New DTC Beauty Brand CTZN Transcends Country, Ethnicity, Race And Gender Barriers With 25-Shade Nude Lip Product Range

As the population of beauty entrepreneurs diversifies, so do the products available to beauty consumers.

Aleena, Aleezeh and Naseeha Khan, Los Angeles-born, Dubai-raised sisters of Pakistani descent, are the latest to bring their unique perspectives to bear on the beauty industry with a new London-based brand called CTZN Cosmetics starting with 25 nude shades of lipstick-lip gloss duo Nudiversal. They’re out to serve people regardless of pronoun, pedigree, race or ethnicity, and spotlight ways different cultures impact and interpret beauty.

“You hardly see any Southeast Asians or Middle Easterners in major campaigns and, it’s not just in campaigns, it’s in product development as well. When Rihanna launched Fenty, it made us think deeper about inclusivity. We decided our mission is to be a truly inclusive brand,” says Aleena. “No matter your gender or skin tone, we hope that you feel our products at CTZN are made with you in mind.”

CTZN Cosmetics
CTZN Cosmetics is launching with 25 nude shades of the lip gloss-lipstick duo Nudiversal and two varieties of the multipurpose balm Globalm.

The product development aspect is particularly relevant. While makeup offerings are proliferating in an attempt to suit an array of consumers, the offerings don’t always get formulas right for darker skin. The Khan siblings’ experience perfecting CTZN demonstrates the difficulties of producing first-rate cosmetics for women and men of color. They initially thought it would take a few months to finalize CTZN, but it was a two-year process.

“We didn’t realize how much back and forth there’d be, and we didn’t realize how many problems there’d be with the shades,” says Aleena. “When we saw the lighter nude shades in the formula, the pigmentation was weak. We had to redo all of them. We needed higher pigmentation, and we had to come up with a new formula for all of the 25 shades.” One day, Naseeha, head of product curation at CTZN and a makeup artist, flew to Milan for 12 hours to adjust six shades the brand’s manufacturer had botched to guarantee their performance is spot on.

“Our mission is to be a truly inclusive brand. No matter your gender or skin tone, we hope that you feel our products at CTZN are made with you in mind.”

CTZN landed on a lightweight matte Nudiversal lipstick formula infused with wild mango butter that’s vegetarian, and free of talc, fragrance, parabens and D5. The lip gloss is vegan, and avoids parabens, talc and D5. It’s intended to deliver vibrant, yet translucent color that builds for a high-shine finish. The duo is priced at $25, and the shades are named for places like Mexico City, Ibiza, Rome and Stockholm that Aleena, Aleezeh and Naseeha have traveled to.

“We think our 25 shades of nude are the industry’s most inclusive lip product shade range so far,” says Aleena. “We did a lot of research on what’s missing in the market, and we made sure our matte lipstick feels creamy. Combined with the lip gloss, we have a double-ended nude product that doesn’t exist otherwise.” A Get Matched tool on CTZN’s website assists customers with navigating the shades. The brand also photographed swatches on seven people to illustrate how the shades look on an array of skin tones.

CTZN Cosmetics co-founders and sisters Aleena, Naseeha and Aleezah Khan
CTZN Cosmetics co-founders and sisters Aleena, Naseeha and Aleezah Khan

On top of the Nudiversal duo, CTZN is debuting with Globalm, a multipurpose product that can be used as a lip balm, highlight or eye gloss. Priced at $20, it’s sold in shimmery pearl and clear options. The product’s vegan formula can be easily applied with fingers. Globalm’s and Nudiversal’s packaging is largely black and white to appeal to consumers across genders, and features the brand logo in graffiti-style font.

Content plays a key role in CTZN’s communication. Formerly a content analyst at Snapchat, Aleena, head of branding and marketing at CTZN, is taking the lead in shaping the brand’s voice. CTZN is initiating a blog titled Of The World with several recurring segments, notably what Aleena dubs cultutorials in which beauty vloggers share information about their backgrounds as they dole out makeup instruction and beauty hacks from cultures around the world. The brand’s premiere marketing campaign stars a heterogeneous group of seven models, including men.

“We think our 25 shades of nude are the industry’s most inclusive lip product shade range so far.”

CTZN is a subsidiary of Citizen Cosmetics Ltd. In addition to CTZN, the company’s portfolio contains Smart Girls Get More, a mass cosmetics brand on track to generate 2.5 million pounds or roughly $3.2 million this year; P5Pro, a forthcoming beauty tool that’s a collaboration between comedian Steve Harvey and makeover expert Liz Kennedy; and Z Cosmetics, a masstige beauty brand due out in 2020. Rocky Malhotra, founder of razor bland company Supermax, Trith Dadlani, manufacturing and retail distribution veteran, and Anna Sekalska, founder of Smart Girls Get More and former Revlon marketing executive, are on Citizen Cosmetics Ltd.’s board. The company purchased Smart Girls Get More last year.

Tariq Khan, father of Aleena, Aleezeh and Naseeha, and CEO and chairman of CTZN, is the co-founder of TAKtical International, a principal and advisor involved in transactions in the real estate, health care, consumer goods, technology, industrial and retail sectors estimated to be valued at $1.5 billion. Aleezah has teamed up with him on family ventures prior to CTZN and interned at PriceWaterhouse Coopers in the deal forensics department. Tariq reveals an investment of about $1.3 million was put toward creating CTZN. He says family members provided $650,000 and close friends supplied $500,000 of the total. CTZN is projected to reach $2.5 million in sales during its initial year on the market.

CTZN Cosmetics
CTZN Cosmetics is relying on a direct-to-consumer distribution model and projects first-year sales will reach $2.5 million.

Out of the gate, CTZN is relying on a direct-to-consumer model. However, the brand is considering aligning with select e-tailers. It’s turning to social media advertising, influencer seeding and celebrity placement to help with customer acquisition. In the immediate future, CTZN plans to stick with the lip and eye merchandise categories for its assortment. Face products are anticipated down the line.

For now, the Khans are learning the ins and outs of executing CTZN together. “It’s very interesting to work with your family. You have to differentiate between your personal relationship and your business partnership,” says Naseeha. “We have this 10-minute rule. If we have an argument, we have to step outside for 10 minutes and, then, come back in. We live by that rule and work through everything.”