As women of color, EADEM co-founders Marie Kouadio Amouzame and Alice Lin Glover saw a gap in the beauty market, which has historically underserved people of color. Their next thought? Building a brand that not only delivers first-of-its-kind beauty products (clean, safe, vegan, cruelty-free, pregnancy-safe), but one that confronts tokenism and shatters industry standards—one Internet-breaking serum at a time. The Daily spoke with the unstoppable duo about growing up as “afterthoughts” in the skincare industry, their debut hero product, tokenism, and the importance of celebrating individuality in beauty.
Tell us how you two met!
Marie Kouadio Amouzame: We met nearly 10 years ago working in the marketing department at Google and instantly connected as work soulmates and friends! You might look at the two of us and think we would have different perspectives and experiences (I’m French and born in West Africa and Alice is Taiwanese American), but we found so many commonalities as women of color—from being children of immigrants to skincare.
How did your skincare journeys begin? What’s your earliest beauty memory?
Alice Lin Glover: My mom has forever been my skincare guru, and so many of her rituals have been passed down to me. She’s taught me the importance of caring for your body on both the inside and out, and was often brewing herbs and broths from her knowledge of Traditional Chinese Medicine. I think the experiences that Marie and I had growing up as children of immigrants have definitely shaped EADEM and our approach to creating products specifically designed for the modern woman of color. Later in my adult life, I struggled with cystic acne and hyperpigmentation, and I tried countless products to fade my dark spots. For years I used skincare containing hydroquinone, a common active [ingredient] which I found out (much later) is banned in several countries outside of the U.S. due to some pretty sketchy side effects. Marie, who also found it nearly impossible to find skincare that suited her skin’s needs, and I began to swap beauty knowledge in the hopes to crack the code. She showed me everything there was to know about French pharmacy products and we were lucky enough to travel the world together to explore skincare trends throughout Asia. But even after years of exploration we came to realize that there was a real lack of clean beauty products made for our melanin-rich skin, which became our impetus to build EADEM as a brand defined by us.
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What did you always feel was lacking in the beauty industry?
Marie: As a Black woman, I’ve always known that a majority of the products on the market were not made with my skin in mind, and campaigns that showed diversity were often a box to be checked off. But it became crystal clear a few years ago when I went shopping for foundation at a department store in Paris. I was looking forward to testing a new product that had ads featuring a Black celebrity all over the city. When I made my way up to the counter the salesperson was quick to say that my shade ‘wasn’t carried in the store,’ and in that moment I knew that I needed to be part of the much needed change in the industry—no longer would women like me be just an afterthought. Unlike most of the skincare available for hyperpigmentation, our product line is first and foremost designed for women of color. From her melanin-rich skin’s needs to her unique cultural perspectives! Hyperpigmentation is one of the most common conditions in melanin-rich skin, which pretty much includes anyone who can tan without burning, and for that reason we decided to launch with our hero product, the Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum, which is a first-of-its-kind clean formula that gently fades dark spots in skin of color without lightening the skin’s natural tone.
What was the process like when brainstorming and researching this brand?
Alice: When starting EADEM, we basically had to throw all the existing methods of how most people start skincare brands out the window. Instead of just buying a generic product from a manufacturer and relabeling it, we worked closely with highly-qualified professionals who personally understood skin of color to create our formulas from scratch. We sought out formulators and board-certified dermatologist Dr. Ann Brewer, who have expertise in working with darker skin tones. Once we started the process, Marie and I went through around 25 iterations of the Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum to get the results and user experience to meet our high standards. In tandem with the product line, we launched an editorial platform to give women of color a place to share their stories and experiences. It really has become such an important element in building the brand—a way to reach our community and learn about their needs. We actually tapped into this audience when we conducted trials with the serum, and we speak to this community weekly and pick their brain on feedback and ideas on how to build the next products.
EADEM is such a great name! What’s the symbolism behind it?
Alice: EADEM is a Latin word that means all or the same. Our brand is deeply rooted in those crucial connections we have with one another, and we have received countless messages from women thanking us and mentioning how they wish they had a brand like EADEM while growing up! It’s comments like these which motivate us to continue our hard work.
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The brand has really grown to fame in the last year or so, especially since being awarded the Glossier grant. How did that grant propel this brand to fame?
Marie: The Glossier Grant really showed us that we were on the right track. We had just decided to work on EADEM full time when COVID hit so it was a time of major uncertainty for us. The Glossier team has been so wonderful in making themselves available to help the grantees and brands like ours. We are forever grateful and feel a part of a special community with them. The win definitely helped our brand gain recognition and, more importantly, reach our community.
