The Way We Shop For Beauty Is Changing — & It’s About Time

Photo: Courtesy of Natasha Campos.

When Darian Harvin, a Los Angeles-based beauty reporter, was preparing to film her IGTV news series, Beauty Headlines, she knew she had a responsibility to use her platform for change. As millions took to the streets and social media to protest police brutality and systemic racism, Harvin began publicly tracking the ways beauty brands joined the movement — and called on her followers to shift their purchasing decisions as a result.

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Harvin and her producer Dyana Larios got to work on a massive Excel document that listed every major beauty brand, the date the company responded, if they were Black-owned, a link to their Instagram post, and any further actions or monetary donations they made to support the cause. "It started as something personal for us so that we could quickly reference things for a story that we were writing," Harvin tells Refinery29. "Then, we realized that this was something that we could share with other people, and they would be interested in it."

Together, the two women gathered the responses of more than 150 brands before closing the submissions on June 3. If a brand hadn't responded by that point, Harvin said, it told her everything she needed to know about their values.

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With all this information laid out right in front of them, Harvin hopes that consumers will reference this document and become more informed shoppers. "People can come to their own conclusions based on the responses," she says. "Beauty is a lot about choice. We have to be aware of that, just as we are with the food that we eat or the clothes that we wear."

But Harvin stresses that the demand for accountability shouldn't end with public response alone. "It's less about what they say and more about how they practice their business internally," she says. For that reason, Harvin was thrilled when a new initiative started making headlines two days after hers. Sharon Chuter, founder, CEO, and creative director of Uoma Beauty, launched Pull Up For Change, a challenge that calls for brands to share the exact number of Black employees currently employed at the corporate and executive levels of their business. "We put a lot of visibility in how brands are responding, and Pull Up For Change is urging [brands] to take that further," says Harvin. "It ignited the conversation of, 'Okay, great. You made a statement, but what does your team look like?'"

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Beauty brands that responded to the Pull Up For Change initiative — including MAC Cosmetics and Milk Makeup — acknowledged areas where they need to improve and concrete action steps they were taking to get there. Many of the companies that participated also pledged to continue making internal changes, including supporting the career advancement of employees and creating more opportunities for future prospects.

Harvin hopes to see Chuter's efforts spark an industry-wide shift in how we consume beauty. In the same way that consumers are calling for more transparency about ingredients and sustainability practices, Harvin wants to see people also demand greater visibility into who is developing the products they use and how the company values them. "People are not only going to continue to hold brands accountable, but this situation has urged people to be more mindful about how they buy things and maybe go through a more in-depth process of research," Harvin says. 

The 15 Percent Pledge is another movement calling for industry change. Started by Aurora James, founder of sustainable accessories brand Brother Vellies, the initiative calls on mass retailers like Whole Foods, Target, Net-A-Porter, and Sephora to make room on their shelves for Black-owned brands — specifically asking that at least 15% of products come from Black founders to more accurately reflect the demographics of Black people in the U.S. As a result, Sephora committed to devoting 15% of its shelf space to Black-owned companies and dedicated its Accelerate incubation program, a six-month workshop for budding brand founders, to uplift women of color.

Harvin hopes that more brands and retailers will not only make space for Black-owned businesses on their shelves, but will also invest in their success through programs like these. "[Brands] want to help and stand in solidarity, but the biggest way that they can do that is investing in these communities that they say they care about with no strings attached," she says. Recently, Glossier announced that it was donating $1 million to organizations combating racial injustice, including a $500,000 investment in Black-owned beauty businesses through grants, advisory support, and networking assistance.

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As much as we're holding brands accountable from here on out, Harvin urges shoppers to remember their responsibility, too. "This is on consumers to really recognize their buying power and to be more thoughtful," she says. "We all have a power that we can collectively use."

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