In the wake of the death of George Floyd, after a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck while he was in custody, and the protests that have ensued, countless brands have taken to social media to publicize their solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement and amplify the voices of black creators.
Beauty brands in particular have stepped up to support the movement. At least 60 brands, such as Augustinus Bader, Glossier and UOMA Beauty, have donated or taken action.
But because of the industry’s dynamics and past, beauty brands are in a unique position—and have a unique responsibility.
“The beauty industry has a moral responsibility, having embedded and perpetuated unrealistic beauty ideals for so long,” said Melanie McShane, senior director of strategy at Siegel+Gale.
Consumers are demanding the industry make an active effort to diversify staff and ensure their activism is more than just a public relations stunt or fleeting trend. This comes from internalizing the messages of racial justice organizations and recognizing the connection between beauty standards and equality.
Correcting social injustices
On Sunday, Glossier became one of the first major brands across all industries to announce it would donate $500,000 to six racial justice organizations, as well as $500,000 in grants to black-owned beauty businesses, to make an impact on its own industry. The brand also created a #BLM Instagram Story highlight with resources on how to take action.
Although making financial donations is a start, many brands have acknowledged that their work is far from over.
On June 2, Nail care company Olive & June announced its plans to donate $10,000 to Color of Change, but founder and CEO Sarah Gibson Tuttle knows she must continue to play a role in the fight for racial justice.
“This is a really important moment in history that is inspiring us to not just donate for one day, but look at all of the aspects of our business and hold ourselves accountable for being a part of the change,” she said. “We will find more ways to highlight resources and amplify voices within the Black community, especially in the beauty and entrepreneur spaces.”
Skin care brand Augustinus Bader donated to Black Lives Matter, the Innocence Project and the NAACP, according to co-founder and CEO Charles Rosier. In May, Augustinus Bader also pledged to donate 12,000 units of its Rich Cream, which retails for $265, to hospitals worldwide in response to Covid-19. Rosier emphasized the importance of not limiting his brand’s donation efforts to one cause in order to cater to the ever-changing needs of society.
Brands have also acknowledged that actively supporting these organizations and recognizing the causes that consumers care about is one of the best ways to build community.
“It’s great to see different types of corporations and industries trying to become more in tune with what is happening in our communities,” Rosier said. “The beauty message isn’t just about superficiality—it’s about connecting with everyone and our community. Just like we are concerned about the spread of Covid, we are also concerned about the spread of racial injustice.”
Holding beauty brands accountable
Sharon Chuter, the CEO of UOMA Beauty, took to Instagram Wednesday to demand that over the next 72 hours, other brands disclose the number of Black people they have employed in corporate and leadership roles. She asked that her followers withhold purchases until the information is released.
“You can’t tell us that Black Lives Matter publicly, when you don’t show us Black Lives Matter within your own homes and within your own organizations,” she wrote.
Chuter has created an Instagram account, @pullupforchange, which details statistics on the lack of economic opportunities for members of the Black community and encourages brands to consider their role in perpetuating the problem.
McShane emphasized that although women of color spend nine times more on beauty, they have not seen nearly enough representation in hiring, advertisements or product diversity.
“Much like any industry facing massive disruption, reduced spend and shifts in audience values and expectations, the beauty industry is having to become more open to breaking from the past,” McShane said. “Beauty and grooming is a core form of self-expression across age, race, orientation, gender and more. As such, we are all invested in making this industry more equitable.”
Words without action or acknowledgement of the past ring hollow, which L’Oreal learned this week. Consumers were quick to accuse the conglomerate of hypocrisy after it released an ad starring Academy Award-winning actress and producer Viola Davis. Previously, L’Oreal cut ties with Munroe Bergdorf, a Black model who spoke out against racism in 2017, something people pointed out across social channels.
Obligations to the community
Following the 2017 release of Rihanna’s Fenty campaign, the term “the Fenty Effect” was coined to illustrate a turning point in makeup inclusivity. The brand highlighted the effectiveness of inclusive marketing and served as a wake-up call for the beauty industry.
According to McShane, the beauty industry has an obligation to dismantle the effects of its own lack of diversity.
“It was only three years ago that the brand Fenty shattered the beauty myth that diversity and inclusion doesn’t pay,” she said. “Other brands are still scrambling to respond. The industry may now be quick to donate and voice support, but it has been slow to change the fundamentals.”
As for long-term, permanent changes in the industry, McShane stressed that brands must expand product ranges, give inclusive beauty advice and diversify hiring and innovation.
“Customers understand there’s a vast difference between consistently inclusive campaigns and just another campaign about inclusion,” she said.