Nuances self-care: the Montreal-based beauty brand catering to women of all shades

Keisha Lamptey helps fill a gap in the Canadian beauty industry with inclusive haircare and skincare products

Keisha Lamptey wears an apron and clear plastic gloves as she carefully adds seed oils and seed butters to her stainless steel KitchenAid mixer. It loudly whips all the ingredients together, creating a smooth and uniform texture.

After a few minutes, she shuts off the mixer, lifts the mixing bowl and gently pours the contents into her filling machine. 

An off-white creamy product comes out of the tube, filling the empty jar that she holds in her left hand with her homemade Moisturizing Hair Butter.  

Lamptey is the owner of Nuances self-care, a company that manufactures natural, vegan and eco-friendly haircare and skincare products for women of all shades at an affordable cost. 

Growing up in Montreal, Lamptey noticed that there was a minimal selection of products designed specifically for Black women in Canada. “I felt very underrepresented when shopping for products,” she said. 

Courtesy photo provided by Keisha Lamptey

She explained that none of the mass-market beauty companies were Black-owned and none of them understood her needs as a woman with thick, curly hair. Products that did work for her had to be purchased from the United States, making it “just absolutely crazy expensive.” According to Lamptey, one small eight-ounce product would cost her $50. 

“I thought to myself, ‘Canada deserves to have these products, too,’” Lamptey recalled. So, in 2017, she used her background in organic chemistry to begin experimenting with various formulas to create products catered to all skin types and kinky hair types. 

But it wasn’t until December 2020 that she incorporated Nuances self-care after receiving the Canada Starts grant — a $5,000 cash prize sponsored by RBC Ventures aimed at helping aspiring entrepreneurs launch their business.  

According to Lamptey, the grant covered all her start-up costs — including federal and provincial incorporation fees, website expenses, and the cost of necessary equipment, ingredients and packaging — all of which totalled about $3,700. 

“Receiving that grant was so amazing,” she said. It allowed Nuances self-care to start off profitable from the get-go.

According to Lamptey, sales were high in the first few months of business. This was not only because it was the holiday season, but also because Quebec was under a lockdown, making it easier for customers to purchase their beauty products online.

Many of these early customers still support Nuances self-care nearly two years later, like Yasamin Fawzi. 

‘[Nuances self-care’s products] feel good for my skin and hair and they’re really affordable,” Fawzi said. “I’m always about buying local, or buying stuff that’s more ethically sourced and natural.”

Today, Lamptey has 15 products listed on her website, each of which have gone through a detailed process. The process begins with months of researching, experimenting, and testing. Once Lamptey is satisfied with a product recipe, she orders the labels and packaging from the supplier and makes a batch for customers. 

The final step of the process is marketing the new product. 

According to Lamptey, she typically uses social media and her email newsletter to tease upcoming product releases and to announce new products when they come out.

But with the most recent launch, the Apple Cinnamon Body Butter, Lamptey tried a new marketing technique: she planned a launch party at a local Montreal shop. Those who wanted to purchase the product had to attend the event. It was so successful the product nearly sold out, totalling 35 sales and over $1,200 was made.

“It was a great way to create buzz and boost sales,” she said. “But it was also a good way to make myself relevant in people’s eyes.” 

While Nuances self-care started as a retailer business through an e-commerce website, Lamptey is now exploring the wholesale business, too. Nuances self-care’s products are now sold in two hairdresser salons, one perfume store, one hair accessory store, and a few cafés around the city. 

Courtesy photo provided by Keisha Lamptey

Lamptey shared that regular customer sales are highest in months with celebrations or holidays, with about 50 to 200 customer orders per month.

But in slower months, like last September and October, Lamptey noticed a decline in customer orders but an increase in wholesale orders. According to Lamptey, this shift is more profitable because businesses purchase more units compared to one regular customer. 

Lamptey said that she dreams of selling her products in the United States and Europe, as well as selling in bigger stores like Walmart and Amazon.

While there are big dreams of expansion for Nuances self-care, loyal customers like Fawzi will continue to support them in Montreal.


Derma-what? The confusing world of viral skincare

Is this trend only skin-deep?

