The All Inclusive Clean Makeup Brand You Should Have On Your Radar
CTZN Cosmetics is a South Asian female family owned brand founded by sisters Aleena, Naseeha and Aleezeh Khan. It first launched in 2019, and went on to unveil an inclusive, cruelty free, double ended nude lipstick and lip gloss combo, collection of 25 lipsticks to match a variety of skin tones.
Becoming a must have makeup bag essential was no easy feat, but the sisters had recognized a huge gap in the market when it came to the beauty industry and the lack of inclusivity for darker skin tones, especially being of a South Asian heritage. Coming together, they worked to make the perfect nude lip to cater to all with their Nudiversal collection. The multi-purpose beauty product is also clean, vegan and cruelty free.
AboutHer.com caught up with the girl bosses to find out more about their entrepreneurial journey and how their heritage inspires them – especially within a highly saturated beauty market and how they found themselves in it…
What is the CTZN story - where did it all begin for you?
We realized how much room for improvement there was in the beauty industry! As South Asians, it was hard not to take it personally when shopping at a beauty retailer that no model looked like us in campaigns, and products lacked the correct undertones. Our friends of color felt the same way, so we knew this was a shared sentiment that many beauty consumers could relate to. Our mission was to empower citizens of the world to feel seen, because the industry underestimates the importance of simple recognition and making someone feel considered. We are committed to creating every product you need in your makeup kit – but for your perfect shade.
You launched a collection of nude lipsticks and glosses - what did you feel was missing from the currently saturated beauty/cosmetics market?
There was no nude lip collection as shade-inclusive as ours! The darkest nude lip shade that brands created were not even for the darkest skin tone that exists! We were shocked that so many brands missed the mark on how deep the shade range needed to be, which really makes some consumers feel completely devalued and less ‘relevant’ to a brand. We are trying to change that sentiment completely, by offering 25 nude shades from warm beige to a fudge brown.
We also saw that matte lipsticks were often sold on their own, so we came up with a unique double-ended product with both a matte lipstick and a hydrating lip gloss in one product, in the exact same shade. This was also because a lot of beauty consumers, in our research phase, communicated that matte lipsticks are too drying – so we thought it would be perfect to combine the lipstick with a gloss.
Being of South Asian heritage, do you feel it’s a market that is overlooked in the beauty industry?
100%! As South Asians, we felt like we were in a one-way relationship with the beauty industry, giving all this support through our sales and word of mouth, but not getting the same love in return from the brands! It really makes you feel like you matter less to a brand than another consumer demographic, and why should anyone that supports an industry feel that way?
How do you feel your brand celebrates your heritage?
Our NUDIVERSAL collection includes a shade called ‘Lahore’, which is a city in Pakistan we have visited many times! We also named a LIPSTROKE liner ‘Chaar’, which is the number 4 in Urdu. Our next collection and collaboration will also pay homage to our heritage, which I cannot disclose too much about at this moment, but we are very proud of what we are working on.
Why nudes- and which ones are your favorites?
We’ve already seen brands attempt inclusive shade ranges with foundations and concealers, but we realized no one had disrupted the nude lip landscape, which is another product used daily! Also because we think it is absolutely wild how conditioned we are by the beauty industry to still think of nude as only beige. We’re working on reminding everyone how subjective the word nude is - that my nude is different than yours and that’s what should be celebrated!
How do your products fall in line with the burgeoning demand for "clean beauty?"
Our products are made in Italy, in compliance with very strict EU regulations. Our products are also cruelty-free and vegan-friendly. Every single CTZN product is vegan, aside from the matte lipstick in the Lip Duo, which is classified as vegetarian due to inclusion of beeswax! We like to be very transparent with that.
On launching your own cosmetics label, what have been your greatest challenges and how do you find yourselves overcoming them?
The many roles you have to play as a start-up founder and the true learn-as-you-go reality that comes with the job! There is so much that goes behind one product launch; it really is beyond what a consumer could imagine. From making sure you included everything on your secondary packaging boxes, to getting PR firms the correct information months in advance for a press release, to testing the shades on a range of skin tones to make sure you really do have a match for every skin tone – the list is endless, and truly makes us have a new-found respect for fellow brand owners
You are three sisters, and also three different people who may not always agree on the same things - how do you create synchronicity working together and being family?
This is a great question and we really feel that family-run businesses do not talk enough about the interest dynamics that play out! Our synchronicity truly comes from allowing each sister to run her own department; we each lead a separate vertical which gives us our own sense of authority and respect. We also try to create boundaries as much as we can; for example, we have one Whatsapp chat that is strictly work-only, and one that is for all personal/miscellaneous conversations. It’s so funny working with sisters because you could be arguing in one chat, but getting work done on the other, at the exact same time!
What do you find empowering?
Simply, women who don’t find the need to make themselves small to fit into society’s mold.
What changes, if any, would you like to see in the beauty industry?
There is still a lot of room for improvement! This recent awareness from brands with a heightened focus on inclusivity is only step one, to be honest. The change needs to start with inclusive shade ranges and campaigns being a standard expectation, rather than a unique attribute. What we believe will be most beneficial, in the beauty industry, is brands making an effort to hire diverse teams behind the scenes. If a brand’s team members are all from similar demographics, how is anyone able to catch each other out on errors if they are seeing everything from the same perspective? This is why brands get cancelled so often for being culturally insensitive – because they are analyzing pieces of work from the same perspectives rather than asking people from different backgrounds what they think!
What other products can we expect from CTZN?
We can’t say too much, but we have a very exciting collaboration that we will announce in a couple of months with an influencer we are very proud to align ourselves with! The product collection is another ‘need’ for people of color within the lip category – so stay tuned! We will stay focused on the lip and eye categories for the next year.
Confidently owning and accepting exactly who you are, at this exact point in time!