In the fashion industry, diversity has been a hot topic for a few years. The attention for the issue seems to be on an all-time high with Lupita Nyong’o on Vogue’s January 2018 cover, Edward Enninful as the first black male editor-in-chief of British Vogue, and activist Adwoa Aboah, who has Ghanaian roots, on the cover of British Vogue in December 2017. Additionally, people are arguing for more diversity in the modelling industry, with a focus on diversity in skin tone, size and gender. Diversity thus seems to have infiltrated the fashion industry in many different ways. But what about the beauty industry?
Diversity has become an important topic in our culture and society – in politics, in media and in pop culture, and now it’s increasingly infiltrating the beauty industry as well. The industry is finally setting the restrictive vision of beauty aside, acknowledging that there is not one definition of beauty. The initial goal of the cosmetics industry was to be the most beautiful version of yourself, has now shifted to being the most beautiful version of yourself, regardless of age, gender or race.
From nearly white to the deepest brown
When you think of diversity, your thoughts automatically go to race and skin color. For a long time, most companies in the beauty industry focussed on their (biggest) white customer segment without realizing they had to meet the needs of all members of their audience. Finding the right foundation shade, often from specialised and thus more expensive brands, used to be a luxury when your skin tone was any darker than beige. But recently, companies have shifted to also catering to the smaller segment of non-white customers. The best example must be Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty line that carries 40 foundation shades ranging from a nearly white shade to a deep brown.
Sadly, many companies still have work to do in offering a diverse array of shades that suit every skin tone. Tarte, for example, was heavily criticised for their new Shape Tape foundation range that carries 18 shades, of which only 4 deep enough shades for darker skin tones.
Many companies, however, follow Fenty Beauty’s example and are promoting inclusiveness and diversity in the cosmetics industry. CoverFX, for example, launched a #nudeisnotbeige campaign to raise awareness for the bias in ‘nude’ shades. They state that nude should not be considered as a color, but as a concept. Similar to Louboutins ‘nude shoe’ collection a few years ago, where flats were released in different ‘nude’ shades, CoverFX argues that ‘nude’ isn’t beige, but just the color that matches the skin tone of the wearer.
Beauty has no gender
More recently, the beauty industry has also touched the topic of gender diversity. Driven by famous influencers like James Charles and Manny MUA, who are redefining the standards of masculinity and femininity, brands are starting to realize that we don’t only use makeup to look pretty, but also to express ourselves and our identity. MAC, for example, collaborated with Caitlin Jenner which means that the industry has also started accepting transgenders. Even luxury brands like Tom Ford have jumped on the bandwagon by creating a beauty line (including a concealer and brow products!) especially for men.
Recently, the beauty industry has even embraced gender fluidity, i.e. not exclusively identifying with any of the genders. Milk Makeup, for example, collaborated with David Yi from Very Good Light on their #blurthelines campaign. With this campaign, they promoted their much raved about blur stick primer, while asserting that beauty has no gender. It thus seems that the industry is taking steps toward an overall acceptance of gender diversity, which will hopefully turn into a movement that will change the way we think about gender forever.
Is diversity just a trend?
We all know the beauty industry basically thrives on trends: new products and collections are often marketed as the hottest must-haves of the season. However, it seems that this one is here to stay.
Rihanna, who was criticized for not using any transgender models in her Fenty beauty campaign, said that the struggle for diversity is a serious issue and that it shouldn’t be considered a trend. Brands shouldn’t include different models in their campaign so they can pat themselves on the back for embracing diversity. They should include them because of their conviction to the issue of diversity and because they genuinely want to create products that will look good for every skin tone.
So what can we do to close the gap between what’s currently available and what we truly need? How can we motivate the industry to fully embrace diversity?
First off, businesses have to be aware of diversity in every stage of development and in every department of their company. Only like this they will be able to fully understand the points of view of the minorities that they also have to cater to. Second, brand awareness is extremely important. As customers, we have to make sure the company we’re buying products from is truly promoting diversity. But most importantly, customers have to continue to voice their needs to companies for them to truly make a change in the products and shades they carry.