How Beauty Brands are Committing to Change + Next Steps

As brands have released statements over the last week, along with follow-up statements about where they’re positioned today and what steps they’re taking to commit to more equality and inclusivity as brands, I thought I’d share some ways I feel the beauty brands, and to some degrees, the community itself. I’m really looking forward to seeing if and how brands implement the changes they’re committing to in the next six-, 12-, and 18-months.

I previously shared how the language of the beauty needs to change, and I also detailed areas where complexion products could use further improvement or “next steps” to go beyond just offering 40 shades in a single formula.

First, here are some changes to look out for (and hold brands and retailers accountable for) based on commitments made this week:

L’Oreal has finally issued an apology to Munroe Bergdorf, and now, we will see her take a seat on L’Oreal UK’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board to advocate for Black, trans, and queer voices in the beauty industry.  They also donated €50,000 to Mermaids Gender and UK Black Pride.

Glossier issued one of the strongest responses with an initial $500,000 donation across organizations fighting against racial injustice, but they will also allocate $500,000 available as grants to Black-owned beauty businesses (which they’ll provide more details on this month). The latter will go a long way to long-term, ongoing change.

Anastasia is also committing $1 million with an initial $100,000 donation and is working on specific initiatives to “support Black-owned businesses and artists in the beauty industry” going forward. ColourPop has donated $50,000 and will donate an additional $250,000 going forward.  There are many beauty brands who have made unspecified donations and donations from $5,000 to $50,000, so I’ve only called out some of the higher donation amounts.

Violet Grey has committed to stocking all shades in the complexion products they stock on their website, rather than a curated shade range (sometimes as ridiculous as 5 of 15 shades available).  This morning, SpaceNK said they’ll only provide testers for brands that have all shades displayed, and those who have a more edited display will have samples upon request for all shades.  What I like about SpaceNK’s decision is that it acknowledges how important accessibility is, especially in-store, to be able to see and try your shades.

Sharon Chuter, founder of UOMA Beauty, started #pulluporshutup (documented for easy access @pullupforchange) to push brands to share where they are today so that the community can hold them accountable going forward in a more transparent way. #pulluporshutup is less of a “gotcha” moment as it is a more measurable way to hold brands accountable, despite percentages only telling a partial story–how brands treat their BIPOC employees, the types of policies they have, whether there are glass ceilings for BIPOC, etc. are all more important than having “good” numbers.

Here’s why Sharon created this campaign, from an interview with Essence:

“I want to make it clear that this isn’t about bullying brands, it’s not an exercise in naming and shaming. This is a wake-up call. It’s saying, there is a problem,” she continues. “Thank you for your monetary donations, but we have to go back to the root cause, we have to go back and look at the overall system of oppression that has lasted for 400 years. We have to be cognizant of that. For the first time the world is listening, people are partnering with us at mass—we have the opportunity to make a long term change for future generations.”

A lot of the brands that “pulled up” shared their plans to create a more diverse workforce.  This has ranged from putting together diversity councils/boards, consulting with diversity experts on corporate policies (like recruitment, training, etc.), investing in internships and mentorships.  Brands that already wanted a diverse workforce but have not yet achieved it, they’ll need to dive into why and look into the hiring process, where they’re recruiting from, and if there are biases within corporate culture that they need to address.

Here’s how Sharon sees phase two of Pull Up or Shut Up, from an interview with Cosmopolitan:

“My push for phase two is that we need to set up independent diversity boards made of all people of marginalized groups,” says Chuter. “They will be charged with implementing true policies for change, documenting this, working with the companies to ensure their staffs are diverse and that those people are protected.”

Suggestions for Change

Here are four ways brands could do better going forward that would be effective with what I’d expect is “little” effort compared to implementing long-term policies that address the system beauty operates in.  These are on top of my suggestions for how complexion still needs to change.

Improve product diversity at all levels.

This means going beyond more inclusive shade ranges in foundation and concealer.  It means that offering one highlighter or one bronzer shade is not enough.  Too Much Mouth has a recent follow-up video on the latest bronzer releases and how they appear on deeper skin, which comes a few months after a prior update on the state of “bronzers for dark skin.”  Nyma Tang also has an excellent video on products from 2019 that failed POC.


There are some brands who have better than average ranges, and categories like bronzer have seen definite improvements in the last two years but many brands have not seen fit to expand there.  “Better” is really relative to how short most ranges are, though, in most cases below.


More Inclusive Color Stories

Brands can still release shades that work better on lighter complexions, but it’s about pushing brands to ensure that they’re creating products that fit a color story that works on darker complexions.  If you take a critical eye to a lot of the limited edition color collections that launch, they tend to hover around more of a light to light-medium skin tone depth–that’s often who they’re “most” for so those with medium and deeper skin tones are more often “making them work” rather than having the collection work for them.

This is seen readily through cheek colors launched–like launching a single blush or highlighter–along with eyeshadow palettes where several shades are nearly unusable for deeper complexions.  There are several brands that will launch two cheek colors in a collection but often they’ll be very similar in depth, where it would be more useful to offer two shades with differing depths.


Here are some products that have done well with readers, period, but have seemed to work well for medium and deeper complexions with less work…

Do Better with Themes & Names

From cultural appropriation to exoticization and/or fetishizing of people and places to racial slurs as names (g*psy still in use, though greatly reduced in the last five years) to the microaggressions like “nude” (when it means light beige) and gendered language.  If brands really create more diverse workforces and enact policies that support anti-racist policies in the workplace, I hope that we’ll see less brands make poor choices in collection themes and names.  But here are a few things that retailers and brands could do right now with little effort:

  • Brands + retailers defining nude as a concept, not a color.  Rename shades that are “Nude” when they really mean beige–particularly in complexion ranges.  Renaming should also occur for other commonly used choices for beige shades: Natural, Flesh, Skin.
  • Brands + retailers using gender-neutral language in product copy, marketing emails, etc.  These are often automated but pervasive yet greetings and copy can easily be edited to reflect gender-neutral language like they/them and people/person.
  • Brands + retailers stop using and stocking products that use racist slurs, like g*psy.  We’re so close to this one.  Sephora has one product that shows up, and Ulta has five (two from NYX!). Nordstrom has 11 (most being Byredo’s G*psy Water). Beautylish has six.

Provide More Accurate Swatches on Real People

Look, I get that brands are going to edit and manipulate their promotional photos–including swatches–to show their products in the best light (literally and figuratively), but if you’re going to show swatches on multiple skin tones, then those should be real people getting photographed, not digitally darkened (or lightened) skin.

Many brands have taken editing so far that swatches from brands have are often as useless as hex-code base square “swatches” were 10 years ago.  What is the point of showing swatches on three skin tones if the brand has manipulated them to look the same on everyone (when they’re not)?  (I appreciate Clinique showing how un-bronzer-like their bronzer is on deeper skin tones, though how marketing saw that and didn’t go, “Whoa, whoa, wait a minute!”)

Viseart provides more realistic swatches that are still neater, like they did for Spritz Edit, which clearly showed a difference in how colors appeared on lighter and deeper skin tones.  On other hand, you have a more “indie” brand like Melt Cosmetics that releases promotional swatches that look painted on and appear the same on all three skin tones… what’s the point?  Natasha Denona has been criticized for similar behavior, especially with respect to the mini Bronze & Glow released (but you can see here how the Love Glow palette is quite different on deep skin).

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