The steadily-growing YouTube audiences of influencers like Hyram Yarbro (Skin Care by Hyram) and Andrea Suarez (Dr Dray) have blossomed into an integral part of the greater self-care movement. Internet trends usually dissipate quite quickly, yet in the past few years, awareness has risen about topics ranging from mindfulness and spirituality to healthy weight management — and this movement doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Companies have been quick to try and capitalize on this trend of course, taking every opportunity they have to market organic and vegan products, mass publish self-help books, and, of course, heavily publicize any skincare product they have noticed going viral.

Other than my slight annoyance that corporations are making money off people’s desire to better themselves, I also have a few qualms with the skincare aspect of the wellness trend. For starters, users have started adopting influencers’ opinions as the Ten Commandments of Skincare: many are now refusing to use any product that doesn’t stand up to their favorite YouTuber’s dogmatic preferences. But also, as has happened over and over with the DIY approach to self-care trends, rampant misinformation has caused more harm than good.

When The Ordinary’s AHA + BHA face mask went viral online over the summer, many thought that their X amount of hours spent on skincare YouTube rose them to the rank of “experienced user,” who the packaging clearly warns this mask is for. There’s a reason this product, along with a few more from The Ordinary’s popular range, are prohibited from sale in Canada: misuse of these products can have devastating effects. One woman described literally getting chemical burns from it.

It’s also unfortunate how narrow-minded people have become when it comes to skincare. There are only so many products beauty gurus can recommend, and the raided-out shelves of CeraVe, the most popularly promoted drugstore brand right now, are a testament to this strongly ingrained widespread comfort zone. Hyram and other skincare experts are influencers, and their endorsements are overshadowing other options that people are now less tempted to try out. I’ve come across more than a few TikToks of users talking about their newly acquired “Hyram-approved” products.

Ultimately, this trend of people wanting to take care of their skin and feel better in their appearance in a somewhat informed way is a good thing; I support anyone’s journey to self-confidence, and this trend doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. I guess I’ll have to wait a little longer for that “Back in stock” email.


Feature photo by Christine Beaudoin with overlay by Chloë Lalonde

Student Life

Cruelty-free beauty pt. 2

Back in November, I challenged myself to replace some of the items in my beauty routine with affordable, cruelty-free alternatives (I made a list of my favourites that you can read here). Well guess what, people: I’m still broke and I still like animals, so I’ve kept up with it!  

While I’ve still got a ways to go, the items on my vanity are looking a lot different than they did a few months ago, and I’m happy to say that finding these products is becoming easier and easier. From skincare to makeup to hair care, there are tons of options out there for the conscious consumer on a budget.

Here’s another list of inexpensive, cruelty-free products I’m loving at the moment. 

Niacinamide Serum:

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%$5.90 for 30 millilitres 

Niacinamide is a form of Vitamin B3 that works wonders for the skin by reducing inflammation and balancing oil levels. So, if you have skin that is sensitive and/or acne-prone, then this serum from The Ordinary is definitely worth trying. The texture is light and a little goes a long way—just make sure to seal it in with moisturizer afterwards!

Comparison: Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster — $63.82 for 20 millilitres


Physicians Formula Murumuru Butter Butter Bronzer—$21.99 for 10.8 grams

This bronzer from Physicians Formula is my favourite of all time, hands down. The texture is smooth and blendable, so there’s none of the patchiness that bronzers can sometimes cause. Also, since the shades have a slight coolness to them, it won’t leave you looking like Donald Trump after a day at the tanning salon. Plus, it smells amazing! 

Comparison: Benefit Hoola Bronzer—$40.00 for eight grams


The Ordinary Mineral UV Filters SPF 30 with Antioxidants$9.70 for 50 millilitres 

Sunscreen is something we should all be wearing daily (even in winter, folks). Luckily, this SPF from The Ordinary is an inexpensive option that sinks into the skin quickly and doesn’t leave your face feeling oily throughout the day. I will say that, since it’s a mineral sunscreen, it does leave a slight white cast on the skin. This doesn’t matter much for me since I’m literally the colour of drywall, but anyone with a deeper skin tone might have to experiment with it a bit. 

Comparison: Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector SPF 42—$44 for 30 millilitres 


Covergirl Simply Ageless 3-in-1 Liquid Foundation—$19.49 for 30 millilitres

This foundation from Covergirl has a unique, almost mousse-like consistency that feels lightweight and comfortable, but provides surprisingly full coverage. What I like most about this foundation is that it doesn’t separate and become patchy throughout the day, which, in my case, even some of the most expensive foundations tend to do. It’s easy to layer and easy to blend, so the finish is nice and natural. 

