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Is Clean Beauty Drenched In White Privilege?


Seven days ago, Laurel Skin, a clean beauty brand, released a statement on their Instagram apologizing for lack of inclusion of diversity on their brand’s social media. 


They also promised to make the conscious effort to have “uncomfortable conversations so as not to revert to their white privilege”.

Laurel Skin, along with so many other beauty companies  have been admitting to their white privilege, and making bold promises about how they will do better. This had us wondering if this was a Laurel Skin problem or a clean beauty problem?


What is White Privilege?

 According to Cory Collins, in his post What Is White Privilege, Really?, he described White Privilege as 

“Being able to walk into a store and find that the main displays of shampoo and panty hose were catered toward your hair type and skin tone. It is being able to turn on the television and see people of your race widely represented. It is being able to move through life without being racially profiled or unfairly stereotyped, [because of the color of your skin]".



The Beauty Industry


The beauty industry as a whole has had a notorious reputation not catering to women of colour. Despite women of color being the fastest growing consumer segment spending almost 80% more than  non-Black consumers is cosmetics. 

That was the norm until supermodel Iman came out with her brand of beauty products, Iman Cosmetics and more recently, Fenty Beauty which came out with their groundbreaking foundation in 50 shades. 

As for the clean beauty sector, there haven’t been any eyebrows raised about them, not including women of colour. 

However, with the statements being released recently in support of Black Lives Matter, we decided to research to see if the industry was also as whitewashed as its parent industry.





Clean Beauty Brands


In our research, we chose to focus on brands and retailers that were exclusively clean beauty. 

We were able to get a total of 20 brands from both Real Simple and Luxe Digital

Next was to scrutinize their Instagram pages to see how diverse they were before the current tide of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Of the 20 brands we checked, only 10 of the brands had a glimpse of diversity (slightly higher than tokenism), and of the 10, 5 of the brands had actual diversity.

The five brands were Town & Anchor, Ilia Beauty, Burt’s Bees, bareMinerals and Bite Beauty. 


So the question is, why are these brands not actively trying to more inclusive? 


Reasons for the Lack of Diversity...


The short answer will be to throw it under the umbrella of white privilege, but that would be too ambiguous, making it neither helpful nor insightful. 

As a result, we decided to evaluate these clean beauty brands against the manifestations of white privilege.

1. Wealth

It is common knowledge that white people are wealthier on average, and because of that are more likely to invest in clean beauty products which tend to be on the pricier side. 

Also, most companies are more likely to focus their attention on the demographic that makes them the most profit, and if it is white - then so be it. 

2. Ignorance

Most of these brands are owned by white people who grew up in a white bubble where their neighbours, movie stars, musicians, president, models and so on looked like them. 

Hence their first instinct is to create products for people that look like them as well as market their products using people that look like them.

The freedom to have this kind of thought process is clearly white privilege.

3. Employment

A lot of these brands do not have a diverse workforce which makes it so easy to forget about people of colour in their product line and marketing campaigns.

The Way Forward

Like Laurel Skin said in their statement, brands have to put in the effort to create diversity in their brand. They have to actively and consciously hire people of color both as models and professionals. 

Hire people in a way that reflects the demographics of your country. Allocate a certain percentage to each race, gender, sexuality and ability. 

Choosing to hide under the blanket “merit” is not an option. 


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