Multivitamins are pivotal in bridging nutritional gaps, ensuring our bodies receive essential nutrients for optimal function. For Black women, generic multivitamins may not suffice given the unique way melanin-rich skin interacts with specific vitamins, especially Vitamin D. For instance, an estimated 80% of melanated individuals grapple with Vitamin D deficiency, which can exacerbate health issues like chronic fatigue, skin problems, and more severe conditions.

Hence, a multivitamin tailored for melanated skin is crucial to addressing specific deficiencies and offering targeted nutritional support.

Mela Vitamins Bridges the Gap

Mela Vitamins stands out as a brand specifically designed for Black women. Recognizing the unique nutritional needs of melanated individuals, its creators tailored a supplement formula that addresses these requirements. The importance of multivitamins is universally acknowledged, but certain nutrients can be crucial in supporting overall health for those with melanin-rich skin. Mela ensures Black women receive targeted support for their well-being.

Recognizing the gap nutritional requirements that generic multivitamins often overlook, Mela Vitamins undertook a rigorous journey, encompassing a decade of research and testing. The result? The Daily Essentials – a meticulously formulated blend of vitamins, probiotics, and nutrients designed explicitly for melanated bodies. These capsules are a one-stop solution, replacing your multivitamin, probiotic, and vitamin D supplements, condensing them into two easy-to-consume capsules daily.

21Ninety spoke to the Mela Vitamins founder, Ashley Harmon, about Mela Vitamins unique formulation, costs, and bridging the nutritional gaps for Black women.

Photo Courtesy of Mela Vitamins

Interview with Ashley Harmon

21Ninety: Tell us about yourself.

Ashley Harmon: I am originally from the DC area. I’m living in LA now and I started my career completely different in the consulting space at PwC. So, I was a consultant for seven years and did the Monday through Friday. [And] was really sick of that and burnt out. I decided to get in the startup space ended up moving to LA. I worked at a travel startup called for the Love of Travel. About eight months into me moving here, they decided to move their office to Europe. So I actually worked at Blavity before Mela Vitamins…on their AfroTech side.

21N: What inspired Mela Vitamins?

AH: In college, I was diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency and PCOS. I was having terrible fatigue, breakouts, and digestion issues. I spent a year going to different doctors, trying prescription medicine, and I really couldn’t find anything that worked well, and that didn’t have too many side effects. Finally, I found a naturopathic doctor who tried this different mix of supplements and vitamins. I had a great experience, but they were over $150 a month, which would not happen as a college student. So I was like, I’m going to figure out how to make these by myself to feel better. And I had a couple of friends going through similar things, and I can help them. That’s kind of initially how my interest in supplements started.

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and all these studies discussed the links between Vitamin D deficiency and severe COVID-19. And how communities of color were experiencing higher rates and higher levels of vitamin D.

21N: When you were researching Mela Vitamins, what was one of the most profound things you realized when it came to just having a great vitamin?

AH: I’ve seen things change in the beauty industry. For example, there’s a broader range of foundation, lipstick, or whatever. They took the time to listen to consumers and realize a need existed. And I realized that there’s not that same level of understanding or care about people of color in the wellness space. No one took the time to sit down and talk to women in our community about their health concerns. We know the statistics of higher rates black women have. But what are you actually worried about? What in your day-to-day life are you hoping to improve?

We talked to many people, and it was like, ‘This is the first time anyone’s ever asked me. A doctor has never asked me. I do not feel I’m not represented in the wellness space.’ [And] we’re focused on that; just spend the time listening. That’s what we did for a whole year. We just talked to people to understand what they were looking for in a multivitamin and just out of their wellness and health in general. That was the foundation of the multivitamin product that we made.

21N: During your research, were there any other health risks you learned about regarding black women?

AH: Yeah, so I think it was a couple of things. I don’t think I realize how many things a Vitamin D deficiency impacted. So, I think that was huge and was just understanding that…of course, it has implications like bone health and calcium, but it also impacts your immunity. It can cause anxiety, depression, fatigue, and your hair to fall out. I learned another one by talking to the women and the doctors. The main area of concern was blood sugar management. It was a huge one that we’re really focused on and trying to reduce the risk of diabetes. Mental focus and cognitive health were another. We’re twice as likely to develop dementia in our lifetimes. And then, I think overall heart health and immunity in general were important to people.

21N: How did you come up with the price point?

AH: We tried to get the lowest price possible while still keeping the effective ingredients and not using filler. It was like, ‘What ingredients do we know that we need? And what’s the cheapest way to get those of the highest quality?’ We created the price based on that. And one of the things that was important to us was getting feedback on the pricing. We realized that people were spending a lot of money on supplements and that if we could replace two or three different supplements with one, people would not be as upset about the price point. They are willing to pay that price because they know they’re paying a hundred dollars for three different supplements.

21N: Have you received any testimonies from using the Daily Essentials for Women multivitamin?

AH: Yeah, so we’ve gotten a lot of really good feedback. We continue to do focus groups with our customers and of course, the reviews that they leave online. The biggest one is that people do not have to buy many different supplements. People either felt like they were wasting money or just spending too much money. And what we do is, if you don’t take any other supplement, we try to give you the baseline of everything you need. We don’t just standardize multiple vitamins. You got your probiotics and things for stress management and all this other stuff. So, that was one of the pieces of feedback that people really loved.

Another one is people who’ve had their blood work redone since purchasing their first bottle. And for the first time, they’re in the normal vitamin D level range. And that’s huge. A lot of other multivitamins don’t include enough vitamin D for people to not be deficient.

You can purchase your Daily Essentials for Women bottle on Mela Vitamin’s website. Use code “21NINETY” for a 10% discount with a subscription.

This article has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.