As some of the biggest advertisers and image-makers in the world, cosmetics brands are often criticized for their legacy of largely homogenous portrayals of aesthetic ideals. With anything, there are of course a few brands who have been pushing for change for decades. The shift towards diversity, especially in regards o representation of faces, bodies, age, and gender representations has finally gained momentum, largely in thanks to social media. Consumers have been given an important and loud platform to express opinions and desires for better representation and brands are listening. In 2016, CoverGirl signed 17-year-old YouTube star James Charles as its first-ever cover boy; Redken’s 2014 campaign featured Lea T, the first time a transgender model fronted a big beauty campaign; and Nars, L’Oréal Paris and Marc Jacobs Beauty have all released campaigns featuring models over 60 in the past few years. This progress has been slow since tides began to shift in 1992, when Revlon hired Veronica Webb and, in doing so, became the first major beauty brand to feature an African American model as its face.
Beauty brands are looking not only to be more inclusive in the way they show bodies, skin tones, and people of varying ages in marketing campaigns but also to revamp how they speak to and listen to consumers. Consumers are using social media as a catalyst for change in the industry, and a platform to voice frustrations with brands that come across as inauthentic or uninformed. It’s helped give a voice to marginalized populations and to consumers that don’t fit into the previously ideal body type and image. Cosmetic and beauty brands are taking on the responsibility of promoting imagery that’s representative of reality, from skin tone to gender identity to body type, because of their ongoing history of fostering unrealistic standards of beauty. For businesses, this is a smart move in customer retention and brand awareness, which contribute to better sales and marketability. Rihanna’s cosmetic line Fenty Beauty has been the pinnacle of diversity in cosmetics, offering more than 40 shades of foundation and swatch colouring on a variety of skin tones. By doing so, customers of all shades are able to get a better idea of how a shade of lipstick or eyeshadow will look on themselves, removing the stressful and sometimes disappointing guesswork. The line sold out in a matter of hours. Diversity – good for customers, good for business.
Here are a few of our favourite beauty brands making a difference: Glossier, Fenty, CoverGirl, and Thrive Causemetics.