Beauty brands pledge to be more inclusive, but there’s still a long way to go

Friday, February 19, 2021 by Robinhood Snacks | Disclosures

First, the primer... The BLM movement put a renewed spotlight on racial discrimination in many areas of society, including the beauty industry. Beauty companies have a history of marginalizing communities of color through non-inclusive marketing and products. In the past year, companies like Estee Lauder, L’Oreal, and Unilever have been criticized for marketing “skin-lightening” products. LVMH-owned Sephora has been accused of racial bias in stores — including instances of associates not being able to do “dark makeup” for women of color. Recently, beauty retailers have started taking steps to improve inclusivity:

  • Ulta pledged to double its assortment of Black-owned brands in 2021. Sephora pledged to increase its Black-owned brands from eight to 16 this year (out of its total ~300). And both are expanding employee training to fight unconscious bias.
  • Sephora also signed the 15% Pledge, which calls on retailers to work toward committing at least a population-proportional 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned brands.

Building a foundation... In 2017, Rihanna’s makeup brand Fenty Beauty was hailed as groundbreaking for releasing 40 foundation shades. Many of its darker shades sold out in days. That success led to the “Fenty Effect”: Big brands like Dior and CoverGirl followed, launching 40 foundation shades each. But a December 2020 study from Sephora shows there’s still much left to be done:

  • 3 in 4 retail shoppers feel that marketing fails to showcase a diverse range of skin tones, body types, and hair textures.
  • 2 in 3 shoppers think stores fail to deliver an equally-distributed assortment of products for different tastes and preferences.
  • 2 in 5 US shoppers have experienced unfair treatment on the basis of their race or skin tone.

Beauty brands have a major opportunity... to foster inclusivity, help break down societal biases, and cater to an underserved market. In 2017, African Americans spent considerably more money in the general beauty marketplace than other groups. Black spending power in the US is expected to hit $1.5T by 2021, and is projected to grow significantly in the years ahead. Black consumer choices also have a halo effect that influences mainstream tastes. Addressing racism and catering to Black consumers is key to brands’ success. It’s also an opportunity for beauty companies to move the industry and its standards forward.