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How Ami Colé’s Diarrha N’Diaye Formulates With Purpose

Diarrha N'Diaye, founder and CEO of Ami Colé, says formulating "clean" and sustainably minded products is about catering to community.

When ideating her products, Ami Colé founder and chief executive officer Diarrha N’Diaye said community was key.

At Fairchild Media Group’s 2022 Sustainability Forum, N’Diaye outlined her philosophy on product formulation. As it turns out, her approach is both a response and a love letter to the consumers she caters to.

“We surveyed our community before we launched, about 400 to 500 women, asking them how important ‘clean’ was to them on a scale of one to 10. It came in at seven. We knew it was high on our priority list,” N’Diaye said. “We create this space where she can come in, and can invite her in.”

The brand also focuses on tried-and-true ingredients that consumers will recognize. “There’s a huge opportunity for education, like why baobab seed extract is important for this skin type,” N’Diaye said of her line’s hero ingredient. “When you think about our people, we know shea butter works, cacao butter works, whether you’re pregnant or nursing or looking to nourish the skin overnight. You’re grabbing these traditional ingredients, and there’s a huge opportunity to modernize that storytelling, bring it to the forefront and bring transparency to the forefront.”

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N’Diaye founded Ami Colé after time in the trenches at L’Oréal and Glossier — “I joke around that it was my business school…you’re in the belly of the beast,” she said — after realizing no brands were offering the no-makeup makeup aesthetic to consumers with deeper skin tones. What’s more, sustainably minded products were quickly becoming more and more important to consumers, and despite the costs, she felt it was imperative to make Ami Colé a more environmentally friendly brand.

“It’s so hard from a sheer profits and losses perspective, but as a new brand, there is no other option. You have to think about how to be even better,” she said. “When it comes to your ingredients, packaging and carbon footprint, you have to think about how you’re actually affecting the world around you. We’ve done enough damage as an industry, unfortunately.”

Ami Colé’s skin tint, one of its hero products, uses sugarcane and bioresin, while also including recyclable materials with biodegradable ink.

Transparency is also key in product marketing, N’Diaye added, acknowledging that beauty brands still have a lot of progress to make. Similarly, consumer adoption was another hurdle. “We try to just explain through our website what it is, we know this much, here’s how you can help. It’s not a slap on the wrist, we’re trying to understand and find a balance. We think about that with our marketing, and make it very approachable,” she said.

Focusing on sustainability has also allowed different beauty brands to work together to find solutions, N’Diaye added, saying efforts from major manufacturers really helped move the needle.

“When L’Oréal makes a pledge, or Estée Lauder makes a pledge, that trickles down and becomes the norm, and you get to see the fruits of that labor,” she said. “Versed has done an amazing job doing that and making sure that everyone’s aware of the conversation, helping out in terms of carbon footprint and what that means for your brand, and what it looks like. I know we’re competitors in some way, but we have to think about the earth.”

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