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The inception of Hanahana Beauty wasn’t inspired by a grand a-ha moment or a sobby, heart-wrenching background story about knowing your passion from birth. Instead, Abena Boamah’s journey—the former algebra teacher and founder of the luscious shea butter that’s been moisturizing her community since 2017—to launching Hanahana Beauty began with the urge to satisfy her skin desires. “I was ashy and Ghanaian. I grew up with a very minimalist approach to skincare,” she tells ELLE.com. So even with a simple routine, Boamah would find herself mixing different products to combat dryness, be it combining Bath and Body Works lotions or using Vaseline as a base for her concoctions. Then, shea butter came into the picture, leading Boamah down an arduous path that would bring her back home to Ghana in 2017— the place where Hanahana Beauty would eventually begin sourcing her shea for products. That’s the appeal of Hanahana Beauty— in a market oversaturated with products for every skin type and concern— the Chicago-based brand encourages its devotees to come home, as in making a return to a simplified, sustainable, more holistic skin routine.
That’s the thing: Boamah doesn’t do much to her skin. “I always get questions about my skin. How does your skin glow like that? What do you use?” she says. “When we kept doing surveys, everyone was looking for skincare because they were like, Well, okay, now that we got the body covered. What about my face? Can you help me achieve this?
Enter: Skin Nutrition, Hanahana Beauty’s inaugural facial skincare product, launching today, August 17th.
As the name suggests, Skin Nutrition is a mineral-rich powder mask that marries kaolin, willow bark, maca root, and spirulina to detoxify congested skin and restore balance. “There’s a ton of detoxifying masks on the market—some that work here, maybe others that don’t. There are so many claims, but for Hanahana Beauty, we created a certain type that has these ingredients that still stick within our ethos,” Boamah explains.
Boamah spent years sharpening students’ minds with algebra, but at Hanahana Beauty, she teaches the importance of never complicating your skincare routine. A detoxifying clay mask is as simple and effective as they come. “We felt like a mask is a good introduction to our skincare because it follows our brand philosophy that people shouldn’t have to do too much. [Skin Nutrition] does exactly what it says,” she continued.
The goal was to create something that provides a gentle detox but also imparts a healthy glow. “I travel a lot and think a lot about congestion, which was also a common skin issue our customers had, along with having acne-prone skin and not wanting to do something too harsh to their barrier. So Hanahana created something that helps combat those concerns, with clean, naturally-derived products,” she says. Boamah was also able to incorporate a little piece of Ghana in Skin Nutrition with the addition of willow bark, sourced directly from Ghana.
“I wanted to add willow bark for its anti-inflammatory benefits. For us, we love anything that’s promoting cell turnover, especially with a gentle mask because you can only leave it on for a certain amount of time, and you’re not utilizing it daily, so it’s not harsh on your skin,” Boamah explains.
Education is just as integral to the Hanahana Beauty brand as sustainability is. “Working with the chemist, you start to figure out the difference between marketing and actual science,” she adds. Boamah insisted on using a handful of ingredients that customers could read and understand, unlike the ingredients labels on other products with a paragraph full of words disguised under scientific names. “It was one of those things where as a brand, we want to be able to explain what’s in the product. We want to share and not just give the key but let you feel knowledgeable. So it was great to go through this process and learn how to explain things. To be proud to learn about it instead of just Googling one, two on that and allow people to feel educated as to what they’re putting on their skin.”
Her tip for applying Skin Nutrition? Experiment with your base. “I utilize Skin Nutrition weekly or if spots come up, I do it as a spot treatment. With masking, you can do the quick way of just adding some water. Or you can always add different humectants; you can add honey and soft oil, like your face oil. You can also utilize rosewater or like I love to use Tower 28 SOS spray sometimes as my water-base or rosewater as a water base,” she advises.
Of course, self-care looks different for everyone. Project Skin, Hanahana Beauty’s new campaign for Skin Nutrition, brings this notion to life with a photo series. Shot across the world in Ghana, New York, and Chicago, Boamah recruited entrepreneurs, friends, models, and more to “represent all different types of blackness and forms of skincare and self-care,” from Telsha Anderson of NY-based luxury boutique T.A. New York to fashion editor Naomi Elizee to RJZ of Ghanaian rap collective La Même Gang to Boamah’s own brother.
“For Hanahana and how we do our moods and our photos, I’m always trying to just expand the looks of blackness and those types of identities. We try to show different ages. With Project Skin, we wanted to let people see themselves and the raw, untouched image right after removing the mask with a fresh face,” she says. Boamah isn’t pictured in the photo series, but the entrepreneur says her photo would find her in a state of zen, surrounded by nature. “I’ll put my mask on, roll up, and take a walk. I’m always trying to be outside as much as possible,” she says. “That’s why it’s called self-care. You can get inspired by other people, but you have to inspire yourself to take care of yourself. And I think that’s a part of the work, especially when you’re an entrepreneur, or you’re starting a business, is finding moments daily to get the energy to yourself.”
The next stop on her tour is in New York City, where Hanahana Beauty will host its Beauty + Chill pop-up series for customers to experience Skin Nutrition and other Hanahana Beauty staples in person, starting August 20th. As for the future of Hanahana Beauty skincare, Boamah has toyed with the idea of sunscreen for some time. “Everyone is always asking about sunscreen, and honestly, I think it’s down the pipeline, for sure. It’s been thought of, and it’s been written down.” But for now, simple, daily-use products are her focus. ” I think about having the perfect routine, like a gentle cleanser, a serum, oil. So that’s where I’m heading.”
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