Beauty transparency is a phrase that refers to ethics and truthfulness of the beauty industry as it relates to customer knowledge. The beauty industry encompasses the sales of all cosmetic products including makeup, haircare, skincare, and fragrance. This industry has long been criticized for its opaqueness, meaning that consumers have little access to critical information about industrywide practices like the quality of ingredients, retail markup, and manufacturing process. In addition, the beauty industry has been criticized for being closed off to minorities in terms of product offerings and choice of models.
As customers demand to know more about their beauty products, there has been a push for increased transparency from both brands and influencers. Some of the major themes of the beauty transparency movement include:
Faces in the beauty industry have historically been white, young, and cisgender. More recently, consumers yearn for more inclusivity within beauty marketing and products. This concept of diversity is expanding to include all gender expressions, sexual orientations, body types, skin type, and pigmentations. Brands have reacted to this in two primary ways:
Wins And Losses In Beauty Diversity
Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty brand is the poster child for inclusivity amongst makeup lovers and the press. Fenty has been widely celebrated for its outstanding range of more than 40 foundation shades, allowing people of any ethnicity to purchase Fenty makeup that will be compatible with their skin tone. Compared to most beauty brands, Fenty features a very diverse cast of models within their social channels and marketing materials.
Cosmetics brand Benefit makes many “one-shade-fits-all” products, which only truly work for white consumers. Benefit has been expanding their offerings, recently creating two new shades of their iconic, beloved Hoola Bronzer—meet Hoola Caramel and Hoola Toasted. This type of brand self-reflection shows that brands are listening to consumer’s desires.
Brands that haven’t evolved to meet this demand have been criticized, for example:
Hi Beauty Community, @Givenchy is officially cancelled until further notice. It’s 2019, stop making POC an after thought. I’ve reached out to the brand for a response because this is a JOKE & we need answers. I won’t be doing a review and promoting this foolery. pic.twitter.com/aOxk4xOblA
— Jeffree Star (@JeffreeStar) February 19, 2019
Givenchy released a line of foundations and concealers in a very limited shade range which didn’t include options for people of color. Markup artist YouTuber Jeffree Star, and much of the beauty influencer community responded by vowing to boycott Givenchy.
Australian beauty vlogger Zoe Foster Blake was seen as tone-deaf when she launched a highly-anticipated tinted sunscreen in only one shade. This caused fan backlash on Instagram, Reddit, and other social channels, generating subsequent bad press accusing Go-To Skincare of ignoring darker-skinned individuals. Foster Blake publically apologized via her skincare line’s Instagram account.
Prediction For Influencer Marketing
Influencers will continue to be vocal about their demand for inclusive beauty products and marketing. Brands that ignore consumer’s demand for diversity will receive bad publicity and the distaste of customers. The consumer awareness of beauty inclusivity will only continue to grow for many reasons including, cultural shifts demanding equal treatment for all populations and expansion to global markets.
Perhaps more significantly, there are the optics of nondiversity. There’s an immediate visual resonance that comes with seeing an Instagram feed filled with only white models or product line with a pitiful shade range—these images will continue to go viral and cause more negative publicity for brands who don’t embrace the multifaceted nature of their consumer base.
The idea of “clean beauty” is one of the most discussed facets of the beauty transparency movement (it’s ripe with controversy). The “clean beauty” movement demands cosmetic products that are free of unnatural or “toxic” ingredients. There are many reasons a consumer might prefer to purchase clean beauty products, including environmentalism, allergies, animal welfare, or chemophobia.
First, let’s list out terms that are used when discussing these niches of beauty products:
If it seems like there’s a lot of overlap, that’s because there’s truly no industry standard definition for any of these terms. It’s important to note that although many makeup brands might use words like “non-toxic,” “plant-based,” or “eco-friendly” to describe their products, these terms are virtually unregulated. There is no official nomenclature, by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or otherwise.
Because of this, the concept of “greenwashing” has emerged: brands use any adjectives on their packaging and marketing materials, whether or not all of the ingredients in their product in-fact meet the practical definition.
If words like “green,” “clean,” “organic,” and “natural” are all too frequent marketing terms that don’t carry scientific weight, then it leaves customers at the whim of savvy advertising. Consumers are saying “enough” with marketing ploys and striving for more straightforward facts when it comes to beauty.
Prediction For Influencer Marketing
Customers are demanding to know more about their products, from the ingredients themselves to their place of origin and quality level. We expect that influencers will play a role in demanding straightforward, detailed labeling practices and clearly defined definitions for “clean beauty” lingo. Brands who continue to obscure their ingredients details and greenwash their merchandise will be called out by both consumers and influencers. Instead, we will see more influencers emphasize products with scientifically proven claims, high-quality ingredients, transparent supply chains, and ethical marketing practices.
