Although lower Manhattan has its fair share of beauty counters, the options uptown in New York City’s Harlem have remained seriously limited. “It’s either the drugstore or a no-frills beauty supply shop,” laments neighborhood native Desiree Verdejo. “Quality skincare was typically something you went downtown to get.”
But instead of doing what 99 percent of people would do, and just fork over subway fare for a shopping trip, Verdejo sensed an opportunity: She quit her job as a lawyer and in July opened Vivrant Beauty in the heart of Harlem.
It wasn’t just location that inspired Verdejo to create the very type of self care destination that she always dreamed of shopping at; it was also her lifelong passion for beauty. “I always had problem skin, so I spent a lot of time experimenting with beauty products,” she explains. “But it wasn’t until I became really passionate about the beauty industry as a business that I realized it was time to switch careers.”
She spent time scouting beauty brands and spots (ultimately settling on a beautiful, bright airy space on St. Nicholas Avenue by 121st Street) before opening Vivrant Beauty’s doors.
The shop carries a curated range of products, from ones the stylish Verdejo personally loves to cult favorites like Indie Lee, REN, and Mario Badescu, as well as emerging labels such as Youth to the People (which uses kale for great skin), Earth’s Nectar (which specializes in curly hair treatments) and Flo+Theo (whose vegan skin-care products are handcrafted in Queens).
And while many of the lines she stocks are natural and non-toxic, the entrepreneur’s primary concern is carrying products that cater to a variety of skin and hair types. For makeup, Verdejo chose to sell Becca because they offer shades that span from porcelain to deep brown; for hair care, she went with lines like Briogeo and Davines, which have products for a variety of textures. “Harlem is so diverse, so we want to offer a lot of options,” she says.
She also tries to support small local, woman-owned or person-of-color-owned businesses. “We were carrying a big-name nail polish brand and then I discovered this one called Mischo that was owned by a black woman, has amazing colors, and is also five-free,” recalls Verdejo. “It was kind of a no-brainer.”
In other words, go to Vivrant Beauty to discover gorgeous products and stay for the customized beauty tips (or to just hang out with Verdejo, whose good energy is pretty contagious). Let’s just say it’s a major step up from a trip to your local Duane Reade. —Victoria Lewis
Vivrant Beauty, 220 St. Nicholas Street, New York, NY, 10027, (212) 865-0100, vivrantbeauty.com
(Photos: Vivrant Beauty)
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