New Brand Añuli Skin Marries African Botanicals, Luxury Positioning, Minimalism And Rigor

People with darker skin tones classified as four, five or six on the Fitzpatrick scale have often been excluded from skincare product testing, but Añuli Skin founders Kelechi Onyemelukwe and Rishea Casselle wanted to make sure that wasn’t the case for their brand.

“As Rishea and I were going through our own skincare journeys, we would come across products that everyone was raving about, but they weren’t working for us,” reflects Onyemelukwe, a nurse by training. “We were like, why are we having these negative reactions? Why is our skin not responding in the same way as everyone else?”

To validate that their skin—or people with skin like them—would have positive reactions to Añuli Skin’s first product, $165 Daily Supplement Serum, Onyemelukwe and Casselle spent a large chunk of the $30,000 they raised through friends and family to start it on human repeat insult patch testing with a group of 58 people and a four-week consumer study with a group of 11 people. Roughly half of the participants were people of color.

Onyemelukwe says, “Upfront, we specifically asked to include different ethnicities and including participants that were four, five and six on the Fitzpatrick scale.” A wide age range was a priority as well. “We had people who were in their early 20s all the way up to their early 70s included in our participation group,” says Onyemelukwe. “As people age and as people mature, we wanted to make sure that we can say our products work for different age ranges as well as ethnicities, skin types and skin tones.”

Not a single person involved in the patch testing experienced a negative reaction, and the consumer study resulted in all of the participants reporting their skin was softer, more moisturized and appeared healthier due to four weeks of Daily Serum Supplement application. In addition to the patch testing and consumer study, Añuli Skin received dermatologist approval.

The brand will release a second product by the end of the year and a subsequent one down the line. Casselle says, “We are working gradually to expand upon our line, but because we want to make sure that whatever we are creating is not just fast skincare, we’re being really intentional with how we’re developing it, how we’re testing it first on ourselves and then testing it on consumers.”

Añuli Skin co-founders Kelechi Onyemelukwe and Rishea Casselle Copyright 2021. All rights reserved.

Growing up, Onyemelukwe dealt with eczema. A medication she was prescribed healed her eczema, but irritated her skin. She began mixing it with the herbs, butters and salves she brought home from her visits to Nigeria, where her family is from. At Añuli Skin, she and Casselle took a similar approach. Daily Supplement Serum has baobab, abyssinian and tamanu, all ingredients from Africa, and it pairs them with coenzyme Q10.

Onyemelukwe says, “We know there are powerful and clinical-strength ingredients, and we wanted to make sure that everything we did was always clinically tested while also leaning on my knowledge of the really powerful natural ingredients that can be found throughout the 54 countries in Africa.”

Onyemelukwe and Casselle hope Añuli Skin will be a significant contributor to the burgeoning African and African-inspired beauty scene. Onyemelukwe says, “A lot of brands that we know tend to be either French or European or even K-Beauty, but A-Beauty is something that is emerging, especially since it really leans on science, but still utilizes natural ingredients and pushing consumers to be more minimalistic in their routines.”

Even though Onyemelukwe and Casselle categorize Añuli Skin as A-Beauty, they stress it’s not limited to specific nationalities, skin types or ethnicities. They envision it having a broad customer base of people recognizing that investing in skincare is an investment in taking care of themselves.

“It’s funny because we get that question a lot saying, ‘Hey, you guys are both two Black women founders, is your line just for Black people?’ And we typically don’t see that question asked for Korean beauty or French beauty or any other brand,” says Casselle. “We, too, are entering the market to solve skincare issues and provide that sense of joy and quality skincare for all sorts of people and people who generally are looking to have more streamlined routines, but not sacrifice quality.”

Añuli Skin’s sole product is The Daily Supplement Serum featuring African botanicals like baobab, abyssinian and tamanu. Copyright 2022. All rights reserved.

As it’s getting off the ground, Añuli Skin’s sales have been generated by word of mouth. The co-founders hired a part-time social media manager to ramp up marketing. The duo will throw events this summer to reach a larger audience and amplify brand awareness.

Both Onyemelukwe and Casselle are based in the Washington, D.C., area and aim to jumpstart Añuli Skin’s retail distribution via local shops. From there, they aspire to place it in high-end department store retailers like Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus along with spas nationally and internationally. Casselle says, “We are putting the plan in motion to ensure that everything that we are working toward now will align with being able to be in those positions later.”

Añuli means “joy” in Igbo, a language spoken in Nigeria, and that’s what Casselle and Onyemelukwe want customers to feel when using the brand. Onyemelukwe says, “Your skin is the largest organ of your body. If you don’t have joy doing something that you have to do two times a day, then you’re not doing to want to do it.”