Inclusion and diversity in the beauty industry have made strides. Lizzo is the Urban Decay brand ambassador, while Fenty’s 40 shades have ignited an SKU showdown and Huda is ruling the luxury concessions like never before.
Yet, we only see the surface level of inclusion in beauty – perfect faces without the ordinary – scars, acne, wrinkles, facial hair and all the other parts of a human that are seen as ‘flawed’. Traditionally ‘ugly’ parts of the human experience should be considered part of the normal, diminishing the stigma around what beauty means.
Brands need to be as multifunctional as the people they sell to.
Advocating for authentic and real beauty campaigns, activists across social media are calling the industry out. Jameela Jamil started the @iWeigh movement on Instagram, asking for people to view their worth as more than a number on a scale. Posting self-portraits with affirmations of an individual’s true worth, the account empowers followers to gain confidence by looking introspectively, rather than at a number on a scale. Similarly, Instagram community @AntiDietRiotClub hosts events, workshops and meet-ups, fighting the diet and fat-shaming culture we are accustomed too.
At a recent talk by Mind x Feel Unique, activist Honey Ross talked about the importance of embracing all parts of yourself. Drawing on her own experience, “For the first time in three years I had new red marks across my stomach, and for a moment I cried… but I realised that I need to accept all parts of me, including the ‘flaws’ that don’t align with what I see in the media”.
As work by mental health companies like Mind and high profile advocates like the Royal family takes centre stage, the link between social media and mental health has become a burgeoning conversation. 49% of British teens cite social media as a contributor to high-stress levels, with brands sustaining a level of perfection, which isn’t attainable. The Guardian’s Linda Blair states, “Feelings feel like facts”, and hopes that “…new research inspires us all to check our perfectionist tendencies, and focus on our health and happiness instead”.
Wellness struggles like hormone cycles which women deal with throughout their lives are often ignored by brands. A new wave of companies looking to ease these transitions are arising, including Fridababy’s products for postpartum recovery, Blume’s range for girls navigating puberty, and Genneve’s online clinic and shop which helps women during the menopause.
“The message is simple; If a brand expects to sell to any type of consumer, they have to make every type of life experience a part of its brand identity.”Stylus
As consumers look to brands as guides, they should be considering beauty holistically, engaging with all women, rather than perpetuating a stereotype of what beauty is. Dove has become synonymous with its Real Beauty campaign, which dates back to 2004. The #RealAerie campaign in America takes a similar approach, showcasing women who were untouched by Photoshop, with scars, curves and blemishes. Both campaigns have successfully associated the companies with the body positivity movement, ultimately boosting sales and brand awareness.
Stores like Nike and Target are bringing this mindset into retail spaces, and are now using mannequins of all sizes, encouraging women of all shapes to wear their clothes. With 90% of Gen Z consumers wanting to purchase products in store, the retail sphere should reflect the varying types of people.
Breaking down taboo topics, we will start to see brands take a whole new lens to beauty, widening the scope and normalising body messages which are otherwise ‘flawed’. From menopause to hormones, from chin hairs to pubic hair, from stretch marks to cellulite, brands need to recognise that beauty is holistic – it should encompass different human forms, imperfections and flaws alike.
Throughout Covid-19, the beauty industry has stepped up for its community and will continue to forge forward and reimagine the way we connect, commune and care for each other.
In a time of crisis, brands have a genuine role to play. Brands must show responsibility to their consumers, their employees and communities as they navigate uncertain times. Is a time for collective effort and creativity. It is a time for ‘we’, ‘us’ and ‘our’.