The beauty industry is changing, and about time, too. For far too long, there’s been a homogenous view of beauty presented by the media and the brands selling us the products that fill our bathrooms. Normally, one of a woman who is young, thin, white and cisgender. While tackling this mammoth diversity problem takes change at all levels, there are a number of women facing the issue head on.
Take Ateh Jewel, for instance, the beauty journalist and blogger who's spent the last 17 years campaigning for greater make-up choices for women of colour, and is now creating her own foundation. “I’m 40 and my dream foundation is still not on the market, so I’m making it myself,” Jewel told us. While in the past year a number of big-name brands – including Dior and Bobbi Brown – have increased their shade ranges (just call it the Fenty effect), women of colour still have a significantly smaller percentage of the beauty shelves available to them.
“I love natural formulations and often when I find the correct colour match it’s packed with synthetic ingredients and silicones that cause breakouts. If the formula is suitable often the texture is matte and chalky, which looks terrible on darker skin tones,” Jewel explained. Her new foundation, launching summer 2019, will be packed with skincare ingredients, such as vitamin C and hyaluronic acid, and offer dewy coverage in an extensive range of shades Jewel has yet to find. “I don’t want anyone to feel hurt, marginalised and unwelcome at beauty counters like I have for years,” she added.
Tricia Cusden’s brand Look Fabulous Forever, a make-up line for women over 50, was born out of a similar frustration. “I never see images of anyone who looks like me, unless it’s an advert trying to ‘fix’ my supposed medical issues. I’m tired of only seeing women my age in campaigns for electric stair lifts or incontinence pads. With beauty and youth so intrinsically linked, older women feel excluded from the conversation,” Cusden said. As she points out, this is a ridiculous notion considering that, by 2036, 24% of the UK population is forecast to be over the age of 65, and older women have greater spending power than their millennial counterparts. Look Fabulous Forever promotes an age-positive rhetoric, using the phrase “pro-age” within its marketing and unedited images of age-appropriate women (often Tricia’s friends) instead of models. Beyond the range of make-up, the brand communicates with its engaged community via YouTube tutorials and social media.
In fact, a number of women have been using social media to challenge traditional beauty standards and encourage others to embrace what they might see as “flaws”. The skin-positivity movement, specifically #acnepositivity, has been gaining traction, thanks to the work of blogger Em Ford, while Radhika Sanghani’s side-profile selfie campaign made headlines earlier this year. One woman determined to move this conversation offline, and instigate real change, is Becky Young, founder of the Anti Diet Riot Club.
This rebel community aims to bring people together in real life, with a variety of events, meet-ups and workshops that have body acceptance, radical self-love and fat positivity at their core. “Until I discovered the political concepts and community around body acceptance I believed the only solution to my insecurities was another diet or exercise program,” Young explained. “We want to encourage people to stop wasting their precious energy, money and time on achieving an ideal body shape and spend more time cultivating self-worth regardless of what we look like.”
The power of beauty to impact the wider cultural conversation shouldn’t be understated, as trans activist Charlie Craggs knows too well. After five years travelling the country painting nails and changing people’s perspectives about the LGBTQ+ community, with her organisation, Nail Transphobia, Craggs has now launched a product range called Nail It. “This is a step further in raising awareness. Nails are a great conversation starter and provide the perfect opportunity to chat to people about trans issues,” Craggs said. The first design features a lobster, a symbol for the trans community until the trans flag (the most requested emoji, ever) is added to the keyboard by Unicode.
It’s not just diversity that women are addressing, but activism and social change, too. While the beauty industry has always had strong relationships with charitable causes (for example, Estée Lauder’s long-term Breast Cancer Campaign and MAC’s ongoing Viva Glam project), in 2018, beauty brands are going one step further. Hello Jo, a new British-based, Korean-inspired beauty brand has put community at the heart of what it does. “We find ourselves in the most incredible time of change and I wanted to create a brand for young people who identify as women to help support them through this time. Hello Jo encompasses and encourages women to speak out, tell their stories, and help and support each other,” Cassie Mystkowski, beauty and product development consultant at Hello Jo, commented. It has put its money where its mouth is, too, with 50p from each product sale going to Rosa, the first and only UK-wide fund for women and girls.
A discussion about women changing the beauty industry couldn't be had without mentioning the work of Beauty Banks, the organisation set up by journalist and Pool contributor Sali Hughes and PR director Jo Jones. After reading a shocking report by In Kind Direct about the extent of the hidden crisis of hygiene poverty throughout the UK, they started to collect donations to distribute. “We know that toiletries and cosmetics have the ability to impact a human being’s self-esteem, pride, confidence and employment opportunity,” Hughes wrote. “Clean hair, skin and teeth are a right, not a privilege. Personal hygiene – while not a matter of life and death – is crucial for our dignity, self-respect, personal pride and mental health.”
While some naysayers may still brandish beauty frivolous, these women prove once and for all it’s a force to be reckoned with. After all, in these testing times we live in, staying quiet is no longer an option.