Beauty PR, sometimes referred to as simply “PR,” has become a buzz topic amongst influencers and content creators. What is beauty PR? As a form of publicity, beauty brands mail product samples to influencers gratis; marketers hope that in turn, these influencers will feature their products on their channels.
View this post on Instagram
Filmed this quick video yesterday as I was organizing my ‘facial mist collection’. Insane, I know. Going to be completely honest though…I didn’t purchase most of these with my own money. They were sent to me in PR packages from some of my favorite beauty brands, which I am forever grateful for. But to be honest again, I have SOO many more that are brand new and packed for upcoming giveaways and donations. There is just no way I can use all of these up on my own. The reason for this post is not to show off my collection, but to show you all that as bloggers, we really do get sent a LOT of products on a daily basis. The reason why I am constantly loving new products is because I am constantly testing them. I don’t share most of what I receive because it doesn’t work out for me for one reason or another. There is a lot of discussion around authenticity, sponsorships, PR packages etc. in the beauty community and I really want to do a full video on this. Let me know if that is something you would be interested in watching and any questions I can answer for you in the video!
This practice is so common that nearly all brands send out elaborate sets with their newest products to beauty influencers, bloggers, and makeup artists. A recent industry-specific survey by Fashionista found that most influencers receive dozens of PR packages each week and an alarming 81% find the amount of packing to be excessive. This has led to an “arms race” with each brand trying to outdo one another with increasingly lavish PR drops. Brands vie to provide the most luxurious or unique PR set in terms of product selection and packaging.
The downside to this practice? It leads to excessive waste in the form of:
Prediction For Influencer Marketing
The influencer backlash has already begun with many influencers publically speaking out about the downsides of beauty PR. In turn, change has already occurred as brands and influencers combat the waste of beauty PR:
Beauty brands rely on consumer reviews as a form of social proof, which has a big impact on purchasing decisions. Because of this, beauty brands are under tremendous pressure to generate a large number of reviews, especially for products that are newly introduced into the market.
This has lead to the success of Influenster, a crowdsourcing platform that specializes in connecting brands and users. Beauty brands will send free products, usually sample sized, to consumers who write a review in exchange on social media or beauty retail websites. Consumers have criticized the transactional nature of Influenster and similar platforms and questioned review authenticity. Clearly, a review doled out by someone who tries out makeup samples will be substantially different than a review written by someone who trials a full-sized product over a longer timespan.
Coerced Employee Reviews Rattle Sephora And Other Retailers
Even more egregious, some brands have been caught redhanded being behind fake reviews.
a former sunday riley employee says the brand makes employees write fake sephora reviews with detailed instructions on using a VPN and claiming it cured your acne…https://t.co/mcv3XznzKA pic.twitter.com/63DpnNNUSF
— ??????? (@shereeny) October 16, 2018
Sunday Riley faced huge backlash when a leaked internal email indicated that the trendy skincare brand had been pushing its own employees to write fake positive reviews on Sephora. This email went as far as instructing employees to push specific selling points gushing about the transformative effect of Sunday Riley products. Both Sunday Riley and Sephora apologized, but this event brought scrutiny to the fact that reviews on popular sites on Sephora aren’t entirely trustworthy.
Pressure For Social Proof
Beauty fans are becoming more aware that brands are under immense pressured to generate positive reviews for their products to drive sales. An anonymous beauty insider told Vox “When you have a new launch, the sales will increase with a ton of good reviews. I do want to reiterate how common this practice for brands is. Sunday Riley just got caught. I’m not defending it, but it’s a vicious cycle.”
Prediction For Influencer Marketing
Influencers who give their honest opinions will become powerful megaphones for brands who produce high-quality products. In addition, influencers will help promote transparency by showing discrepancies between brand claims and the actual experience of using these products.
The beauty industry is estimated to be a $445 billion per year industry in the U.S. alone. Clearly, the beauty transparency movement has huge implications for brands in the space. The beauty industry still has vast room for improvement in terms of FDA oversight, overinflated retail markup, environmental footprints, and false claims.
More beauty influencers are rising to prominence through their transparency, as well as a willingness to give honest opinions about products and put their marketing claims to the test. If beauty influencers become just an extension of brand messaging, then much of their appeal to consumers is lost. Influencers are also consumers, so they have a personal stake in demanding more from beauty brands.