How Indie Beauty Brands Practice Inclusivity

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 17 brand founders and executives: What is your brand’s approach to inclusivity?

Kethlyn White COO, Coil Beauty

Our brand was created to give a face to beauty that has not always been considered beautiful. When we create graphics for our marketing, we strive to look for the nontraditional beauties because we know how important representation is to everyone, even on a subconscious level.  

One of my favorite things as an adult is to be able to watch a show like "Insecure" or "Black-ish," and say, “Oh, there’s my hairstyle for next week.” As a kid, I was trying to use the Topsy Tail and, if you remember what that is, then you, my friend, are aging gracefully. So, for me, my brand aims to be inclusive of the people who weren’t always included, and I think our website and social media pages do a good job of that. Of course, we are always trying to do more. For us, this is a marathon not a sprint.

Ada Juristovski Co-Founder, Nala

We strive to be inclusive of forms of sexual identification, body types, cultures and race. To us, it means being mindful of representation in our brand, but also being open-minded to continually learning about how we can widen that representation. It can be something as detail-oriented as updating our copy from “women” to “womxn,” or deliberate decisions we make such as intentionally having our packaging represent body forms that are fluid, androgynous and ambiguous with the hope that anyone can identify with it and see a part of themselves within the art.

Kailey Bradt Founder and CEO, OWA Haircare

Inclusivity has to mean something personally to a founder and, therefore, a brand. I've always been mindful of inclusivity because I've always felt a bit on the outside. It's important to think of inclusivity with a holistic perspective. It's not just about appearance. Inclusivity goes beyond age, gender, ethnicity. I always felt judged without saying a word. As I got older, especially when I first got to college, I felt even more out of place because I was studying engineering and my appearance didn't say "engineer." 

My approach to inclusivity is to look beyond the physical attributes of a person and take into consideration their experience, education, career, etc. My approach with our brand is to give real people a genuine voice. I really enjoy working with up-and-coming professionals and giving people opportunities they might not have been given otherwise. I know others who have done this for me in my career, and I wouldn't be where I am today if people didn't believe in me and present me those opportunities that challenged the norm.

Ranay Orton Owner, Glow by Daye

My approach of being mindful of inclusivity in my brand is to try and create multiple physical avatars of my customers. Many books and experts say to have one exact avatar, an icon or figure that represents your key demographic. Well, the reality is that, yes, you can have a go-to person in mind for key decision-making on your brand and it's positioning, but all your customers do not look alike. 

People want to see some physical resemblance of themselves when they see your website, marketing and social media. As a company, we have to be conscious of that as we serve many different people with different ethnicities, hair types/textures and/or complexions, but all have the same goal of achieving healthy, thriving hair.

PAAYAL MAHAJAN Founder, Essential Body

Inclusivity is not just a term for me. I am a brown woman who has faced a lot of discrimination while living and working in the U.S. I have faced assumptions around my background with no thought or interest in where I come from or what my heritage is. I have dealt with the blows of white privilege in the workplace and personally. I was also judged for my size for a majority of my life. I am someone who has fought and continues to fight for the rights of the marginalized and oppressed. 

I am not interested in tokenism. I smell it from a mile away. You can’t fake your way into being inclusive. My authenticity and my voice are the most powerful ways for me to communicate that my brand is me, and it espouses my values and my perspective on the world. It never was, and is certainly not enough now, to do a rainbow of ethnicities in your imagery. I see brands appropriating cultures, not giving thought to messaging and imagery. None of that is for me. You can’t be mindful of inclusivity unless you fundamentally shift your mindset. This is not something businesses can phone in.

Ada Polla CEO, Alchimie Forever

We strive to be inclusive in everything we do. From the people we use in our marketing materials (fun fact: They’re all family members, team members or friends.) to the way we train our brand ambassadors, we focus on skincare concerns rather than gender, skin color or other identifiers. We don’t say, “Hey, we’re inclusive." Rather, we strive to behave in a way that makes everyone feel welcome and comfortable, and that our products were made for them. 

Katonya Breaux Founder, Unsun Cosmetics

As a black founder and consumer, I have firsthand knowledge of what it feels like to not be considered by companies providing skincare and makeup products. I wanted to make sure that not only women that looked like me, but women in general had the benefit and knowledge that there is a product that is made with them in mind, and not only as an afterthought. In this very inclusive environment, the companies that aren't getting on the bandwagon are the ones that are standing out.

Nisha Dearborn Founder and CEO, Fresh Chemistry

I teach my kids that the only difference between skin of different colors is the amount of melanin in it. As a daughter of a dermatologist, I can attest to this very simple, yet still profound truth. So, when it comes to my brand, I choose models or repost user-generated content that represents who the freshly activated serums are best suited for: all skin types and colors.

Julie Pefferman Founder, The Lab and Co.

We have always thought about inclusivity from the customers perspective and our employee perspective. In the near future, inclusivity won't be a buzzword. Instead, it will be something every brand must do. It will be the authenticity that inclusivity is delivered that will distinguish us from the rest.  

On the employee internal side, since we are a lab, it makes sense that our one-word company philosophy is "mix," which guides us as we grow. Mix in kindness in everything you do. Mix with other kinds of people/thinkers to expand your mind and life. When something isn't working, mix it up with a new approach. There is always a way. Work hard, take pride in what you bring to the mix. Take the risk, failure is valued, speak up and mix in your ideas, and see what bubbles to the top.

