Thursday, May 30, 2024

How Ami Colé’s Lip Oil Became an Affirmation for Black Women

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“Oh my god?! You use this gloss, too—I love it!” I exclaimed to Kailyn Brown, a DJ and culture journalist at LA Times, over lunch one summer evening.

It was our first time hanging out, and while touching up our makeup after enjoying tacos and tasty mocktails, we both began to apply a fresh coat of the Ami Colé Lip Treatment Oil. The moment was special. Tender, funny, lighthearted, and distinctly satisfying—but why?

There is something delicious about topping off a glam look with glossy lips. Whether coating the edges in dark brown liner for added flair or atop au naturale lips or lipstick, glossy lips remain a cherished beauty ritual. It can instantly elevate an underwhelming lip color and serve as a reminder that you can look and admire but don’t touch. While tinted balms embrace subtlety, glossy lips boldly proclaim, “I’m that girl.” Each swipe displays the plump, pouty fullness and multi-toned richness of my Blackness.

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From the corner beauty supply shop to Ultas and Sephoras, the market has many options to help us attain that picture-perfect sheen. However, my go-to is the Ami Colé Lip Treatment Oil. It comes in five shades with a doe-foot applicator for a seamless first swipe; it provides an ultra-glossy finish with no stickiness and boasts good-for-you ingredients like baobab oil (assists with lip hydration), camellia seed oil (provides antioxidant protection), and passion fruit seed oil (helps retain moisture and keep lips soft and supple). After the lip oil repeatedly popped up–literally and figuratively–during social hangouts with other Black women, it became clear I was far from the only one with a soft spot for the item.

“Although they are in Sephora now, when they first launched, it felt like only the real girlies know what’s up—the real ones know what Ami Colé is,” laughs Brown, reflecting on her dedication to glossy lips since the early 2000s and the resonance Lil Mama’s hit song “Lip gloss”–a quintessential millennial bop–had with her as a teen. “I’ve never been a lipstick girl or one to use too much color,” says Brown, who opts for clear and tinted balms that accentuate her natural lips. “Lip gloss just completes the look. It’s always the last and most exciting step of the makeup process for me. Black women, including myself, used to get made fun of for having ‘larger lips’ even though that’s aesthetic and trendy now. But wearing lip gloss was my way of reclaiming that and empowering myself. Like no, my lips are beautiful, and they’re glossy as fuck.”

Lip Treatment Oil

Lip Treatment Oil

Similarly to Brown, the idea that something as simple as lip gloss could be both a meaningful tool for adornment and a way to casually rebuke anti-Black sentiments about our features resonates deeply. “Even beyond this being a product made by a Black woman who really sees other Black women and wants us to feel seen, it’s just a good fucking product. Period,” says Brown, referring to Glossier alum turned Ami Colé founder and CEO Diarrha Ndiaye-Mbaye. “My lips feel so good and moisturized, and I have a color for every occasion: brown is for the nighttime when we’re trying to be a little spicy, pink is when we’re trying to be flirty and cute during the day, clear could be anything. The Ami Colé lip oil made me feel–” Brown pauses, taking a moment to put words to her feelings, “It felt like an affirmation.”

Happy customers sharing sentiments like this fill Ndiaye-Mbaye with immense joy. Community was always top of mind for the founder, a proud Senegalese who grew up off of 125th Street in Harlem, when launching Ami Colé in 2021. “For Black women, lip gloss has always been a rite of passage into the beauty world from young,” says Ndiaye-Mbaye, recounting the sweet nostalgia of trips to the beauty supply store to get an extra shiny lip gloss in her favorite flavor in her earlier years. “I remember Missy Elliott rocking high-shine, purple lips and you simply could not tell her anything. Basking in her beauty, her full features, and her light, that was a part of the revolution. That’s why when I was formulating the Lip Treatment Oil, that old-school shine was necessary. We all know that feeling of putting on your lip gloss and making you feel like you’re IT. We’re in the business of accentuating what you already have—never masking it.”

Brooke DeVard, creator and host of the popular beauty and self-care podcast Naked Beauty, shares the same enthusiasm for Ami Colé as someone who’s closely observed the brand’s growth since its inception. “When you see someone else out with the Ami Colé, it’s like, okay girl, I see you, wink wink. It’s this acknowledgment of taste in terms of beauty products,” says DeVard, who considers the lip treatment oil a “phenomenal product” created with intention and one of the best lip products she’s ever tried.

“When we look at our makeup bags, how many of the products in there are Black-owned? I’m so much more excited to post about getting to the bottom of an empty tube of Ami Colé than some big luxury brand with millions of dollars of marketing behind them,” continues DeVard. “Ami Colé has done such an incredible job of portraying women of color and [championing] that ‘no makeup’ makeup look that we’ve seen so much on our non-Black counterparts, but we haven’t necessarily had it marketed to us or sold to us. People can [see] that [founder Diarrha Ndiaye] is an innovator in [the beauty space] and that’s what makes people proud to support her products.”

Ami Colé’s lip oil evokes the distant thrill of encountering other Black people rocking a Telfar bag in the brand’s earlier years. Having an Ami Colé gloss on hand is a marker that you’re a cool person with taste, a fellow person drawn to creative outputs crafted with intention and love for Black people. Intention is at the heart of the adoration for the Ami Colé lip treatment oil, which is why it feels good to support a brand made by us, for us.

“I want Ami Colé to be that older sister who passes down experiences, lessons, love—the older sister that’s always putting you on to the latest,” says Ndiaye-Mbaye, reflecting on the brand’s resonance with beauty enthusiasts and conscious shoppers. “To witness this happening with the Lip Treatment Oil truly makes me elated and reminds me why I am doing what I am doing. It keeps me going when the road feels tough.”

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Martine Thompson

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Martine Thompson is an artist and writer. She’s passionate about exploring mental health, TV & film, perfume, and different facets of beauty culture.

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