Beauty Rituales: How Rafaela Gonzalez's Dominican Heritage Inspired Her Skin-Care Brand

Image source: Rafaela Gonzalez
Rafaela Gonzalez
Rafaela Gonzalez
While each product featured is independently selected by our editors, we may include paid promotion. If you buy something through our links, we may earn commission. Read more about our Product Review Guidelines here.

Rafaela Gonzalez was confronted with European standards of beauty growing up, which often left her feeling self-conscious about her textured hair and darker skin. Gonzalez's skin-care line, Gloryscent, is the culmination of her self-love and acceptance journey, born out of a desire to serve underrepresented women of color in a beauty industry that more often than not fails them.

"I wanted to create a brand in which WOC are the inspiration rather than the last thought."

"At first, it was something I was inspired to create due to my own personal experience and journey. I wanted to create a brand in which WOC are the inspiration rather than the last thought," Gonzalez tells POPSUGAR.

Gloryscent, which calls itself a "pro-melanin skin-care brand," doesn't solely aim to center women of color. The brand also focuses on providing women with safe and clean beauty products. During the process of creating Gloryscent, Gonzalez learned that the majority of products catered toward women of color contained toxic ingredients. One study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that the negative impact of such chemical exposure is disproportionately impacting these consumers in comparison to white women. As such, her brand's mission expanded and evolved to stand for "inclusivity in clean beauty," providing women of color with access to health and wellness products that are safe and effective.

Born in the Dominican Republic, Gonzalez took inspiration from her Caribbean roots to serve as the basis for many of her products. By highlighting ingredients from her ancestral home, Gonzalez hoped to honor her "beautiful island." Her Behold Brightening Balm ($96), for example, is made with neem oil, derived from trees that Gonzalez grew up seeing on the island.

Image source: Rafaela Gonzalez
Rafaela Gonzalez

"When I was a little girl, we had two large neem trees in my backyard. I remember my late grandmother swiping them up into piles when they ripened and fell to the ground," she says. "It's very memorable because being from el campo, our parents and grandparents are very serious about keeping the yard clean."

"El campo" refers to the Dominican countryside, the setting for much of the natural beauty Gonzalez infuses throughout her several skin-care products. Other salient ingredients the brand features include arnica flower extract, willow bark, and organic ginseng. Natural additives such as these soothe sun-damaged skin, promote exfoliation, and help soften fine lines.

While neem oil can be found in the newly developed Behold Brightening Balm — which reduces hyperpigmentation and wrinkles while softening the skin — the brand also offers customers the Soothing Enzyme Cleansing Gel ($56), Total Body Serum ($63), Urbana Elixir ($54), and Manketti Oil Serum ($62), all made using the natural elements mentioned previously.

"I felt it was necessary to create and offer a skin routine rather than just one or two products."

"I felt it was necessary to create and offer a skin routine rather than just one or two products," Gonzalez says. "If someone wants to transition to clean beauty, they should have the entire collection. That was my train of thought at the time." While creating the healthy, nutrient-packed products that would define the Gloryscent collection, Gonzalez faced the challenge of figuring out the formulation for said skin-care items without formal training in the subject.

"Initially, I was completely unaware of the process of formulation, and there were no physical schools I could locate, and frankly not something I [was] able to do because I was already in college," she says. Still, the lack of resources at her immediate disposal did not dissuade her; Gonzalez found an online school where she could work toward her diploma at her own pace.

This is where, Gonzalez says, she learned how to begin the process of sourcing her own ingredients. The initial hurdle of formulation proved challenging, but she maintains it was necessary to bring women the effective care Gloryscent now provides.

Image source: Rafaela Gonzalez
Rafaela Gonzalez

In an industry that often exploits women of color and sidelines their beauty needs, Gloryscent's mission of effective care is to provide them with healthier, tailored alternatives to the harsh and often damaging active ingredients in mainstream products while also uplifting these women as they are.

"I'm working towards bringing awareness to healthier options of self-care, building up and encouraging women to love themselves," Gonzalez says. "I'm hoping to provide education and empowerment in order for them to make the best choices for their wellness."

Last year, Gonzalez's biggest achievement was having Gloryscent in JCPenney stores, which was done through the Thirteen Lune ecommerce site, which helps boost the visibility of POC-owned brands. She still deems this a "huge" accomplishment, but this year, she's particularly proud to be hosting a speaking series regarding inclusivity in clean beauty.

The series — titled "Let's Talk Inclusion in Clean Beauty" — will be composed of interviews featuring various founders and organizations, who will highlight the importance of raising awareness about the toxic ingredients in self-care products marketed to Latinx women and other women of color. There are currently five episodes available and more to come in the late spring.

"This is with the intention to simply educate and not fearmonger," Gonzalez says. "Knowledge is power."