri Hardy
Kerri Hardy is an African-American writer that publishes on inclusion.
Shontay Lunday, the founder of black girl sunscreen, describes how she first embarked on her journey to becoming the CEO of a multimillion-dollar company. “I grew up in upstate New York. My first job as a teenager was having a paper route where I established a strong work ethic and learned to be responsible. I carried these traits through college, a master’s degree, and corporate America before becoming the entrepreneur that I am today.” While most business execs are hardworking and ambitious people, Shontay had something special. From her own personal experiences of living as a black woman in a world dominated by white beauty standards, the brilliant business idea of Black Girl Sunscreen was born.
Shontay says, “I got started with Black Girl Sunscreen because I was tired of looking in vain for a sunscreen that was non-toxic and could rub into my skin tone without leaving a white cast. From there, I realized that there was a major gap in the market, and I decided to take matters into my own hands by creating Black Girl Sunscreen. My life experience as being a black woman has influenced the mission and the core values behind Black Girl Sunscreen.” Likewise, as Shontay simply looked back on her life, she found her target customer, and Black Girl Sunscreen not only became something personal but a promise to her community. “Black women have been consistently ignored by both the beauty and the sun care industry with a lack of representation. Based on this, it's been a part of our mission to make a space for us and to finally include black people into the discussion. Our mission is to spread awareness about sun safety to people of color and to encourage the use of sunscreen.”
Shontay is dedicated to spreading awareness about UV radiation and sun damage because she believes that skincare is a privilege that must be democratized to all people, especially black people. Shantay expresses that sunscreen’s lack of use by people of color “comes from the myth that black don’t crack.” This myth is actually rooted in the deeper myth that people of color have become immune over time to harmful things throughout history. While this community has been very resilient, self-care and wellness remain crucially important. For that reason, Shontay conveys, “I believe the myth that black women don't need sunscreen stems from the way we were raised. Oftentimes, we've heard the phrase "black don't crack" when that is simply just not the case. While we grew up learning about the importance of lotion to prevent being dry or ashy, we never learned the importance of protecting ourselves with suncare to protect against hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, and skin cancer.”
Likewise, the lack of suncare use in the African-American community is not a trivial beauty issue of skin tone. It’s a skincare issue. Therefore, Shontay is deeply committed to changing things. “When it comes to the lack of product availability for black women, there is truly no answer to justify this. Black women are major key players when it comes to the skincare and beauty industry and quite frankly, we've been ignored. We seem to be a second thought. This may occur because of the lack of research and development on black consumers. How will brands know which products cater to us if they aren't researching our shopping habits or trends? This also may occur because some brands seem to only include black women when it's convenient for their political aesthetic such as the Black Lives Matter movement. Overall, to improve this situation, brands need to consider the market share and be organic when it comes to being diverse and inclusive.”
To Shantay, everyone has the right to be included within the idea of beauty. And anyone, no matter their skin tone, is worthy of feeling beautiful, happy, and clean through skincare.
“To me, skincare is empowering because when you're confident in the way you look, you feel better about yourself. Skincare doesn't mean perfect skin, it means you're taking care of yourself by nurturing the skin that you're in. Overall, it's empowering when you're using quality products from credible brands to take care of yourself.”