How Can Beauty Brands Foster Inclusivity Beyond Improved Shade Ranges?
The Lip Bar and Live Tinted founders discuss how companies can promote inclusion from every possible angle.
It’s an exciting time for the cosmetic industry, as makeup brands and the beauty community are making a purposeful shift towards inclusivity and representation. The proactive efforts of brands to create products that boast inclusive shade ranges, while making sure that their launches are accessible and affordable, go far beyond physical products — they reflect a strong commitment to consider and listen to different consumers. As the beauty landscape adapts to the evolving definition of beauty, not only can companies show that they embrace individuals of different backgrounds through thoughtful marketing campaigns, but they can also cultivate a loyal consumer base by creating quality products that reflect their inclusive brand ethos.
We talk to the founders of two makeup brands, The Lip Bar and Live Tinted, about the importance of listening and catering to a diverse clientele, and how beauty companies can foster inclusivity by creating meaningful cosmetics that build global excitement.
Inclusivity is humanity. It represents our differences while celebrating culture and identity.
With a vast array of makeup products launching almost weekly, it may be difficult for brands to stand out from their counterparts. Amidst a competitive market, The Lip Bar, a Black-owned company founded by Melissa Butler, seeks to challenge the beauty standard. The Detroit-based company launched in 2012 and has since faced its own share of obstacles, such as its rejection on the television show, Shark Tank. However, this did not deter Butler from growing her business, but propelled an inspiring turnaround that led to success with The Lip Bar’s launch at Target, currently selling at 450 stores in the United States.
As a brand owner, Butler believes inclusivity means understanding that throughout everyone’s paths and journeys, there are differences. “It is these differences that ultimately bring us together and teach us different perspectives that allow us to grow,” Butler says. “So, for me, inclusivity is humanity. More than anything. Our differences are the one thing that we have in common, because we’re all different.”
Similarly frustrated with the singular, Eurocentric beauty ideal, Live Tinted founder Deepica Mutyala has launched a makeup brand that champions diverse and inclusive beauty. One of Live Tinted’s missions is to provide a platform for underrepresented individuals within the beauty community, and to guide them through their journeys related to culture and identity.
Mutyala cites that inclusivity is at the forefront of her brand: “When I hear the word inclusivity, I think of it as almost like a baseline standard of what the world should be. Inclusivity has to be a normal part of each brand, like the same way brands are doing clean, cruelty-free, vegan [products]. Diversity, inclusivity and representation are so deeply connected to what I wish I had seen growing up, and I feel like we’re getting there.” Mutyala believes that it is important for consumers to feel seen with a product range that is less focused on numbers, and more on the aspect of seeing themselves within the shade range. She believes in doing the right thing — to be representative of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, sexuality amongst other contextual factors.
Inclusivity encompasses equal representation, accessibility and affordability.
While many makeup brands have been launching wide shade ranges for their products, for both Butler and Mutyala, there is no magic number that can quantify the feeling of being seen or represented.
For the Live Tinted founder, it is not about the number of shades that a brand comes out with. Rather, the emphasis should be placed on equal representation. Mutyala argues that the quantitative aspect of a shade range is not her concern: “It is not about 10 shades, 50 shades, 100 shades. I saw that a brand launched 101 shades. That, to me, is checking a box and doing things performatively, versus being thought-through and truly thinking about building a brand on an inclusive narrative.” She believes in the importance of not releasing products for the sake of pumping out products, instead focusing on the meaningful intention behind each launch. In the same vein, Butler emphasizes the importance of intention and how it is clear to tell if a brand is truly inclusive or not.
For both CEOs, inclusivity also entails accessibility and affordability, and ensuring that products can be utilized by a wide range of consumers. The Lip Bar’s Butler states, “At the end of the day, everyone deserves to have high quality products that are going to work for them, that are going to be non-toxic, without having to fit within a certain tax bracket.”
Mutyala highlights that it is embedded in her brand’s values that people from different economic levels are able to use and afford Live Tinted’s products. With her brand operating with a direct-to-consumer business model, she discusses that she hasn’t chosen a retail partner as it is a decision that requires careful contemplation. At the moment, Live Tinted is focused on establishing itself as a global brand that is accessible to shoppers in different countries around the world, one step at a time.
When asked in the global HYPEBAE polls whether accessibility or affordability was more important when shopping for beauty products, 56% of respondents noted that affordability was more important than ease of shopping. When correlating this with age and income, those who selected affordability fell in the age group between 20 and 25, who had an annual income of less than $10,000 USD a year.
Supporting diverse communities should be at the forefront of a brand’s inclusive social activism.
The Lip Bar understands that inclusivity means supporting diverse communities, particularly marginalized groups, which is why the brand is committed to giving back — through donating to women’s shelters and local organizations like High School Glam Suite to encourage self-love. Butler’s brand also pledges to be socially responsible by advocating for causes it believes in, such as the Black Lives Matter movement. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, The Lip Bar has donated 2,000 lip colors to essential workers as well.
Likewise, Mutyala emphasizes that supporting non-profit organizations is something that Live Tinted stands for. She elaborates, “It is such an important part of what we do, but it’s also something I don’t want to rush. For me, I’m not a person who wants to do things performatively.” It is clear that this is not a matter of public recognition for Mutyala, as she is firm in her belief in supporting and giving representation to people who have been underrepresented in the beauty industry.
