On the surface, CC creams appear to be the perfect product. Formulated with the distinctive property of targeting discoloration, color corrective creams offer the all-in-one sunscreen, primer, moisturizer, and foundation power of a BB cream with the bonus of evening out skin tone and fading hyperpigmentation. But where the product category falls notoriously short is in inclusivity. It isn’t rare for brands to bring creams to the market in fewer than five shade offerings, typically in broad classifications like light, light-medium, and medium only.
For Karissa Bodnar, founder and CEO of the buzzy philanthropic brand Thrive Causemetics, the alienation of so many consumers of color was unacceptable, so she decided to do something about it. The result? An 18-shade Buildable CC cream collection with its darkest shade ringing in as one of the darkest available on the market—darker than even the deepest foundation shade from Fenty Beauty, which has come to serve as the standard for what an inclusivity line looks like.
Recently launched on the brand’s website, the new CC cream is oil-, vegan-, paraben-, and sulfate-free, and it’s even formulated with “smart” micropigments that adjust to your skin tone. Shades are divided between four categories—light, medium, rich, and deep—with four to five shade options in each category.
“Most CC creams have high levels of zinc and titanium dioxide to make up their SPF, which in their raw state are pure white,” says Bodnar. “That’s what makes it impossible for these other brands to achieve the darker shades.”
It took three full years of development with scientists, dermatologists, and ophthalmologists to work around the scientific limitations. The result? They created an unprecedented process that adds color to the zinc and titanium dioxide to not only accommodate an inclusive range of tones, but to ensure that the cream wouldn’t leave a white cast on skin. The process also makes the formula HD, which means no camera flashback. It’s a win/win all around.
Even more impressively, to make sure the ambitious 18-shade range was truly inclusive, Bodnar and her team worked with women of color on the formulation, including Essence magazine editors, brand tycoon and influencer Bozoma Saint John, and actress Priyanka Chopra, as well as customers from its Thrive Lab, a community that gives input and tests new products for the brand before they’re officially rolled out. The hard work paid off—when the creams debuted, half of the shades sold out in less than 48 hours, with a significant portion being on the darker end of the range.
“I’m so proud that we’ve been able to create shades that are truly inclusive. It’s so amazing to hear from women who have never been able to wear a CC cream before,” Bodnar says of the women who thank her and the brand on social media daily. “It makes me emotional because I come from a place of privilege; as a Caucasian women I’ve never gone into a store and thought: I can’t use this makeup. So the fact that any woman would ever feel like she can’t use one of our products because of her skin tone makes me so determined to include them. To hear the feedback from women of color, whether they’re Indian or African American, it’s amazing.”
But why is three-year-old Thrive Causemetics the first beauty brand to find its way around the exclusive science? Bodnar met the question with a deep sigh over a phone call.
“I wish I had a clear answer,” she says. “First it makes me sad. Then it makes me mad. Then it just makes me really determined to create something that is inclusive.” She went to explain that the zinc and titanium dioxide needed in the formula is tricky to work around, noting that Thrive Causemetics had to literally reinvent how to create a CC cream. “I don’t think that’s an excuse, though; I want to be really clear about that. You have to keep going until you create a product that is inclusive.”
Let’s hope other brands are out there taking notes, ready and willing to follow suit sooner than later. Women of color deserve that much.
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