The Issue of Diversity in the Beauty Industry

Mainstream beauty companies have often conformed to European beauty standards. Pale skin, double eyelids and blue eyes are only a few of the perceived ideals. Successful companies have marketed a certain ideal of beauty for decades. In 2018, it seems ridiculous that companies can succeed by ignoring marginalised groups.

There is growing awareness of the exclusive approach that beauty companies have developed. The beauty industry has many categories and specialisations. One of the most controversial areas for beauty is the makeup industry. In the makeup industry, the issue of diversity is obvious. Often, Complexion products boast a range of pale and medium skin tones but fail to cater for people of colour (P.O.C). While there is an issue in the availability of diversified makeup ranges for P.O.C, there is also the lack of advertising and marketing towards a diverse audience which excludes many marginalised groups. “It’s just basic marketing. If you see yourself in an image or a name, you’ll know it’s for you. Imagine you are a customer and someone’s telling you that you don’t exist!” says Natalie Clue of Beauty Pulse London. (Beauty Pulse London)

Diversity is an issue that has been seen time and time again with more affordable beauty companies. The lack of diversity in affordable lines means “women with darker skin tones often end up paying 70% more for foundations from specialist ranges” (Stylist). While companies have fought to combat exclusion, the issue of diversity still remains. Huffington Post’s Segun Garuba-Okelarin noted the need for change in the beauty industry “in a world where the population is changing rapidly when it comes to foundation shades, it’s still largely and sadly a 50 shades of beige affair.” (Huffington Post)

In fall 2017, ‘Fenty Beauty’ launched with 40 complexion shades, from pale to dark skin. The range also features a variety of complexion undertones tailored to skin colours. ‘…created for everyone: For women of all shades, personalities, attitudes, cultures, and races.’ (Fenty Beauty) The line proved a success with customers, who finally felt represented by a beauty line. The company maintains an ethos to ‘celebrate diversity’ and features diverse models in campaigns.

Picture2This is comparable to a foundation launch from ‘Tarte Cosmetics’, released in January. The range featured 15 shades, with only 3 catering to darker complexions. The lack of diversity received large amounts of criticism and the company apologised. The apology contained the right vocabulary, but was posted to Instagram stories and so, lasted for only 24 hours. Revelist’s Marquaysa Battle questioned the lack of diversity shown Picture1across the brands social media following the controversy “the same brand apologizing for excluding people with darker skin tones in their makeup actually practices this exclusion in MULTIPLE areas they still do not address.” (Revelist) The issue has questioned the relevance of a company that does not show support for diversity.

Could this be a publicity stunt?

In a generation where there may be no such thing as bad press, it is easy to see why some customers feel the distinct lack of diversity is intentional and used in order to garner more publicity for the product. Companies that celebrate diversity receive positivity and encouragement from the beauty community. Companies such as IT cosmetics, KKW beauty and Marc Jacobs Beauty have all faced criticism for their lack of diversity. The power of social media has questioned the true intentions of these companies. It is plausible that companies are using a misuse of diversity to promote a product. A product launch may gain more discussion on social media if it is perceived controversial. The issue may circulate various social platforms in the beauty community, creating interest. But does the root of this issue lie in the lack of a diversified workplace? It may be due to a lack of diversity within mainstream beauty companies. It is difficult for P.O.C to have a voice if they are not given a platform or the opportunity to be heard.

The need for diversity is not limited to the beauty industry, nor is it confined to race. Diversity calls for the inclusion of everyone, regardless of race, gender, age, disability, size or skin conditions. In 2018, it is important that we each act as informed consumers and call out the companies that do not cater to a more diverse audience. Social awareness of diversity as a problem in the beauty industry is the only way to improve the issue. But what does this mean for our spending habits? Should we only support companies that feature diversity as one of its main concerns?


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