Is the beauty industry getting more inclusive?
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We have posed this question to contributor Noura, who explored this query in detail... This is still the most talked about – and critical – controversy in the beauty industry since the nineties when Maybelline kick-started a makeup line in 1990 for dark-skinned women called Shades of You which for some reason discontinued in the late nineties. For as long as we remember makeup, beauty brands have focused only on the “most common” shades of foundation and sadly standardised what we expect from them. In other words, white. In an article with Byrdie, diversity activist Tia Tappan explains how “society’s and the beauty industry's attitudes toward those with darker skin definitely made me [her] feel that way” because of the lack of representation which made Tia hate her skin tone and wished for a lighter one. (link: ) A lot of beauty buyers struggle with accepting their skin tone or their complexion and ironically the beauty industry makes it even harder for them. Beauty products are made to make us feel better about ourselves and more confident, but there is a big number of us who feel the beauty industry makes us feel the complete opposite. Many women of colour relate to the same reality. The white European standard of beauty is the problem. Some women find the skin they are in undesirable and lack a leading figure to represent them in the beauty industry. Being exposed to an industry that praises a homogenous figure you are not or look like has a negative effect on one’s sense of self. And it shocks me to say it actually took around 27 years – Maybelline’s 1990 range vs Fenty Beauty 2017 – to push the representation of colour and diversity proved by the sell-out of Fenty Beauty’s darker shades just on the first day of its launch.
Inclusivity rhymes with diversity in more than one way and it is used more so now than ever before. We can see, especially in the world we live in today, that retailers have taken the opportunity to advertise those two terms to maximise sales and attention to their brand. We’ve got no one to thank but the one and only Rihanna for the beginning of this inclusivity. The superstar launched her line Fenty Beauty in 2017 which includes more than 40 shades that replicate a range of skin tones and complexions. But it is just so much more than that – and the question remains, are we inclusive enough? Not completely. No. The inclusive-and-diverse-talk also extends to the advertising of the products that was key to Fenty Beauty’s success. The beauty brand used inclusive marketing to highlight the neglection of diverse representation. So, we determine that the mindset of inclusion is still insensitive and the beauty industry’s vision has to go through the lens of diversity. The eyes of older women and men and their free choice of gender, shape and sexuality. Too often do we see a standardised image representing beauty brands and it is too little that we celebrate different demographics instead of covering them with the same shade. Older women are one of the many left out. It is always either anti wrinkles or anti-ageing and this might seem daunting and is certainly not what they want to hear or want. Like dark-skinned people, they want to be represented and celebrated in their own skin rather than neglected or covered. Aside from older women now, where are the men, the transgender, the LGBT+ in this homogeneous medium? In 2016, CoverGirl brought on board YouTube star James Charles as its first ever cover boy. Lea T was the first transgender model in a big beauty campaign by Redken in 2014. And other brands like L’Oreal, Nars and Mark Jacobs released campaigns featuring models over 60. But we still don't see enough of these people in the beauty industry. With all these brands taking a step forward and thinking towards the future, the industry nevertheless lacks full inclusivity and diversity. Will we ever be inclusive enough? I'm not sure. Share your thoughts on whether the beauty industry is working towards inclusivity and diversity.