With social media being accessible and commonly used by young people, there is also a unique understanding of social responsibility within this age group that is reflected in our poll data. 48% of respondents noted that they were sometimes aware of a makeup brand’s reputation, specifically when it came to its attitudes towards marginalized groups such as the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities. Out of the 48% of those who answered that they were sometimes aware, the majority of those fell in the 20-25 age range.
With social responsibility at the forefront of consumers’ minds, many brands are now under scrutiny for their lack of genuine support for marginalized communities. Beauty companies must understand that their values are reflected through the way they move forward from past mistakes. When taking into consideration a makeup company’s previous controversies, 52% of respondents acknowledged that they would deter them from further supporting the brand and subsequently, purchasing its products.
Both Butler and Mutyala agree that people aren’t simply shopping for products anymore — they are shopping with people and brands that they believe in and love. Butler acknowledges that The Lip Bar’s messaging is for those who seek to shop with a company that has a purpose deeper than makeup. This rings true to Mutyala as well, as she discusses her personal experience with unrealistic beauty standards. She is reminded of her sixteen-year-old self, when she felt the need to dye her hair blonde and get blue colored contacts to fit in with what she saw around her growing up. Here, it’s clear that both brands are actively resisting the harmful narrative that there’s a singular beauty standard one must live up to in order to feel beautiful.
A brand should be committed to promoting diversity and inclusion, both internally and externally.
Butler highlights the importance of asking questions not only about which faces represent a brand, but also about who is working behind the scenes. The Lip Bar boasts a team of 100% women and 85% people of color, allowing those from intersections of inequality to be part of an operation that makes them feel welcomed. When you walk through the doors of The Lip Bar’s store in downtown Detroit, you are greeted by the words “The Lip Bar is where you are enough.” Butler elaborates on why she wants this motto to be visibly seen: “That concept really dictates the products we produce and the imagery we put out, because we want everyone to see themselves within beauty. Without representation, you are left seeking validation. And that is a dangerous place to be in.” She concludes, “When you’re looking around and you don’t see anyone that looks like you, you don’t have role models, you feel lost and alone. Life is hard enough, you shouldn’t have to go through life alone. We allow people to see themselves in our campaigns.”
Similarly, Mutyala states that the community of individuals who work with Live Tinted reflects the brand’s mission of diverse representation. Live Tinted also centers itself around culture, driving conversations around inclusivity and representation for a community that is proud of where they come from and who they are.
As social media becomes a place for active engagement and inspiration, these platforms have a significant impact on the content that individuals consume on a daily basis. When it comes to fostering inclusivity, both The Lip Bar and Live Tinted utilize social media to their advantage. Butler recognizes that embracing diversity is about listening to consumers, and giving them a voice in what they want to see from the brand and the cosmetic industry at large. “Whenever we do a Lip Bar campaign, we get as many people from as many diverse backgrounds as possible, because we want to show how the product looks on many different complexions,” Butler says. “The other side of that is looking at who is shopping your products and reposting them and letting them know, we see you, we hear you, we respect you, we’re happy you’re here with us.” Butler explains that The Lip Bar doesn’t work with many influencers, simply because the brand’s customers are its best influencers.
Through thoughtful casting of diverse talent, Mutyala’s personal values and Live Tinted’s mission are highlighted in brand’s campaigns: “This is all about creating opportunities for other people and showcasing faces that you haven’t seen before in the media. What we will continue to do is give opportunity as best [as we can] to showcase new people and new faces through our campaign efforts.” Mutyala also emphasizes the importance of working with a diverse set of individuals, citing that diversity is in every layer of her business — from who is brought on as an investor, who is hired, to who is featured in the brand’s product launch campaigns.
From initial conception to actual execution, Mutyala emphasizes that her brand’s campaigns wouldn’t be made possible without diversity as the main message. Live Tinted recently put up a billboard in Atlanta that featured a number of individuals of different racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds, with “Be the Change” as the slogan. Mutyala explains how proud she is of this campaign, and to see inclusivity and representation come to life in a tangible way.
These inclusive branding and marketing strategies could prove effective for beauty companies, according to our polls. 52% of respondents acknowledged that they sometimes pay attention to the models and influencers that a makeup brand hires to promote their products. When correlated with age, a vast majority of these respondents fell in the 20-25 age range. With conversations around diverse representation and brand accountability becoming louder than ever, our data shows that consumers are becoming hyper-aware of who a brand chooses to work with to represent its products and ultimately, its inherent values as a company.
The lack of diverse representation in the cosmetic industry is something that companies need to address urgently. Brands such as The Lip Bar and Live Tinted, which actively engage with the rapidly expanding beauty community and their clientele, are redefining what beauty means today by allowing members of underrepresented communities to feel seen in their products and beyond.
Inclusion goes beyond skin tones — from the individuals who represent a brand, to a brand’s support of inclusive movements, to aspects such as product accessibility and affordability, many factors come into play. To support and uplift marginalized and underrepresented communities, beauty brands need to reassess and lay out actionable goals, including having consistent values from the top down of the company, making products accessible and affordable, and working with individuals and communities who live out the brand’s inclusive ethos. Where makeup was once thought to be something that would hide or mask oneself, with growing inclusivity and acceptance, the dialogue has shifted towards enhancing and embracing one’s individuality.