What gap in the market does EADEM seek to fill?
Alice: Beauty is a vulnerable and personal journey—and we feel this deeply as WOC. In the bathroom, often undressed in front of the mirror, our daily rituals around skin and body care extend beyond us. Growing up, Marie and I knew firsthand what it feels like to be an afterthought in the beauty industry—were the products on our shelves developed with someone like us in mind? Our journey has taught us the answer is often ‘no’—so from day one it’s been our priority to create product formulas that are custom and specifically made for our needs and skin with melanin. Everything we do, from product to marketing, is to celebrate our beauty and our multitudes.
You’re also part of the Sephora Accelerate cohort. What have you learned during this experience?
Alice: We have been able to make so many incredible connections and gain invaluable knowledge from the Sephora team and other brands within the program. Launching a new brand (especially during a pandemic) can be extremely isolating, and this has opened our world up to the beauty community as well as fellow brand founders. Marie and I are so honored and humbled to be part of such a prestigious program!
Talk to us about the beauty burden. How is EADEM relieving that burden for underserved demographics in the beauty industry?
Marie: As founders who grew up as a ‘minority’ in the U.S. and France, there were often times when we felt we were not beautiful because we didn’t look like those around us. How many women of color have been told they’re beautiful, but only when their skin is lighter, their eyes are bigger, or their hair is straighter? At best, we’re used in campaigns as the diversity token cast. At worst, the products that are ‘made for us’ use unsafe chemicals so we’ll meet traditional European beauty standards. But this burden isn’t—and never should have been—ours to carry. We’re out to change this with skincare to help promote our bare-skin confidence—no products that cover up, hide or change your natural complexion, only clean formulations that restore and reveal your skin tone.
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How does the brand celebrate individuality in beauty?
Alice: EADEM is all about celebrating our commonalities as women of color through our unique backgrounds. Even with our campaign, it was important that our brand photography gave a sense of heritage true to each of our models, but reflected in a modern way. Skincare photography is traditionally associated with flawless skin and not much personality. Instead, we chose to bring EADEM into everyday life, with photography that accurately reflected and celebrated our individualities.
EADEM aims to redefine industry beauty standards with clean, safe ingredients and Smart Melanin Beauty technology. What is that, and how does it work?
Marie: Having grown up in France, my approach to skincare has always been pretty effortless and minimal. I’m not drawn to products with a lot of hype, and instead use just a few high quality skincare items—less is more. We’ve adopted that same approach in building EADEM. Our formulation philosophy is built around Smart Melanin Beauty, which means that we only use high-performance, melanin-compatible ingredients with proven efficacy on skin of color. This also means our products are also custom formulated and not ‘white label’ from a manufacturer. It’s important to us that our product formulas are custom and specifically made for our needs and skin with melanin. Our active ingredients are chosen and used at its most efficient dosage to be gentle on skin, and our ingredients adhere to U.S., European Union, and Canada regulations to make sure our formulas are kind to the skin.
Tell us about your debut product Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum—why are people going crazy over it?
Marie: The Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum is a fragrance-free milky gel serum formulated for skin of color to actively fade dark spots, reduce inflammation, and prevent the formation of new ones without lightening your natural skin tone. We use a combination of Amber Algae, Niacinamide, and Encapsulated Vitamin C to target only the excess pigmentation. The formula is hydroquinone-free, EU-compliant, pregnancy-safe, Sephora clean, vegan and cruelty free.
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Let’s talk tokenism—it’s no secret that it exists, especially in beauty. How is EADEM confronting that issue head on?
Alice: For us it’s about centering women of color in everything we do from the beginning. For us, building this company is not a marketing play on the clean beauty trend or diversity for the sake of diversity—it’s about building for the real needs and unique perspectives of women of color.
For anyone struggling with their skin, physical appearance, or complying with beauty standards, what would you tell them?
Alice: This is such an important question because, for so many of us, our idea of beauty is defined by outside sources. Growing up in America, mainstream media projected an image of beauty that was homogenous, but those beauty ideals didn’t have our diversity in mind. On the flip side, I also straddled my family’s cultural ideals of what was beautiful (i.e. not getting too tan). I would say: There’s no one beauty ideal. Take the time to explore and appreciate your beauty on your own terms, defined by you individually. In a world that loves binaries and check boxes, we don’t have to be either/or. There’s plenty of room for ands—and for embracing ourselves, exactly as we are.
What’s in store for EADEM?
Marie: We are working hard to listen to our community’s needs and create products and content that celebrates us!
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