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How Body Diversity Can Make A Positive Impact In The Beauty Industry

How Body Diversity Can Make A Positive Impact In The Beauty Industry

The beauty industry has been celebrating body diversity but are they really being authentic or is this representation tokenistic to make money?

More than ever before, beauty brands are breaking out of the mould of traditional concepts of beauty and choosing to champion body diversity in a new focus on self-love. This progressive new take is refreshing for consumers and the beauty industry alike but are these brands authentic or is this new representation merely tokenistic?  

Consumers have ‘perfection fatigue’

In Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women, published in 1990, she wrote the iconic words: “The last thing the beauty index wants men and women to do is to figure out how to love one another.” Referring to the multi-billion dollar beauty industry, she alludes to the money it makes on the back of women’s insecurities about their body. Arguably, a lot has changed since then but it’s perhaps more to do with the fact that the traditional ideals of unattainable beauty just doesn’t cut it with consumers anymore.

For a long time, beauty brands promoted the idea that you couldn’t be beautiful without their products, that beauty looked a certain way but now it’s no longer enough. Giants like Victoria’s Secret with their stick thin models are losing business, and air-brushing, skin-whitening and photoshop are being rightly called out. Consumers have ‘perfection fatigue’. They no longer want to see skinny young and white looking models. It’s fake and outdated. Brands need to adapt if they want to succeed.

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Out with the old view of beauty

In the western beauty industry, traditional beauty was marketed as young, feminine, euro-centric and thin. Blonde hair and blue eyes were a plus with the occasional allowances made for a brunette. Ageing was seen as ugly and plus size models were nowhere in sight. This lack of representation in body diversity only encouraged consumers to feel invisible and unhappy with their body. Being skinny was beauty’s unattainable ideal. It reinforced a culture of unhealthy obsession and dieting that we can still see today with the likes of detox teas and appetite suppressant lollipops.

Now in the age of individuality and self-love, the archaic image of beauty is irrelevant. People want something more. Beauty brands have noticed a higher level of consumer engagement when body diversity is celebrated. Ads that showed real people with different skin tones, weight and who didn’t conform to beauty stereotypes allowed consumers to identify more with them.

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Body diversity increases representation and promotes beauty in difference. Wolf highlighted that the beauty industry plays on our insecurities to make money but the future of their success now lies in celebrating and embracing individuality.

How body diversity impacts the makeup industry

The best example of how celebrating difference has impacted the beauty industry in a positive way is Rihanna’s makeup brand, Fenty Beauty. Before its launch, mainstream makeup brands failed to cater to women with darker skin tones. In 2016 a reported 61% of women were unable to find a foundation match on the high street and they had to pay up to 70% more to get their makeup from a specialist. In 2017, Fenty Beauty launched forty foundation shades and the darkest one was the first to sell out.

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Black women invest more than £4.8billion worldwide on beauty services and products each year and avoiding such key markets is detrimental to brand and business. But Fenty Beauty owes its success not just because it caters to women of every skin tone. The brand is led by a Barbados-born woman and it’s authentic. It celebrates individuality and works to create makeup that suits every face in a personal way.  

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Brand authenticity encourages consumer loyalty

Brands promoting their products and services with body diversity has a positive impact on the beauty industry because it encourages authenticity and transparency. Having real people in their ads creates more consumer loyalty because it humanises them. But it can work against brands if they’re not willing to do more.

Body diversity is not skin deep. If a beauty brand really wants to make a positive impact by using representation then body diversity should be integral to their founding principles. If not, having a group of non-traditional beauty ambassadors in an ad can come across as tokenistic.  

Do you have any thoughts about body diversity in the beauty industry? Feel free to share them in the comments!

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