a deeper look at the history of racism within the beauty industry

Written by
Rachel Reeves

a deeper look at the history of racism within the beauty industry

Written by
Rachel Reeves

a deeper look at the history of racism within the beauty industry

After the world watched George Floyd plead for his life, after social media erupted with demands to prosecute the cops who shot Breonna Taylor, after protests and riots spread through the nation, no one in America can pretend not to know that our society has egregiously failed Black people. Ignorance is no longer an option.

As we sheltered-in-place this year, hiding in our homes from the novel coronavirus, we were finally forced to pay attention to what Black people have been telling us for centuries. Even those who didn’t want to. Our cities were burning. In L.A., both our NBA teams boycotted their games in protest of Black people being killed by officers sworn to protect their lives and liberties. 

Some moments of reckoning occurred as a result. Organizations dedicated to fighting racism sprang up in affluent places where very few Black people live. Tense conversations occurred at dinner tables across America. Books about unconscious racial bias became bestsellers. 

Unfortunately, despite this progress, tone deafness persists in both our institutions and our very own industry. The beauty industry faces a particular kind of reckoning because it deals in deeply personal ideals. The media has long taught women that we will be more valuable, more marketable, if we look a certain way. Men are instructed to be rich; we’re instructed to be a specific kind of beautiful. The way we see ourselves has been influenced, in large part, by marketing. You’ve probably heard the “joke” about how if women woke up tomorrow and loved the look of our bodies and faces, multibillion-dollar industries would collapse. 

And these industries have been, and in some ways continue to be, undeniably racist. 

In 2017, a mainstream company produced an ad in which a Black woman turns into a white woman after moisturizing. It transported viewers to 133 years earlier, when a Pears ad showed a Black boy in the bath, using the brand’s soap (“FOR THE COMPLEXION”) to scrub himself clean of his melanin. 



The brand apologized for the moisturizer ad and invoked its commitment to diversity. Meanwhile, its parent company continued to sell a skin whitening product in 40 countries that until this year was known as “Fair and Lovely.” Examples of racism in beauty abound. L’Oreal ran an ad featuring Beyoncé looking both white and blonde, though she is neither. An Italian cosmetic line recently named their Black nail polish “Thick as a n***a.” Makeup companies still produce perhaps 20 or 30 variations of a product for white people, and five or six versions of that cater to darker pigments. Their CEOs, mostly white men, explain it’s not cost-effective to make many products that are compatible with darker skin, even though studies show Black women in America spend 80% more on beauty than white women. In response to criticism of its limited shade range, a rep from a major brand explained in 2018 that “additional shades are usually added seasonally, which makes sense because your complexion tends to be paler in the winter and darker in the summer months.” This, of course, does not make sense to a person whose complexion is the same all year long.

As a brand for all types of beauty, shapes, sizes, etc. we want to use our platform to do better. We want to engage with the national conversation about racism, and more specifically about the racist practices of beauty brands. We want to offer care for every complexion and use models of all skin tones. We want to build a community of people united not by their insecurity and desperation to look different, but by a shared love of wellness and holistic health. We want to be a brand that makes you feel better about yourself because you’re healthy inside and out, not a brand that makes you feel worse or less beautiful if you don’t buy our products. We want to listen to you and learn from you.

The ancient Greeks called the emptiness before the creation of the universe “chaos.” If we consider the burning of our nation chaos, then creation must follow. In this history-shaping moment, we have an opportunity, and a duty, to build a better world. We change the world by evolving ourselves. 

For us, we are committed to being a part of that creation.