Interview: Inclusivity in the Beauty Industry, and How It's Still Lacking w/ Aubrei Hayes
Everyone has skin, and skincare can work for anyone. At first glance, the skincare industry seems to be more inclusive than the rest of the beauty industry. But, when you look a little closer, it comes with its own unique set of issues.
As a member of this community, we feel a responsibility to talk about and bring attention to these issues so we can each work together against this mindset and work harder at being more inclusive.
In the makeup industry, it is very clear that most products are steered towards a very specific demographic of people, leaving people of color feeling completely excluded. (ex. limited shade ranges in foundations, concealers, eyeshadows, etc.) There is also a lot of performative activism happening with high end beauty brands... often showing too-light of shades swatched on people of color.
Due to the nature of the skincare industry, it leaves a lot of those problems behind by default... until you see that it comes with its own problems.
We spoke with Aubrei Hayes to get her opinions about these problems, and to hear about her first-hand experiences.
Western Beauty Standards - lighter skin, brighter eyes, nontextured hair, double eyelids... favoring characteristics that are central to white people
Q: What are some examples in beauty advertisements, where the brand is (either obviously or not so obviously) favoring Eurocentric standards of beauty?
A: One advertisement that's fairly recent that highlights the ignorant racism within the beauty industry is Dove's beauty campaign. In the commercial we see a black woman wash herself using Dove and suddenly turns into a white woman. The lack of cultural competency and lack of POC representation within the beauty industry resulted in this horribly coined advertisement that almost ruined Dove's overall branding.
This along with many other advertisements show the importance and need for more POC brands and enthusiasts to show accurate representation and provide society with the knowledge and education of other culture within various perspectives of beauty.
Q: Do we often see this favoritism more overt and straightforward? Or is it usually more in the form of under-the-table microagressions? An equal mix?
A: I believe that in the beginning favoritism was more overt and straightforward however with many fighting to promote beauty for all, many beauty industries claimed their equality for all however continuously promotes favored communities thus leading to under the table microaggressions when discussed is coined as a "lack of education".
Q: In many industries blackness is marginalized as decidedly undesirable until it is appropriated and is suddenly 'edgy.' Have you seen any specific examples in the beauty space recently? Have there been any repeating patterns? If so, why is this specific example problematic?
A: Cultural appropriation is a consistent issue specifically within the beauty industry. From blackfishing, to "boxer braids", to glamorous makeup and nails were all previously seen as ghetto and "too much", however when someone of a different race chooses to embrace this culture it is viewed as trendy and fashion. It's very frustrating to see black culture constantly looked down upon and viewed as inferior now popularized as upcoming trends and fast fashions in the non-POC community.
In my opinion, the most problematic appropriation is the term "blackfisihing", as people in the white community are purposely using darker foundation, emphasizing predominantly black culture trends, and profiting off of the looks of black people, specifically black women. Influencers all around the world have been called out for this, making a profit while purposely portraying a different race to be viewed as "exotic" or "foreign".
Sun Protection for All - something we all need regardless of complexion
Q: Historically, the medical field hasn’t given Black people adequate medical care, and the beauty industry is no exception. A 2014 study found that Black people were prescribed sunscreen after ER visits roughly 9 times less than their white counterparts. Why do you think the myth that 'black people don't need sunscreen' and the lack of awareness for sun protection exists?
A: I can personally attest to that study that this is 100% true, I just learned in fact, at 23 years old, that black people also do need sunscreen. The lack of education is a major factor within the black community when it comes to health in future generations. Growing up I was always told that sunscreen was not a requirement for the black community due to the melanin in our skin. However, that is not entirely true, as when I got my first sunburn I realized that maybe I need to conduct my own research on sun protection.
It's also very concerning when it comes to advertisements and promotions around sun protection and sunscreen it is predominantly a white community, that promotes products to a white audience leaving out the POC target audience that may not understand the education behind sun protection.
The lack of education and promotion towards the POC community leads to continuous health myths that thus provides larger issues and missed opportunities for beauty industries to grow when they fail to understand and advertise towards POC communities.
Whitening Creams - creams made popular in Asian countries (sometimes with toxic ingredients) used to lighten the skin
Q: Where do you think the United States stands compared to the rest of the world in terms of inclusivity in the beauty industry?
In terms of the rest of the world, the beauty industry within the US is fairly progressive however they still have a long way to go in terms of creating an equitable industry for all. There have been major increases in POC within the beauty industry but I believe we still have a long way to go in terms of dismantling the feminine perspective within the industry, showing inclusivity of all body types, sexual orientation, and various genders within promotion and advertisements.
We've Come This Far - our progress, and the gaps that still need filled
Where are the biggest gaps, and where should we continue on making changes to make the industry more inclusive across-the-board?
A: In my opinion, the beauty industry needs to cut the mantra of POC (especially the black community) having to be foreign or "exotic" in order to be portrayed in a commercial or advertisement. As previously stated in another question, the rising black beauty advertisements have been centered around "edgy" or "alternative" in terms of the progression of the advertisement for the influencers portraying these roles. It's teetering the line of performative and stereotypic as I encourage all beauty industries to simply increase representation internally with creative branding and advertising promotion as they are then able to grasp how to relate and advertise to specifically targeted communities without coming off as insensitive and making assumptions.
Q: Using #INCLUSIVITY and 'woke' marketing (or any other performative activism) isn't going to solve the disease of racism. What do you think brands should do to take accountability?
In order to fully take accountability and dismantle performative activism brands need transparency and vulnerability. By opening up to your community members and understand that no one is perfect when building inclusive environments and branding. Hell, if we were then we wouldn't be in the global situation that we are in now! Not only promoting transparency but looking internally to fix the problem, if your entire leadership is constructed of white men/women, maybe one should look internally to fix the issues of the company in order to properly promote change and activism on the brand's part.
Looking internally to fix the problem helps eliminate the underlying problems that are showing externally. This change doesn't occur overnight, one needs to make sure that this emphasis on change is not just a moment, but a movement for all the beauty industry to see and the world to see.
Aubrei is a jubilant Diversity and Inclusion Manager who believes that the promotion of self-love stimulates self-innovation and growth of diversity and inclusion within an organization. She is determined to bridge the connection of self-love within professional personas to emphasize the importance of bringing one's full self to work implementing the importance of diversity that breeds innovation. A vibrant activist passionate about body positivity and owning your story by leading innovative communities and living life fabulously.