“There’s no need to be ashy.” This directive from Chicago-based Hanahana Beauty comes as a perfect reminder as colder months approach and protecting our skin from the city’s bristling wind becomes a high priority.
The conscious skincare and wellness brand has come a long way since its founder Abena Boamah-Acheampong began making the brand’s signature shea butter in her three-bedroom apartment in 2017. At the time, she was both a teacher and enrolled in grad school, and still adjusting to Chicago’s brutal winters.
“I started making it because I was stressed and I didn’t really think about it as a business endeavor. I was living in Chicago [for the first time] and those first winters were wild,” says Boamah-Acheampong, who grew up in Columbus, Ohio. “I was like, ‘Wow, I need to create something that makes me feel good in my skin.’ I wanted to create a moment to take care of my skin and be intentional.”
But the Ghanian American founder had not always had a favorable relationship with shea butter.
“Anytime anyone was coming from Ghana, my parents would have them bring shea butter. Anytime my dad went to visit, he would bring shea butter over. It was raw and we were slathering it all over our bodies,” she explains. “My mom would melt it with cloves and add some type of sud and honestly, I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the texture of it. I didn’t like all the work that you had to do.”
As an adult, Boamah-Acheampong sees the beauty in shea and the wonders it does to protect the skin. Hanahana Beauty prides itself on being a transparent, clean beauty brand that does not use harmful products. The company sources its raw shea directly from the Katariga (Suglo) cooperative in Tamale, Ghana. The social impact arm of the company, which they refer to as the Hanahana Circle of Care, pays two times the asking price for their shea butter per kilo. Hanahana also provides biannual health-care days for the Katariga community, in addition to health-care education and hepatitis B vaccinations for Ghanians in the area.
The beauty industry talks a lot about fairness, but often takes advantage of its workers and unethically obtains ingredients used in cosmetics. Hanahana Beauty set a standard for itself to care for its customers while also caring for the communities that make the products possible.
“Within the clean beauty and natural beauty industry, it’s been really whitewashed. It makes it seem like it’s not really accessible to us as Black people, like it’s something new and different. With Hanahana I’m trying to reconnect it back,” says the founder. “We introduced skincare that is aesthetically pleasing, that feels good, that does exactly what it says. For Black people, generally you can feel connected, because not only is it a Black owner, but you see yourself represented in the products, you see the language, and you understand it. You feel like it’s for you.”
Today, Hanahana Beauty has grown to have a full team that works on its lines of exfoliators, lip balms, and other body and facial products. With single products ranging from $12 to $32, Boamah-Acheampong is clear that her company has a ways to go in becoming even more accessible. As she puts it, “sustainability itself is just expensive.” Still, the company reaches communities in other ways through local events in Chicago and throughout the country.
“Everytime I see people (everyone in general, but especially Black people) enjoying and taking care of their health through Hanahana, it brings so much joy for me; seeing them being intentional around their self-care through just skin because I think it’s something that we try to brush over a lot. People say this all the time and it’s true, our skin is our biggest organ,” she says.
In October, Hanahana Beauty held pop-ups in Chicago featuring conversations, yoga classes, facials, and more to connect with its community in person, as it’s primarily an online business.
Next year, Boamah-Acheampong plans to launch Hanahana Beauty in retail stores for the first time and she sees no signs of stopping the brand’s product and communal growth, always taking notes of what Hanahana’s customers want next.
“I want people to have the whole shower experience with Hanahana. Cleansers are something that I’m really interested in. I hope one day—I don’t know when—but sunscreen. I feel like if I ever did sunscreen it would have to be the most top-tier because I already have my favorite sunscreens,” she says. “Daily use products is how I want us to grow with our product development. How can Hanahana be a household name when it comes to your skincare products?”
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