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Right now, the world is having a lot of conversations (at long last) about racism. I'm not a politician, I'm a beauty blogger, so the way I can bring about change in my little corner of the world is probably going to relate to the beauty industry. This isn't my first, second, third or fourth time discussing this topic, but I thought there would still be some value in talking about what I'm trying to do in this space, 'cancelling brands', which brands you might want to support and so on. Let's make a start...
Whilst I'm not consciously sat here saying 'I'm CANCELLING x brand'; what I am feeling is turned off and alienated by certain companies. When a brand includes you and fits with your approach to beauty and what they're putting out really speaks to you; you're naturally drawn to them. The opposite is also true, however. When I first got into makeup, Benefit Cosmetics was everyone's go-to brand and I bought a lot of their products over the years, because that's what everyone did. They even sent me the odd bit of PR in the early days. However, for as long as I can remember, they've had a shocking shade range in their complexion products. I'd still buy the occasional boxed cheek product or mascara from them, but any real excitement for the brand slowly faded away. Upon reflection, I now feel as though I can live without this brand in general; for a long time, over many years, they haven't catered to me and I feel like if they don't want my money in that respect, then why should I give it to them for other products? I'm almost annoyed at myself for going out and buying Hoola Caramel, about 10 years after the original bronzer launch in a single shade. They simply aren't interested in my custom and therefore I'm no longer interested in their products.
Image credit: makeupalley.com
Pretty much all luxury designer brands (with the exception of perhaps Tom Ford, because the formulas really are fantastic in my experience and the shade range isn't pure trash, and maaaaaybe YSL) are out for me, too. They never have and never will care about my custom when they release shade ranges such as the below and think one bronzer tone is sufficient (*cough* Chanel *cough*). Additionally, in terms of inclusivity beyond skin colour (which I'm deliberately not speaking on too much, because that isn't my experience to share), I find it tone deaf that Chanel released a makeup line for men, as if people of all genders can't just use the same makeup. I also don't think a lot of these brands align with my values anyway. By and large; I don't think the formulas of these luxury brands are worth the price. You're paying for the name and buying a Dior lipstick because that's £40 and a bag is £1,000. Which is fine, if that's what you're about, but it's just not my thing; I really find flashy monograms to be gauche. If I were to buy a luxury designer bag, it would be one with very little visible branding, but under those circumstances; what are you really paying for? You can get sturdy, well-made bags that utilise quality materials elsewhere for less. When it comes to beauty products, I'll pay more for something exciting, innovative or special, but not for a brand name, and not for a brand that has a history of excluding People of Colour.
Image credit: @trendmood1 (Instagram)
One of the things that I really struggle with is that my makeup preferences lean very much towards 'quick, easy and minimalist', but some brands apparently think only white people need those sorts of products. I feel like Kosas, Milk Makeup and Glossier are fairly inclusive in their shade ranges, but I see a huge gap in the market for a brand that does the whole 'no makeup' makeup thing for the full spectrum of skin tones. This issue is only exacerbated in the 'clean' beauty space, with the likes of Almay, Physician's Formula and Pacifica offering abysmal shade ranges in the 'deep to dark' category. The excuse is always that lighter coverage products can work across more skin tones, but it doesn't wash with me when the gradient of the shade range is all wrong; you don't get away with 10 shades when the first 5 are almost identical, Shade 6 is me and then Shade 7 is straight to Kerry Washington. We also need fresh, natural colour makeup that works on different skin tones. It's mind-blowing to me that Perricone MD have one shade in their 'no blush' blush. One shade! I understand what they're going for but, to me, the way to do this concept is to take a fairly universal colour like rose and create 5 versions of it, adjusting its intensity and pigmentation to work on 5 different skin tone categories - from an almost pastel version of rose on the fairest skin tone, to a deep, rich, berry hue on the darkest. You don't just give us one shade! At least we get 8 options in the foundation - lucky us...
Image credit: groupon.com
I'm also turned off by brands that aren't inclusive in their marketing and social media approach. If your campaigns only have one token, light-skinned POC; I'm not into it. If you rarely re-post makeup looks on your Instagram feed that aren't featuring white people; I'm not into it. If you choose not to work with a diverse range of influencers; I'm not into it.
The brands I have complicated feelings towards
There are also a number of brands I have more complex feelings towards. For example, L'Oreal (which owns a ton of other brand, by the way). I was really shocked when they very publicly sacked model and activist Munroe Bergdorf as the face of their brand for speaking about racism publicly 3 years ago. It came off as a tone-deaf, knee-jerk move. Fast-forward to 2020 and they're posting a black square, which rightfully had a lot of people incensed (even I was ready to full-on boycott them). However, at the time of writing, their new CEO has reached out to Munroe, apologised and employed her in a diversity and inclusion consultancy role. On the one hand; the cynic in me thinks that when Black Lives Matter wasn't mainstream, they didn't want to be associated with such 'radical' ideas, but now it's en vogue to care about such matters; they want a piece of the pie. Another part of me wants to give them the benefit of the doubt to an extent, and allow them to prove themselves now they're under new leadership, because whatever I was expecting to be their response after they were called out; this wasn't it!
Estee Lauder Companies and, more specifically, MAC Cosmetics also present a tough problem. I watched an Instagram Live from Caroline Hirons that was pretty nuanced on the topic, and I agree with her on this one. The owner of the company has made donations to Trump and the Republican Party so, rightfully, many people felt uncomfortable that the money they spend on their products might end up going to objectionable political ends. However, at the same time, the #PullUpOrShutUp movement showed that Estee Lauder Companies are huge employers of POC - and black people specifically - right up to senior leadership roles. Additionally, just walking up to a MAC counter; you have people of different genders and ethnicities there as their makeup artists. Do we just let those people lose their jobs by calling for a mass boycott of Estee Lauder brands? I'm not saying these factors mean you must go and spend your money there; I just feel it's more complicated than cancel culture and snap reactions online would have you believe.