Comparison: Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation—$55.00 for 30 millilitres

Lip Gloss 

Essence Shine Shine Shine Lipgloss—$3.99 for 4.5 millilitres

This $4 (!!!) lip gloss from Essence is as shiny and glossy as they come. This stuff seriously rivals some of the fancier glosses on the market, and it comes in a surprising number of shades. It’s good stuff. 

Comparison: Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer— $25 for nine millilitres 

Leave-In Conditioner

Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Reparative Leave-in Conditioner—$13.49 for 325 millilitres

As someone with really dry, damaged hair, the leave-in conditioner has been a game-changer. I love this one from Shea Moisture because it thoroughly hydrates my hair without weighing it down. It also smells amazing and helps to define my waves.


Photo by Laurence Brisson Dubreuil/Graphic by @sundaeghost

Student Life

Skin to skin: Acne-prone combination skin

Skincare. You’ve heard so much about it, but what actually works? The Koreans have the 10-step-routine. Southeast Asians use a lot of turmeric and natural products. North Americans use a lot of chemicals. All swear by their remedies, but not all products work best for every skin type.

This might be a story you know all too well: baby soft pimple-free skin before puberty, explosive acne during puberty, and now your skin is either too dry, too oily, discoloured or texturized. We haven’t quite figured out how to take care of our skin once the pimple phase is over because we’re all so different. 

I’ve battled with my skin since hitting puberty, and it’s only recently that I’ve figured out the recipe for my skin success.

Acne-prone combination skin

Often, people with combination skin types think their skin is too oily when, in fact, according to the Epiderma esthetician I consulted, our skin can produce more oil to help combat dry skin. This makes you believe the issue is excess oil but, in fact, it’s not enough hydration. In this case, the biggest mistake someone can make is to cut out moisturizing from their skincare routine. The reality is that the better moisturized the skin is, the less oil it will produce to compensate. 

According to the Canadian Dermatology Association’s website, acne occurs when dead skin cells clog the skin’s pores, resulting in sebum accumulation – a substance produced by oil glands. Bacteria within the pores can then contribute to those blockages and inflammation. The site indicates many causes and triggers of acne: cosmetics, food, sweating, overwashing, hormones and more. The site’s cited board-certified dermatologists suggest shopping for oil-free cosmetic products and washing your face twice a day.

To help treat your acne, it’s recommended to wash sheets and pillowcases often. What also helps is letting your skin breathe by not wearing makeup a few days a week, washing your face twice daily, not picking your pimples and washing makeup brushes. The main takeaway is wash your face delicately, exfoliate once or twice a week with a gentle scrub (to avoid micro-tears) and moisturize religiously. 

Combination skin types usually get the worst of it and textured skin is common. After my teens, I saw a decrease in the amount of acne I had and just got the occasional hormonal breakouts. But I noticed something different on my skin that I couldn’t quite understand or fix. This was texture — there were tiny little flesh-coloured bumps all over my cheeks. They weren’t your typical pimples and I didn’t think they were until I picked at them and saw they resembled whiteheads. 

Instead of consulting an aesthetician, I took matters into my own hands and started exfoliating so much, my face was filled with micro-tears which made everything worse. I caved and consulted a medical aesthetician at Epiderma. She explained that this texture occurred because of dehydration and clogged pores. I started moisturizing more, but I didn’t see enough of a difference. I turned to hyaluronic acid and it quite literally changed my skin. After a month of using the chemical product, I saw a significant difference. 

Hyaluronic acid is a substance created by the body, according to an article on About half of the hyaluronic acid in your body is in your skin, where it binds to water to help retain moisture. As a result of hydrated skin, it reduces the appearance of wrinkles and, according to the article, makes skin appear smoother. 

It is recommended by several companies like  Drunk Elephant or The Ordinary to use hyaluronic acid after washing your face and before applying moisturizer at night. 

Above all, in order to have beautiful, healthy skin, medical experts like the Canadian Dermatology Association still recommend starting with a change in diet to see a difference in your skin by avoiding sugars and increasing your water intake.


Photo by Laurence BD

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