Once known as an industry that would monetise insecurities, we’ve seen a tectonic shift in beauty over recent years. These days, a strong-willed audience demands more from makeup, whether it’s environmental ethics or diversity campaigns. Rather being told that a product can change how you look, customers now want to know how to make the best of what they’ve got — and even help the planet along the way. Here are the brands whose messages of self-love are striving to shatter our personal doubts.
New shades: everyone is covered with a wider range of tones
Founded by Rihanna, Fenty Beauty blew the industry out of the water in 2017 and was consequently voted one of Time Magazine’s best inventions that year. Created for the inclusion of all skin tones, its famous Pro Filt'R foundation is produced in 40 different shades. As a brand that is more than just another celebrity endorsement, Fenty Beauty practices what it preaches. Better yet, their ethos is influencing others to do the same — Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics has expanded its shade range too. In the UK, hip-hop-inspired British brand MDMflow offers lipsticks that cater to black women as their founder believes the countless shades offered for pale skin just don’t work on darker tones.
No frills: simple, scientific skincare leads the way
When cult beauty brand The Ordinary launched its foundation for £5.90 earlier this year, it completely sold out and built a waiting list of 75,000. The branding is stripped back, and the bottles look like they’d been picked straight out of a lab. Ingredients are simple (no endless mineral jargon) and customers are encouraged to mix up the products and create their own combinations. Now they have 28 stores around the world.
“Clean Beauty” brand KINN follows with similar style and morals. They are Soil Association COSMOS certified, vegan, cruelty-free, and made in Britain with recyclable packaging. Disciple is a “natural skincare company for stressed-out skin” with a minimalist design philosophy, and they donate a product to a beauty bank for every item sold — they really do want to help.
Planet care: sustainability promises finally pushed forward
As the demand for independent brands booms, the cosmetic giant Unilever, which owns Dove and TreSemmé, launched Love Beauty and Planet at the end of 2017 to keep up with the trend. The goal is to bring sustainable beauty to a global market by helping consumers use less water through new shampoos, conditioners, and body washes. The oils, such as rose and lavender, are ethically sourced, the bottles are 100% recycled, the conditioner takes less time to wash out, and there are no parabens in any of the products.
As for smaller brands, Danish designer Kjaer Weis is one of the first to create a refillable system using powder compacts to sell a “harm-free collection.” The cases are so exquisite that customers couldn’t possibly bring themselves to throw them away. Haeckels, a brand located in the coastal town of Margate, England, prioritizes protecting sea life. Discovering that seaweed was wonderfully soothing for the skin, the team harvested within a 20-mile radius of the laboratory the natural ingredients to make soaps, hair oils, perfumes, and candles.
Nowadays, chemicals are not only being cast aside in favour of natural versions, but groups are passionately fighting harmful ingredients through political activism. Beautycounter claims that 24,000 of its consultants were drawn to the company purely because of its mission to regulate ingredients in America’s beauty and hygiene products. Earlier this year, thousands of Beautycounter employees took to the streets to protest in Washington D.C.
‘His and her’ be gone: the age of genderless beauty begins
In 2015, Calvin Klein reformed its '90s classic, ck2, to a genderless scent, and since then, we’ve seen a wave of similar changes. Financially, it makes sense for products to appeal to as many people as possible, so it’s no surprise that beauty brands are trying to keep it neutral. Unisex skincare brand Meant caters to heterosexual couples so they can swap and share products. Others include Løre Originals, skincare brand Sam Farmer and US brand Milk Makeup whose ad campaigns are forever gender-neutral. Even the quieter brands keep it vague to avoid singling out any customers; Aesop and Grown Alchemist never specify whether their products are for boys or girls.