The global cosmetics market is expanding and expected to reach roughly $430 billion by 2022. In this period of growth, the industry is evolving and becoming more complex to meet consumer desires and preferences to become more sustainable as well as diverse. The adoption of inclusivity and diversity has had a positive impact on the beauty industry and its market, as beauty products, fashion, and the media deeply influence body image and beauty ideals of consumers.
Beauty brands are making impacts and gaining popularity as leaders in the beauty community, such as Fenty Beauty that delivered a wake-up call to the industry with mission statements, campaigns, and product lines under the slogans “Beauty for All,” and “The New Generation of Beauty,” that bridge consumer demand with products of equal representation.
The Importance of Diversity in the Beauty Community
Representation matters. On a societal level, it can affect cultural socialization. On a personal level, it is vitally important to self-image. Representation and diversity are vital to the beauty industry in disrupting Euro-centric and heteronormative beauty standards. An inclusive approach not only caters to wider markets but also offers the opportunity to develop products that are specifically targeted to the different needs of consumers.
Examples of Diversity in the Beauty Community
Diversity in the beauty community promotes products that meet the individual needs of the consumer. This may include variables for makeup, hair, and fashion.
An analysis of colorism and strides toward inclusivity in the cosmetic industry shows an over-representation of light to medium tones, and a lack of offered products for darker skin tones. Brands such as Fenty, debuted by Rhianna in 2017, focused on disrupting the limitation of available pigments and shades for darker skin tones.
Fenty’s introduction to the beauty industry resulted in a trend that pivoted major marketers in the industry. This trend kicked off an expansion of offerings of foundation and makeup palettes that are tailored to a plethora of skin tones. While cosmetic companies are continuing to expand color diversity and inclusivity, the result of the aforementioned analysis showed that products were still heavily stacked in favor of lighter pigmentation, and though still represented, darker pigmented makeup products are in demand and still have some catching up to do.
A case concerning discrimination and a person’s natural hair has finally made it to congress, and the Crown Act of 2020 ensures that a person’s hair texture cannot be used discriminatorily in relation to federally assisted programs, schools, housing programs, public accommodations, and employment. The Crown act is championed by the Crown Coalition and the skin and hair care company Dove. Ensuring that hair textures and protective styles are protected from race-based hair discrimination is one step towards diversity and inclusion in the beauty community.
The increased awareness of natural hair has impacted the natural hair industry. The natural hair market was long held by grassroots beauty companies that were largely minority-owned. The large-scale embrace of natural hair has encouraged investment, adoption, and development of hair products that cater to natural textures by industry giants making natural hair care products more readily available to the consumer at competitive prices. This shift of money flowing into the natural hair industry has great implications for consumers, but may be changing the market in a way that smaller grassroots companies like the ones that built the industry may not be able to keep up with.
Studies on inclusion and diversity in the fashion industry are proving to be not only the “right thing to do,” but also create a higher performance business model. Diversity often goes hand in hand with innovation. Having a diverse and inclusive team often has positive effects on the creative process. The analysis showed that organizations that championed diversity throughout the company as well as in senior management positions were 30-35% more likely to be higher performing.
The parent company to popular brands such as Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, PVH Corp. has partnered with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) to examine roles of inclusion and diversity in American fashion. Their study seeks to identify problematic issues and spaces within the beauty community, and to instigate awareness and action to create change. The collaborative group is calling on peers and colleagues as well as to consumers, to hold themselves accountable to push for diversity and inclusion of all areas, abilities, age, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
Examples of Underrepresentation in the Beauty Community
Diversity and inclusivity are more than just an extended foundation range; they include a full revolution in the industry where representation is a foundational concept and not just a marketing buzzword. This means co-creation of products from diverse internal teams that champion diversity at the source; it means marketing campaigns that celebrate diversity and recalibrate beauty standards to be more representative of the entire beauty community.
An analysis of consumer behavior in the men’s cosmetics market explores the demand for beauty products that are developed and curated for men. One-third of men say they’d consider wearing cosmetics, recognizing the need for products that are specific to men’s skincare needs. These products may include smells that are not overtly “feminine,” that are developed, marketed, and branded specifically for men’s beauty, hygiene, and self-care. Men that participated in the study noted that reasons for not using cosmetics included guilt for buying cosmetics and issues of self-confidence or self-esteem.
People With Disabilities
Ableism in the fashion industry has resulted in not only a lack of genuine representation, but also offensive discrimination in the form of tokenisms and appropriation. One example includes the photoshoot of beauty icon Kylie Jenner who used a golden wheelchair as a prop, intending to proclaim her struggles with fame and various restrictions that she personally faces.
The appropriation of the mobility device in the photoshoot was insulting to those that require the use of a wheelchair as it was seen as a frivolous and edgy, rather than genuinely representative. Models with disabilities are still largely underrepresented in the fashion and beauty industry, but modeling agencies are working for representation that includes models with disabilities. Companies such as L’Oréal are working to create inclusive employment opportunities.
The LGBTQIA+ community is changing the beauty industry by increasing visibility and helping to embrace new consumers and the demand for genderfluid products. Beauty industry giant Sephora offers classes for confidence — in-person and online instruction to empower non-traditional makeup users, non-binary persons, and members of the transgender community. Beauty companies such as Milk Makeup and Very Good Light collaborated on the DNA project, Blur the Lines, that explores the link between individuality and the gender spectrum.
People of Color
Though the beauty and fashion industry are taking steps towards diversity and inclusion, to become truly diverse and inclusive, diversity must be systemic. This includes not only creating new color pallets and highlighting models of color, but also dismantling the primary whiteness within the industry and reflecting on embedding inclusion in the industry as a whole. This means authentically and genuinely responding to diverse needs in companies, and recreating the beauty community to include a sense of belonging, inclusion, and psychological safety for beauty enthusiasts and industry workers of color.
The Future of Diversity in the Beauty Community
There is still much work to be done to embrace a diverse and inclusive beauty community, to which students of makeup artistry courses are also accountable. Students that aspire to work within the industry must be knowledgeable and proficient in diverse hair, beauty, and body products and practices. It is important to ensure that makeup schools include inclusive diploma courses before admission.
It is not only makeup schools that are vital to change. Consumers and business owners who demand that brands represent more diverse product lines are just as important. Online campaigns such as “Pull Up or Shut Up” seek to hold beauty brands accountable to systemic change rather than trend championing.