Long-revered for its history of grassroots activism, Oakland is home to a diverse community that appreciates the great outdoors as well as good food and a thoughtfully curated selection of art. Fashion trailblazers hailing from the Northern California city include rappers Kamaiyah, MC Hammer, and R&B group En Vogue.
“Authenticity, boldness, and beauty that radiates from the inside out,” is how Diishan Imira describes the city’s distinct traits. The founder and CEO of wig company Mayvenn, Imira decided to establish the startup’s headquarters in his hometown for those reasons. “There’s no place like Oakland. The way we express ourselves always leaves me in awe and reminds me of what a special place we come from.”
Whether you’ve been living in the Bay Area all your life or are passing through, some places are a must-see for any beauty enthusiast looking to treat themselves. While far from comprehensive, consider this your starting guide to beauty in Oakland.
The Beauty Supply
Despite African-Americans accounting for nearly 90% of overall spend in the ethnic hair and beauty aids categories as reported by a 2019 Nielsen study, few have been able to secure ownership of beauty supplies which many women and men rely on for their protective styles and grooming needs.
Abdirahman Jama Mohamed opened Essence Beauty Supply in 1987 on E18th street, just a few blocks walking distance from Lake Merritt. After immigrating from Somalia and completing his BA in accounting in San Francisco State University, Mohamed saw an opportunity to not only make a living for his family but to create a local business that would serve as a one-stop shop for residents looking to stock up on beauty products while getting tips from someone who was deeply passionate about catering to the needs of afro-hair textures.
Since Mohamed’s passing, his wife Zahra Alsomali took over the shop and continues to run the only Black and women-owned beauty supply in Oakland. “The community has always shown their support for us and we do the same which is why we are still here after all these years,” says their son Abdeik Jama, who now oversees the store’s social media. “We’ve survived the Walmarts, recessions, Amazon and gentrification all because of the support of community and God.” Best-sellers include shea butter, black soap, and Sheba Locks hair pomade. Looking forward, the store has plans to expand into e-commerce, with a focus on spotlighting Black-owned products.
“We already sell brands like Avo Curl, which has become very popular as of recent, but we would like to make an even greater effort to carry more Black-owned products and hair,” says Jama. “That way when you are supporting us you are supporting other Black entrepreneurs and our dollar will be able to last longer within the community.”
Essence Beauty Supply, 411 E 18th St, Oakland, CA 94606
McMullen boutique has become a hotspot for luxury womenswear in the heart of Oakland since Sherri McMullen opened the doors to her boutique in 2007. Fashion lovers can find the latest offerings from Proenza Schouler and Tibi when they pop into the spacious store located on Broadway Ave. But beauty enthusiasts can also get their fill, with the boutique’s offerings of La Bouche Rouge lipsticks and skin care from Vintner’s Daughters.
McMullen has always stayed close to the fashion brands she chooses to stock, and that remains the same with her beauty selection. “My go-to beauty products are by Vintner’s Daughter, I use both the Active Treatment Essence and the Active Botanical Serum every day in the morning and at night,” she tells Vogue. “As for makeup, I love a red lip for evening. My staple is our exclusive color for La Bouche Rouge, Mon Sherri. I created this color with them in Paris to come up with a shade of red that works with many skin tones.”
Building on the boutique’s foray into beauty, McMullen is working with Fashion Fair, one of the original cosmetic brands developed for deeper skin tones, to launch an exclusive holiday lipstick set.
McMullen, 2257 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612
New to the scene, GoodBody is setting out to become Oakland’s trendiest hair destination.“The Bay Area has always been like home,” says founder Brittany Barnes. “I grew up about two hours north of there but in order for me to get my hair done, my mom always brought my sister and I down to Richmond to a family friend.” Offering a range of hair styling services, like blowouts and crochet twists, as well as facial threading and lash enhancements, anyone looking to indulge in a beauty transformation will be well taken care of.
While many salons cater to afro-textured hair, Barnes created GoodBody with Black women at its center. “I think every Black woman understands the experience of, you know, an unprofessional or inefficient haircare experience that left a sour taste in her mouth. So I really just saw a need for a beautiful space that was created for us, that was focused on textured and healthy hair care for both our natural hair and however we choose to style it.”
Eventually, the salon would like their clients to take a little piece of GoodBody home with them and is exploring the development of a product line. In the meantime, visitors can experience some TLC in-person, surrounded by expert stylists and old Hollywood glamour.
GoodBody, 430 W Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94612
Jessica Kiyomi, who has been turning curls into rainbow-dipped fros while also helping the ladies of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors cheer squad get glam for the court, opened her namesake salon in Rockridge last November. With 12 years of experience, she’s built up quite the repertoire when it comes to curl-shaping cuts and vibrant color transformations.
“When I think of beauty in Oakland the first thing that comes to my mind is the people,” Kiyomi tells Vogue. “Everyone is filled with creativity and there are no boundaries to how far you can take it. From the clothes, to the hair, nails, and make up, Oakland is the home of the innovators.”
Kiyomi’s, 5400 Manila Ave, Oakland, CA94618
The Nail Artist
Nail artist AliceFaye Kincaid got her start by practicing in her friends’ dorm rooms while studying gender and disability at UCLA. Soon the passion turned into a blossoming career: Kincaid is sought out for intricate designs, from blue reptilian extensions to lava lamp tips accented with the cutest teddy bear decals. In the past year, Kincaid has turned her focus to airbrush art, after studying under fellow nail artist Lila Robles.
“Being based in Oakland is extremely important to me,” Kincade tells Vogue. “Oakland is a place with such rich history and stands for so much socially and politically. I love that nail art is universal and being able to work in Oakland allows those conversations and welcomes diversity in a way that I couldn’t get anywhere else.” For those looking to upgrade their nail game beyond the basic mani, consider yourself covered.
Booking information can be found at Elevatedbyalice.com.
Originally Appeared on Vogue