Changemakers

Danessa Myricks Does It All

The makeup artist and product developer is making the beauty industry more inclusive, one glitter palette at a time.

Last November, makeup artist Daniel Martin opened his Instagram to find his DMs flooded. Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, had just arrived at the Salute to Freedom Gala with a soft wash of violet eye shadow, and people wanted to know the exact product Martin, her longtime makeup artist, had used to create the look. The shade in question was part of Danessa Myricks The Lightwork III Experience palette — which Martin posted on Stories, then immediately sold out. “Meghan loved that it was an independent, BIPOC and female-founded brand,” Martin says. “She loved the incredible payoff we got with the palette and I’m so happy [Myricks’] products are in my kit for her now.”

If your Instagram Explore page mostly consists of makeup tutorials, chances are you’ve seen Danessa Myricks’ work. Myricks, a self-taught makeup artist, is also a product developer, brand founder, photographer, and creative director who lenses all her own campaigns and social media posts. Her eponymous makeup brand, Danessa Myricks Beauty, is a color lover’s fantasy, known for its hyper-pigmented color products in mesmerizing finishes; two-toned shadows and pencils, as well as chunky glitter pots that flash in shades of fire and ice. Her award-winning Color Fix is a cult favorite of celebrity and special effects makeup artists alike, featuring waterproof, long-wearing cream colors available in nearly a hundred shades and a variety of finishes, from matte to metallic. Myricks makes the type of makeup that stops you mid-scroll, with no choice but to watch, mesmerized, as she swatches glittering pigments across a models’ eyelids.

danessa myricks lightwork IV

Today, Myricks launches an even more eye-catching successor: Lightwork Volume IV Transcendence, a limited-edition palette featuring color-shifting, kaleidoscopic pigments with chameleon-esque chrome flakes. “It’s called Transcendence because I really do want people to transcend their ideas about what makeup should look and feel like, who should wear it, and how they play,” Myricks says. “I hate hearing people say they’re too old for color or scared to play with makeup. I want to shake people up and say, In a perfect world, if you can have all the fun you ever wanted to do with makeup, what would it look like? I wanted to put that in the palette.”

Before launching her own line, Myricks had an expansive career creating some of the makeup industry’s most iconic products. As director of product development at Benefit Cosmetics, she was instrumental in conceptualizing and developing Benefit’s brow products, which were released in 2016; they launched the brand’s brow cred into the stratosphere and sold millions of units worldwide. Over the years, as she continued to develop products for other brands, she realized there was only so much she could do as an employee. “I cannot change what somebody else has created. If I really wanted to have the conversation I wanted to have around beauty, I knew I would have to create it on my own brand,” she says. “And I felt a responsibility to do it, knowing what I knew about how products come to life, to fill the gap and take up some space.”

Myricks is referring to the fact that up until only a few years ago, whole swathes of the population were unable to find a shade match for their complexion. As a formulator who’s traveled to cosmetic labs around the world, she had first-hand intel on why complexion shades for Black and brown skin tones didn’t exist back then — and can still be difficult to find even today. “It starts from the fact that not a lot of people of color work in these brands and in product development,” she says. “A [foundation shade] that's designed for me may look rich and chocolatey brown when tested on fair skin, but when you put it on who it's actually for, it looks gray or red. If you don't understand brown skin tones, what you create is going to miss the mark quite often.” She started Danessa Myricks Beauty in 2015 to fill this gap and build a brand that would speak to deeper skin tones. Today, the brand has amassed hundreds of thousands of devoted fans, ships to over 20 countries, and serves as a benchmark for other makeup brands aiming to put inclusivity and innovation at the forefront.

The marker of a signature Danessa Myricks product is always the high-intensity pigment, which Myricks formulates for two reasons. The first is to offer the most vibrant payoff possible on deeper skin tones; the second is to ensure you use less product, making her products last longer and provide better value. The latter is for a personal reason. “I grew up really poor and when I started as a makeup artist, I was a broke single mom of two kids, so I had to be really resourceful,” she says. “A career like this is an expensive one and you run through products very quickly.” She references a highlighter that she created at the beginning of her career that some people still own. “There's enough to put in their will and pass it down generations,” she laughs. “They’ll never get to the bottom. It's probably not the best business model, but it makes me feel good.”

Many of Myricks’ products have reached cult status, but her Yummy Skin Blurring Balm Powder reached a level of virality that catapulted her brand to a new level. Its long list of benefits reads like the goals of a true overachiever: it blurs out texture and pores, covers blemishes, and balances oils throughout the day, all while maintaining hydration. But unlike most overachievers, it actually delivers. Contrary to what the name implies, the product isn’t actually made with any powder, instead boasting a solid cream formula that magically blurs oily skin for a soft-matte finish, while adding squalane and hyaluronic acid to hydrate drier skin types. It also plays well with other products without pilling, and can be used under them as a primer, or atop, like a powder. Myricks recommends applying directly with your finger for best results, and offers a clear universal shade for blurring benefits without any tint. She designed the product for beginners and pros alike, as well as anyone with less-than-perfect skin who might struggle with things like acne scarring and uneven skin texture. “Having celebrity clients is great, but what excites me is making somebody with vitiligo, bad scars, or cystic acne look great,” she says.

At 52, Myricks is proof that glitter isn’t just for Gen-Z. “When I'm creating for 50+, it’s because I know what our concerns are,” she says. She started filming her social media content on herself when she realized there was a lack of women over 50 in her own social media feeds. “I've always been very afraid to show my face, but I realized a lot of people will be inspired by it, and I see it in the comments. I know how much value age brings to the table,” she says. “I've taken up the responsibility to have fun. We're not dead!”

The beauty industry has been trying to be more inclusive for years — they should have just asked Danessa Myricks. She could have told them that true inclusivity, the kind that is believable and tangible, is not a box that can be checked off, but a quality that radiates outwards from the very nucleus of a brand’s identity — chrome flakes and all.