Brands I want to support
There are a number of brands that aren't entirely black-owned or are owned by POC or just generally do a good job with inclusion that I'm going to highlight here, so you can check them out!
Well, duh! This brand totally shook up the industry with its huge shade range from its initial launch and continues to pave the way when it comes to inclusive colour and complexion products. I've not categorised Fenty as a black-owned brand as it's a joint venture between Rihanna and Kendo (who were behind Kat Von D's makeup line, when that was relevant) but either way; it's a brand I want to support. Even a lot of the super-bright, vibrant products and glittery things I'm not sure I'd personally wear, are fun and I like seeing people use them creatively. There's something inherently appealing about feeling included by brands such as this!
This brand was actually specifically made to cater for warm / olive skin tones, from very light to very deep, so it won't be for absolutely everyone in terms of complexion products but it also has a huge range (if that makes any sense!) They also do a lovely selection of blushers that look beautiful on deeper skin tones. It's a British brand founded by a Woman of Colour and I've seen they now have a stand at my local Superdrug!
Don't quote me on this, but I think Sleek began as a black-owned brand before it was sold off - someone correct me if I'm wrong! When I first discovered this brand, they were only really available at beauty shops and trade shows and I bought one of their special cut-price bundles at the Clothes Show Live Birmingham, in about 2007. Since then they've become the go-to drugstore brand for colour cosmetics that work on darker skin tones and can be found in Boots stores up and down the country.
The likes of Nars, Cover FX, MAC, Charlotte Tilbury (to an extent) and so on also obviously have good shade ranges too, but I'm sure you already knew about them!
Black-owned makeup brands I recommend
I've only ever tried OPV's eyeshadows, but the formulas, textures and colour stories are incredible! You can get stunning looks with their products and they come in at a really reasonable price too. Plus, even a neutral girl like me can have fun with their eyeshadows. I really recommend checking out this British brand.
I actually haven't had a chance to review it yet, but I'm loving the Beauty Bakerie Flour Setting Powder and tried a couple of lip products a little while back. I find the baking theme of this brand and their packaging so cute! Everything feels fun and I look forward to trying more of their products in the future.
This is another brand that does colour incredibly well and I love the different African themes they use across their packaging design. Their formula is absolutely beautiful, too. Though I only have their eyeshadows, they do also make highlighters, blushers and now complexion products.
I feel as though this brand gets forgotten amongst black-owned brands, probably because the pricing makes it unattainable for many of us mere mortals! However, I stand by the fact that the one Pat McGrath palette I have is incredible; the formula is truly out of this world. It's better than Natasha Denona, which comes in at a similar price, so if you can afford one of her smaller palettes; I don't think you'll regret it.
In terms of hair; there's a lot out there for obvious reasons, but not all of the brands you think are black-owned actually are. I'll be doing a post diving into this further, so that's all I'll say for now! I've also found quite a few brands for body products, which I'll be placing some orders for over the coming weeks.
Facial skincare is probably the category I've found the least in, which is frustrating, given that's now probably the primary focus of my blog, so if you have any recommendations, then please leave them in the comments. Rosen and Nola Skinsentials are already brands I've already earmarked, though!
What changes will I be making?
This is a constantly-evolving topic that requires a nuanced approach. I, for example, plan blog content months in advance and create it weeks ahead of time (due to having a full-time job); so please allow for things to filter through. If I brand did something problematic on Monday and my pre-scheduled post mentions them on Tuesday; please give me some leeway! I have some stuff coming up that I'm really excited about, but also due to my pre-scheduled content and the need to order and test out new bits and pieces from various places; that might take a little bit of time. It doesn't mean I'm doing nothing or changing nothing. Equally, I might have decided in some cases - such as the complicated picture when it comes to MAC / Estee Lauder that I discussed above - that I think it's more detrimental to call for people to boycott a brand.
Additionally, I may already have products from brands that may have fallen out of favour more recently. If their behaviour completely turns me off the brand, I will go so far as to pull content relating to them and refrain from mentioning them on my platforms. However, if it's a case of them posting that they only have 8% black employees and they're 'looking at ways of improving this' then, in all honesty, I'm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt for the time being. I do, however, support a follow-up to this movement in 12-18 months to see if these brands have actually made the changes they said they would. But, in the exact same way as I discussed earlier that I went from buying lots of products from Benefit Cosmetics to being turned off by them; if, in the long term, I feel like a brand doesn't care about catering to myself or other POC, I'm going to feel less excited by that brand. So, the next time I go to buy a new cleanser, face powder or whatever else, I'm going to repurchase it from a brand I feel more connected to through shared values. I see this being a long-term organic process of honing down my focus to brands that represent what I think is important.
Rather than arranging boycotts or anything like that; I'd rather focus on positivity. I want to connect you all with more independently-owned, black, female and POC owned brands that you might not have come across before but that really spoke to me. I want to showcase brands that connected with in terms of their marketing, the models they use, the people they repost on their page, who they choose to employ, social responsibility and their overall message. To me; beauty has always been about finding products that inspire and excite me, but I do have to admit that having done this for a long time, I generally have brands approach me about trying their products. Going forwards, I am definitely going to be taking the time and making the effort to discover smaller, newer brands that really speak to my ideals!
How has your approach to beauty changed, in terms of diversity and inclusion?