We spoke with Katonya Breaux of UnSun Cosmetics in the morning. Her face shimmered with light from her window as songbirds tittered in the background. Her energy was calm and peaceful as if she’d just emerged from the most refreshing nap. Within our conversation, it quickly became clear that her glowing presence is connected to her attunement with nature, ritualistic mornings, and deep spiritual practices.
It is fitting that as a purveyor of luxe environmentally friendly SPF products that cater to all shades—especially women of color—she would be based in Calabasas, California with roots in New Orleans, Louisiana. Both cities are well acquainted with sunny skies.
Where does the story of UnSun begin?
I have a large family that includes many women. In most Black families—especially in mine—as the women get older, they get black moles on their faces. I assumed it was genetic and that I’d also get these moles, but they were starting to pop up in my late thirties, which seemed too early.
I went to a dermatologist and was taken aback when she said they were a result of sun damage, not just genetics. I was like, wait a minute—I’m Black. I don’t get sun damage. Well, I was wrong.
I immediately went to a pharmacy and grabbed sunscreen. The ones I found were chemical-based, and I quickly learned how irritating they were to my eyes. So when I finally discovered mineral sunscreen, I was amazed that it didn’t irritate my skin at all. But the mineral-based brands I tried left a residue that was ridiculously white, and that was very frustrating.
Fast forward to 2013, when I called my friend who has a haircare line and asked if she knew a chemist. I wanted to develop a sunscreen that I could use, so the chemist and I worked on a formula.
I shared with my family that they didn’t have to get these black moles, and I was well-received when I introduced a sunscreen that could blend into all of our different skin tones. I thought “I could build a business around this and teach more women of color that they do need sunscreen.” That’s really what Unsun was created for.
How would you describe your company ethos?
I’m vegan, I live a clean lifestyle, and I am looking at six bird feeders in my yard right now. To live clean, I’m not just talking about our personal use. It’s about our environment as well, and a feeling of wanting to do what’s best.
Are you into “woo” things like astrology? What is your sign?
I’m a Taurus and a total woo! I love Reiki, I subscribe to Gaia. I watch all kinds of spiritual documentaries. Since the passing of my son, Ryan, I’ve been able to confirm that he’s still here. I have a Ginkgo Biloba tree planted outside for him and the buds are now starting to come out. The best thing we can do for ourselves in this world is to be as woo-woo as we can because what comes from this is love.
How do you make time for self-care as a business owner?
I’ve always made time for self-care. I get regular massages and. I love to hike and be outside. I sit in the yard and watch the birds. I love nature. I realize how important self-care is, especially in this world.
What’s your morning routine like?
My alarm goes off at 6:45 AM, and before I leave my room, I do a thirty-minute meditation and a prayer every morning. And I don’t check my phone or emails until I’ve done that. After that, I get up, let the dogs out, feed them, and I’ll have coffee. My mornings are very ritual-oriented.
Tell us more about your office space.
My best friend and I decided to find a space where we could have lunch together and share ideas, so we found this big beautiful office. We have sage, candles, incense. We’ve brought in some feng shui elements. The space has so much light, and the energy is just so beautiful. I go to the office every day, and I have two employees who work with me.
Who inspires you as you grow your brand?
I have a friend, Nancy Twine, who owns the hair care line Briogeo. I’ve been so grateful for the guidance that she gave. Another friend who’s in fashion, her name is Melody Ehsani, and she was a huge inspiration for me. They were my main contacts when I had questions.
How has your experience been as a Black entrepreneur?
It’s interesting, there’s definitely been a shift. Too often, Black women have not been taken into consideration when companies develop their products. So that was my call to action. It’s been very well-received. Since this past summer, with the BLM protests, we’ve completely sold out twice, and we’ve heard from so many different buyers and stores large and small. There’s definitely been a shift in support of Black businesses that I did not feel prior to last summer’s events.
What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs like yourself?
Don’t quit your job right away. A lot of people have this glorified vision of what being an entrepreneur is. It’s often lonely because unless you have some fancy uncle that’s willing to pour money into your business, quite often you’re starting on your own and building up, doing everything, and you’re still not able to pay yourself. With proper planning, and then you can 100% pursue something that you’re passionate about.
Are you planning to expand your product line?
We’re launching two new face and body highlighters soon, and new packaging! We’re switching over to sugarcane tubes and glass bottles. The highlighters are so pretty, and you can’t go wrong with layering on different kinds of sunscreen during the day!
If there’s one thing you’d like to tell readers, what would it be?
To watch what they put on their skin! It’s amazing how deceptive labels are. Packaging will say things like ‘no phthalates, no parabens,’ but then there are still many questionable ingredients when I look at the label. Take control and research what you put in and on your bodies.