A Kenyan Entrepreneur is Revolutionising Make-Up in Africa

Pauline Cosmetics
Pauline Cosmetics | © Nelly Tuikong / Pauline Cosmetics
Nandika Macharia

African skin tones and the continent’s climate are important factors to consider when a cosmetic brand begins creating cosmetics for the African market. Brands like Black Opal, Iman and MAC have invested in finding the right shades for African skins across the spectrum. However, the prices of these international brands can be prohibitive, making it necessary to create a reputable homegrown solution. Pauline Cosmetics is that solution, creating affordable cosmetics by an African woman in Kenya for African women all across the continent.

Make-up connoisseurs understand that the right shade of foundation or powder is key to enhancing your features and giving you a natural look, while the wrong shade will make you look white-washed. So what is a beautiful, dark-skinned student from Africa living in the US to do, when there is literally no shade of foundation or powder to match her skin?

As a nursing student in the US, that was the challenge faced by Nelly Tuikong, the founder and director of Pauline Cosmetics. She loved nursing, but the pull to create make-up products for the discerning African woman became so compelling, she left her job as a critical care nurse in the US and relocated back home to Kenya to start her cosmetics company.

Pauline Cosmetics Kenya

Why is Pauline Cosmetics so special?

To begin with, the brand is named after Nelly’s mother, Pauline, as an ode to her. However, that is not the only thing special about it. The brand provides everything from blush, eye shadows, lipsticks and glosses to foundation, make-up brushes, mascara, and concealer, creating a solution for African women in an industry that only offers few options meant to fit the different shades of African skin.

Consider the tones on the African continent—which range from the lighter, caramel skin of Ethiopian women to the deep, rich, dark tones of the Sudanese women—and how absurd it is to create just two shades of foundation or powder and expect it to match such different skins. This imbalance in color variation will become a thing of the past, as in June, 2018, Nelly’s brand will be launching 15 foundation shades, making Pauline Cosmetics the provider of the widest foundation range in East Africa.

The challenges

Since there was no local benchmark to measure her product against, it was quite a task creating the right formulas that would meet the needs of the market. Once that was surmounted, the challenge of getting the products onto cosmetic shelves and having people buy it arose. Most women were skeptical about the product, especially since foreign brands are given such prominence in the industry. However, as more of them used the products, they found it to suit their tones, remain pocket-friendly, and offer an array of products.

Nelly Tuikong, founder and director of Pauline Cosmetics, at work

The legacy: changing the narrative

Pauline Cosmetics is among the African brands changing the narrative on the continent. As more Africans champion African creativity and brands in fashion, beauty, art, tech and music, the continent is becoming more comfortable with homegrown solutions. Nelly aims to leave a legacy for young, upcoming Africans to change the continent’s narrative in their own little way as they grow their brand.

“We are not just about poverty and conflict but also job creation and an inspiration to the rest of the world with our resilience.” Her advice to female entrepreneurs in Kenya is to rise up to the occasion, work hard and not get discouraged. “The industries that need change are not easy to penetrate, but you have to be able to adapt your business model to counter the challenges you face and tweak your product until you begin to realize success. With success should come the desire to dream bigger and refocus your energy to achieve more.”

Colors for our color!

Nelly doesn’t leave her house without her Pauline Cosmetics lipstick, compact powder, and the two-in-one shea-butter-infused lip gloss!

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