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Model Winnie Harlow raises $4.1 million to launch Cay Skin, a sun care brand for all skin tones

March 7, 2022, 2:13 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! WNBA star Brittney Griner is detained in Russia, Florida lawmakers pass an abortion ban, and sun care is popular with founder Winnie Harlow—and investors. Go get your Monday.

– Fun in the sun. For years, skincare has reigned as the the hottest category in beauty, with sun care, in particular, trending toward the top for consumers and investors alike. One need only to look at Supergoop!, one of the biggest dedicated sun care brands, which private equity giant Blackstone acquired late last year.

“Sun care is one of the fastest growing categories within the skincare segment,” explains Anu Duggal, founding partner at Female Founders Fund. “With more and more Americans recognizing the importance of preventative care, SPF is now the No. 1 trending claim searched across skincare with more than 40% growth year-over-year.”

Duggal’s Female Founders Fund is an investor in Cay Skin, a new sun care brand launched by model Winnie Harlow and led by CEO Cass Devor, a beauty exec with experience at Charlotte Tilbury, Bumble and bumble, and Sephora.

Cay Skin, which caters to deeper skin types but can be used by all, raised a $4.1 million seed round in January ahead of the brand’s launch last week for a total of $6.5 million in funding, the company tells Fortune exclusively. That fundraise is relatively large for the beauty industry, where the median raise in 2021 for a company in the space was $3.2 million. And the round adds Harlow to the small cohort of around only 100 Black female founders who have raised more than $1 million in VC funding, according to ProjectDiane.

Model Winnie Harlow raises $6 million for sunscreen brand for Black skin
Model Winnie Harlow raised $4.1 million for her sun care brand Cay Skin.
Courtesy of CaySkin

“At first we were hearing a lot of ‘no’s,” Harlow tells Fortune. “It was getting a little bit scary. I was remembering my start as a model, hearing all those ‘no’s in the beginning of my career. Persevering, continuing to push through, and saying, ‘I believe in this,’ and it comes to fruition—that was the same feeling I had with Cay.”

Cay Skin’s other investors include True Beauty Ventures (an investor in the sexual wellness brand Maude and leader of the round); New Money Ventures; Air Venture Partners; and Silas Venture Partners. “We were immediately drawn to Winnie’s own sun damage story [and] her passion for inclusive beauty,” says True Beauty Ventures general partner Cristina Nuñez.

Harlow has vitiligo, and her skin condition has been a big part of her narrative since she stepped into the public eye on America’s Next Top Model in 2014. Her own sun damage experience—enduring the worst sunburn of her life after she wasn’t permitted to wear sunscreen during a two-day outdoor photoshoot because of the blue cast the product left on her skin on camera—inspired her to launch the sunscreen brand. “I was really disappointed there was nothing on the market that could give me the look I wanted with the protection I needed,” she says.

Cay Skin isn’t the only company creating sunscreen for Black skin and aiming to dispel the myth that people of color don’t need SPF; competitors include Black Girl Sunscreen, founded by Shontay Lundy and funded with $1 million in venture capital money. But for a problem as big as racial inequity in not just beauty, but health care, there’s likely room for more than one brand. Although skin cancer is less common among people of color, it tends to be diagnosed at a later stage when it does occur, leading to a worse prognosis.

Harlow’s brand is named for Jamaica’s Cays islands, and its four initial products are set to hit Sephora shelves in the coming weeks. “This is something that’s really important, not just for me,” says Harlow. “Sun protection is for everyone.”

Emma Hinchliffe

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