A New Wrinkle In The Cosmetics Category

Inclusivity has been a big topic in the beauty industry of late, and a wide range of new lines, including licensed and collaborative examples, have focused on cosmetics and skincare that address the needs of consumers of all colors and skin types. The trend had been ongoing for some time but intensified in 2020 due to the increased emphasis on diversity, equality, and inclusion jumpstarted by the death of George Floyd.

A newer twist on inclusivity in the beauty category consists of product lines whose stated mission is to address and counteract the unrealistic ideals of beauty put forth by the industry through its products and especially its advertising. This is not just about diversity in ethnicity, body type, and so on, although that is part of it. It is also about feeling beautiful without “perfect” skin or other rare-in-real-life attributes that the industry has traditionally celebrated.

Four new programs spearheaded by celebrities have used the publicity, promotion, and/or marketing materials surrounding the announcement and introduction of their new initiatives to underscore that their mission is, at least in part, to counteract these long-accepted but unattainable standards:

  • Singer Alicia Keys and e.l.f. Beauty are launching Keys Soulcare, a lifestyle beauty and skincare brand that is billed as honoring ritual in daily life, fostering intention, and exploring conversations about inner beauty, wellness, and connection. Keys is known for her pioneering decision to wear little to no makeup on the red carpet or in her other public appearances.
  • Selena Gomez debuted Rare Beauty, named after her 2020 album, Rare, exclusively at Sephora. In speaking about the brand, Gomez noted that its mission is to “shape conversations around beauty, self-acceptance, and mental health.” At certain points in her career, the singer-actress has been on the receiving end of negative commentary about her weight, which has fluctuated over the years, and she has struggled publicly with mental health issues. She created a mental health fund that will benefit from sales of Rare Beauty products.
  • Byredo was introduced in 2006 as a fragrance brand, later adding bags and accessories and participating in a variety of collaborations in those categories. It entered the beauty sector in 2020 with Byredo Makeup, created in collaboration with celebrity makeup artist and founder of Dazed Beauty, Isamaya Ffrench. Byredo Makeup’s credo is to allow customers to express themselves without rules and to create a new standard of beauty. One product, for example, is a Colour Stick in a wide variety of hues, meant to be used however the consumer wishes, whether on eyes or lips or elsewhere.
  • Singer Halsey announced a new brand called About-Face, which she developed in partnership with the founders of the Smith & Cult and Hard Candy brands. It will be sold direct-to-consumer on the brand’s website as well as, for the first year, exclusively through subscription service Ipsy. In discussing the new project in advance of its January 25 debut, Halsey noted that she views cosmetics as art and not as perfection. She is known for creating eclectic, colorful, ever-changing looks; the 40 SKUs of matte lip colors and eye shadow, cream eye shadow sticks, and illuminating lip gloss and highlighters allow her fans to do the same. Next up after the debut line is an “anti-Valentine’s Day” collection of lip colors.

The topic of addressing the unrealistic ideals of beauty put forth by the beauty industry has long been a matter of conversation, of course. And as noted earlier it is closely connected to the trend for diversity and inclusion in this category; both celebrate individuality, whether related to ethnicity, size, gender-identification, or “flaws” like birth marks, wrinkles, or acne. But the creation of products whose specific mission is to serve as an antidote to unattainable, industry-driven standards is relatively new, as is the frank discussion about the need to rebel against such norms.

A reminder that this month’s edition of Raugust Communications’ free e-newsletter comes out tomorrow, January 19, 2021. The Topic of the Month is a discussion of recent political events in the U.S. and the lessons learned for licensing. The Datapoint research spotlight focuses on the ever-growing cannabis sector, examining the relative weight of licensing deals involving products containing CBD versus THC. If you do not yet receive this publication in your inbox, you can sign up here.

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