Strange Bedfellows: Politics And The Workplaces Of Beauty Brands

Should politics be off-limits in the offices of beauty brands?

In the 220 days since Donald Trump assumed the presidency, beauty entrepreneurs have grappled with whether to hash out public affairs with their employees or leave the political chitchat for outside the environs of their brands. Sharing approaches to political banter with Beauty Independent during Indie Beauty Expo in New York last week, some report they’ve instituted a no political talk rule, while others assert examining pressing issues at work is critical to staying sane in this period of Twitter-happy politicians and nonstop news.

“Our number-one rule is say what you feel,” imparts Sandra Anderson Diaz, co-founder of West Windsor Township, N.J.-based organic color cosmetics specialist Nu Evolution. “Everyone has a voice, and we encourage everyone to express themselves at all times, on all sides. Nothing should ever be left unsaid, even if it’s negative. We want to feel part of an open dialogue otherwise feelings fester and it affects the company.”

“Our number-one rule is say what you feel,” says Nu Evolution’s Anderson Diaz.

For Alissa Bayer, founder of Milk + Honey, an Austin, Tex., spa chain and skincare product line, politics cuts deeper than water cooler conversations. She’s been acting on her political positions by, for example, ending price differences between men’s and women’s haircuts, and encouraging clients to use locker rooms for the gender they identify with no matter what’s on their birth certificates. “We are all about making people feel comfortable and appreciated,” says Bayer. “It could be coming from a reaction to politics, but our goal is really to make people feel fairly treated.”

Milk + Honey founder Alissa Bayer
Milk + Honey founder Alissa Bayer

In the time of Trump, Bayer started to donate to liberal organizations and be more open about her connections to them. A few beauty companies like Lipslut have gone farther and made opposition to the president integral aspects of their businesses. After the killing of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Lipslut raised $40,000 for those affected by the events in the city, Black Lives Matter and NAACP through sales of a F*ck Trump lip product.

Although most brands don’t tie politics directly to their sales, it’s now increasingly seeping into their businesses. The departures of CEOs from Trump’s advisory manufacturing councils in the wake of the Charlottesville tragedy demonstrate the current pervasiveness of politics in business circles that have often distanced themselves from Washington, D.C. decisions. At Milk + Honey, Bayer says, “We are not a political company, but, then again, this company is an extension of myself and my political views.”

Not every beauty entrepreneur is comfortable weighing in on weighty policy matters in the workplace. Brooke Sanzari, founder of Browtopia, an eyebrow product line based in Fort Meyers, Fla., describes her company as a neutral, politics-free zone. The focus in it doesn’t stray from brows. “I think we all need to better educated on our eyebrows and that crosses political lines,” reasons Sanzari. “It’s bipartisan brows.”

“We are not a political company, but, then again, this company is an extension of myself and my political views,” says Bayer of Milk + Honey.

Yakking about politics is taboo at BKR, a glass water bottle brand headquartered in San Francisco. “We don’t want to bring such a serious message to our office, we’d rather keep things light and positive,” explains account manager Alicia Morvari. “After the election, we talked about it, and what it means for our brand. It’s something we get sad about, and we just don’t want to put a damper on our day.”