Enter a Puerto Rican nail salon, and you’ll find women reaching for one brand. Despite the shelves on the walls filled with nail polishes from favorites Essie and OPI, it’s Bettina that has captured the hearts of the island.
Growing up, my mom’s nail box contained tiny uniform bottles of nail polish, all of which displayed the Bettina logo – a large B in white font. And whenever we visited a nail salon, salon goers made it clear that Bettina wasn’t just what they chose for their home manicures, it’s also what they wanted skilled cosmetologists to apply to their digits. With its long-lasting and high-quality formula coming at an affordable price – in 2018, a bottle of regular polish retails for $3.50 – Bettina’s the perfect fit for the average boricua woman. And up until recently, it was only available on the island, but now the company ships worldwide.
Julia and Victor Mercado founded the company in 1963 and named it after their daughter, Bettina, who eventually took over the business in 2001. Back then, she found herself in New York City attempting to break out as an actress. But when her mother revealed that she wanted to sell the business if none of her children took over, she decided to give it a shot. Despite no prior business knowledge, she headed back to Puerto Rico to lead the company.
“[Bettina] changed me into a different person. It changed the course of my life and I began to see the beauty of that and everything I could still do,” Mercado told Primera Hora.
Since then, Mercado has transformed the company – starting with changing the brand’s moniker to Bettina Cosmetics. With it, she introduced an array of makeup and skincare products to expand its reach across Puerto Rico. Last year, the once island-exclusive brand announced that it’d sell its products in more than 100 stores in Florida, where most Puerto Ricans have relocated in the wake of an economic crisis. The company also started an e-commerce site, shipping to the US and various Latin American countries.
Bettina’s expansion also included the release of makeup products, from foundation and eyeshadow palettes to brow fillers and brushes. The formulas are vlogger approved as well, with various Puerto Rico-based beauty YouTubers including the items in their video tutorials and reviews. Just like the nail polishes, the makeup products are affordable, ranging from a $6 eyeshadow kit to a $13 liquid foundation.
Bettina is a beloved brand on the island, not only because of its quality, but also because it’s one of the few Puerto Rican-made beauty products. The island imports 85 percent of its food, while small businesses struggle to find a consumer base amidst the malls and department store chains. Still, other beauty brands, such as Necromancy Cosmetica, have joined the ranks of Bettina in the last few years to form a stronger island-based beauty community.
The company’s history of community outreach is also a major element of its success. This month, Bettina announced the launch of Coffeology, its fall collection. The brand teamed up with the Escuela de Café y Baristas de Puerto Rico. The collection, which draws inspiration from Puerto Rican coffee, aims to help develop the next generation of baristas and coffee growers on the island, gifting scholarships for the annual Campamento Cosecha 2018 hosted by the Escuela de Café y Baristas in October.