On the customer side, we try to rethink target customers and find meaningful ways to include others. Our brand, Cleantan, was the first self-tanning brand to showcase full-figured models of various skin colors. We encourage people to be as tan as they want to be with our color controlling concentrate. Our brand Equal By Nature was birthed out of inclusivity, encouraging everyone to celebrate their differences. We aim to create luxurious hero products that fit into anyone's routine at a reasonable price. We call it inclusive luxury.

Amber Fawson Co-Founder, Saalt

Inclusivity is a central and all-important topic in the world of period care. It is actually one of the reasons we love period care. There is something about period talk that brings people together regardless of background or belief. We all share struggles with period management. We all agree that no one should feel confused and alone about their period and their body. We all agree that we want students around the world to have period care that allows them to attend school when they are on their period. 

At Saalt, we believe in being period positive and, by focusing on period positive topics, we can do some incredible things with the help of our audience. Our audience helps us break stigmas and also connects us with impact organizations who are doing incredible work around the world. Every part of our brand is about being welcoming and adding people to our tribe regardless of any variety of personal backgrounds or beliefs.

Melissa Reinking Chief Marketing Officer, BioClarity

We always try to stay grounded in knowing that the consumers who discover us all have different starting points and skin goals in mind. Step one to being inclusive is being individualized. If we can help people get to where they want to be by understanding their individual needs, desires and starting points, and if we can customize their experience around these attributes, not some idealized version of what we think a consumer might need, this helps us remain not only inclusive, but also very mindful of the evolving needs of those who become part of our brand.

Brandon Garcia Co-Founder, Mira

My co-founder Jay Hack and I wanted to ensure that anyone, no matter who they are, what they look like or what their interests are is able to find what works best for them. The incredible diversity of beauty consumers has driven not only the increased fragmentation of beauty products and trends in the industry, but also the heightened demands for personalization. 

Diversity and inclusivity are not only baked into our very core, but they are also the primary factors driving the need for a platform like this. We've worked hard to build an expansive data catalog of over 60,000 products and millions of reviews and videos that can be leveraged to help consumers from all walks of life find what works for them. 

In the long term, we hope that it becomes a platform for brands, content creators, and consumers to engage in authentic, meaningful conversation. By doing so, we seek to help advance the industry in co-developing products that best speak to the amazingly diverse individuals that comprise the beauty community.

Renae Moomjian Founder and CEO, NipLips

We are vocal in all touch points with our community that everyone is welcome. Whether it is a photoshoot, new brand ambassador or activity, we are continually looking for ways to bring diversity in race, ethnic background, religion, sexual preference, sexual indentification, age, size (large to small and everything in between) into our brand.

Our company tag line is “Beautiful, Authentic You!” and our goal is to help people look within to define not only their unique beauty, but who they really are at their core. So, for example, by using our app, doing a color scan of your nipples, and matching to one of our vegan, organic, lip colors, you are using your body to define what looks good on you rather than social media or celebrities. True beauty and inclusivity starts with embracing your uniqueness and, then, sharing it with the world. We work very hard to promote that message.

FEISAL QURESHI Founder, Raincry

My personal view is that beauty is not real, it doesn't exist. It's all perspective. That perspective evolves, changes and means different things to different people at different times in our lives. Just look at the 80s. We looked ridiculous, but were full of confidence.

So, beauty is not about the things we buy or how we look, but rather how that thing makes us feel when we wear it, use it or experience it. Therefore, beauty is about emotions and, as a beauty brand, you become a custodian of those emotions to help better people's lives.

Kristen Bowen Founder and CEO, Living The Good Life Naturally

My entire life I have been on a diet or searching for the perfect diet. I just wanted to be skinny and equated that with being healthy. I will never forget the day that I was sitting in my wheelchair feeling pretty sorry for myself and wondering if I would ever feel good again. A friend walked up and asked me how I was doing. Instead of the usual, “Oh, I am fine,” I answered her honestly. “I am so tired of being sick and having seizures and stressing my family out.” 

She looked at me and said something that would shatter and change the course of what I was searching for when it came to my health. She patted my leg after I told her how tired I was and replied, “But Kristen, at least you are skinny.” I had achieved my lifelong dream of being skinny, but it was not what I wanted. I wanted vibrant energy. 

Now, when clients start to work with me, I ask them to write out what healthy looks like to them. That way they have a specific goal in mind of what they are wanting to create. Because of that one exchange, we make sure to include all body types in our marketing. Being healthy is so much more than being skinny.

Jean Baik Founder and Creative Chief Officer, Miss A

One of our biggest missions as a business is to #justhavefun with makeup and beauty. So, we always offer as many shades as possible and offer products that would work for a young teen all the way into late adulthood.

Jasmin El Kordi CEO, Bluelene

Cellular health is gender, age and ethnicity neutral, and our brand reflects that philosophy. We ensure that our packaging and messaging appeal to a wide human audience, and that we incorporate that variety into the imagery we use.

If you have a question you’d like Beauty Independent to ask beauty entrepreneurs, please send it to [email protected].