Meet Balanda Atis. The Chemist Behind Lupita Nyong’o’s Lancôme Foundation.

Balanda Atis

Back in 2014, beauty blogs went wild with news that Lupita Nyong’o had been named Lancôme’s newest beauty ambassadress. While many fans were excited about the forthcoming campaign, makeup aficionados wondered how the beautifully dark complexioned Nyong’o could be the face of a beauty brand, that didn’t even offer foundation to make her skin tone.

Enter Balanda Atis. Atis, a L’Oréal chemist, created the very foundation worn by Lupita Nyong’o in her Lancôme ad campaign. Lancôme is part of the beauty giant’s luxury products division. Atis, who now heads L’Oréal’s Women of Color Lab helped create a brand new range of shades that debuted alongside the Oscar winner’s campaign. The Women of Color Lab is part of an increasing push amongst beauty brands all over the world to be more inclusive. This new wave is motivated by the ever-growing multicultural beauty market, which continues to see rising revenues each year.

Atis is passionate about creating shades of makeup for women of color. The New Jersey native admits that she struggled to find makeup in the right shade growing up.

It’s a personal quest for Atis, who grew up in a Haitian community in East Orange, New Jersey. Over the years, she saw friends and family struggle to find makeup that looked good on their skin. “The colors were often too red, giving the skin a bruised look, or too black, making the skin look muddy,” she recalls.

She joined L’Oréal in 1999, and soon realized that despite the company’s diverse marketing campaigns, which features Jennifer Lopez and Beyoncé, she still couldn’t wear most of the foundations offered by her employer. The realization led Atis to take up working on foundations as a side project — her main gig was mascara. Eventually she presented her research to the higher-ups at L’Oréal. She was then tasked with creating more than 30 new shades for the brand.

Since then Atis’ research team has grown into the Women of Color Lab at L’Oréal. The group continues to find new innovations in diverse cosmetics options to this day.