Defining Diversity: Increasing Inclusivity in Green Beauty
As the green beauty industry has gained increasing momentum over the past several years, many of us are choosing to vote with our wallets and support brands that formulate products safe for our health and the planet, align with our values and represent fully the world we all inhabit. With a more diverse customer base than ever, some brands are heeding the call and addressing what many feel has been an ugly oversight in green beauty: a lack of inclusivity for people of all backgrounds.
What Inclusivity Means
“Inclusive beauty means that all women are beautiful—all ages, sizes and skin tones need to feel seen,” says Kristine Keheley, co-founder of Vapour Organic Beauty. “For a very long time, the beauty industry has been one that makes women feel like they’re lacking. We have an allergy to that. No woman should ever be made to feel ‘less than’ about her appearance.”
When it launched in 2008, Vapour strived to address a range of skin tones with foundations that ran from light to medium and medium to deep. “Every time we’ve added to our original foundations,” Kristine says, “we’ve created a wider shade range.” In April, the brand will launch its latest foundation shades at Credo Beauty and on vapourbeauty.com. “When I meet or hear from someone we don’t yet have a match for, that’s something as a formulator that I need to figure out and address. We’re protective about making women feel included. We care deeply about it.”
Ashley Prange, founder of Au Naturale, agrees. “We just recently rebranded, and we’ve been able to fill in the gaps in our foundation ranges,” she says. “We want people of all skin tones to feel like we have a match for them. In addition to the shade range, we want our customers to feel like we’re working for them, like we identify with them. We want to include different races, ages and lifestyles.”
Axiology brand founder Ericka Rodriguez has made inclusivity part of her brand’s DNA, from extensive lip color collections and models featured on its site to its diverse hiring practices. “Truthfully, I don’t feel that we are doing anything revolutionary. We are simply aware that makeup is for all people of all skin tones. My grandparents came to the United States from Mexico to be field laborers. They wanted a better life for their children and grandchildren. I am tied to my Mexican roots and bring this lens to all that I do, including running my company.”
Authenticity plays a huge role in Axiology’s success, including revolutionizing consumer choice with its launch in Sephora stores nationwide. Consumers are becoming more hungry for, and savvy at, searching out brands that live and breathe the inclusivity message they’re marketing. “My life has been full of beautiful people of different backgrounds,” says Erika. “We are not casting anyone out, nor are we purposefully casting people in. Should I have decided to photograph one race of people or chose to only carry colors that suit a specific skin tone, this wouldn’t be authentic to me or my brand, which is an extension of me. Our employees are all of various ethnicities; we’re very inclusive in our hiring processes, as well as who we choose to partner with, like the Balinese women who hand make our boxes.”
Aligning Values with Inclusivity
Each step toward a more inclusive green beauty industry is no doubt a win for us as consumers. The mission to diversify can’t stop now, however.
“I think about diversity and inclusivity in green beauty not just in terms of shade ranges,” says Chelsea Williams, plant-based wellness + lifestyle contributor. “I think about representation. Who are the people in positions of leadership? When I go to brand’s social media pages or look at their leadership, the boards, panels and coalitions they’re a part of, are they bringing a well-rounded perspective that trickles down to the consumer level?”
Williams would love for brand founders and CEOs to use the current momentum to push inclusivity further, to an all-encompassing definition and stronger diversity initiatives. “As a consumer, we need to see more diversity not just in your marketing, but in your leadership. By doing so, I feel like not only are you doing the right thing in terms of using safe ingredients, but you’re trying to bring a different perspective to the brand that you yourself may not have. I would be more comfortable buying your products because I’d believe in your values.”
Ashley agrees, and says Au Naturale lives out their values. “We manufacture ethically in our own lab, which is run by 80 percent women. I want to continue to support inclusivity and see it in the industry: culture, lifestyle, age and race. As brand owners, we need to open our minds and be prepared for the audience changing and growing. We need to be ready to give them what they want, and what they need, to be healthy. Clean, healthy safe beauty is for everybody. Everyone should have access to it.”
Kristine echoes this sentiment. “It’s important for women to see on a non-verbal level that you care. All walks of life, all skin tones, all ages need to feel included.” She admits that too often, much of green beauty has felt exclusive to white women. “Marketing to white women is common across all beauty industries, unfortunately. It’s a delusional, racist separation from reality. There’s a lack of understanding of the spending power of women of color. This industry needs to pay attention. We’re living in a very intense time, when people are speaking up—that’s thrilling and beautiful. I hope we all become a really dynamic voice in the world.”
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