In the last episode, podcast guest Ekwy Chukwuji-Nnene, founder of indie, vegan haircare brand Equi Botanics, recounted how one cosmetics conglomerate she had approached with her brand told her, in effect, that the beauty needs of people of colour didn’t count. Ekwy explained that when showing the firm her tried-and-tested natural haircare formulations, the executives replied: “Black women will buy whatever we sell them”.
Ekwy shed light on what goes on behind the scenes of one giant in the cosmetics industry and is likely to be the prevailing attitude found across the mainstream beauty sector. So incensed was podcast host and Formula Botanica CEO Lorraine Dallmeier about the arrogant attitudes – and racism – in the mainstream commercial beauty industry that she just had to get on her soapbox in this green beauty opinion. Can indie beauty founders like Ekwy and consumers counter this arrogance and call mainstream beauty out for its domineering attitudes once and for all?
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The only conclusion to draw from Ekwy’s experience is that the mainstream beauty industry holds sway over us, and knows what is best for us. They are still using Western, Euro-centric ideals of beauty to guide their product development, and ignoring sizeable groups such as Black and minority communities. This is a dismaying situation for those communities. At best they are ignored, and at worst subject to condescension by being told their beauty concerns don’t matter. Lorraine calls it out for what it is – racism.
The mainstream beauty industry’s blind belief it knows what is best doesn’t stop there. It has been consistent in its messaging for over a century telling us we need its products to fight off wrinkles, the natural ageing process, grey hair, stretch marks, and so on. Mainstream beauty has dictated and ingrained in us an ideal of beauty that helps them sell products.
So, what can we do? Lorraine challenges us to step outside this cycle of beauty consumerism imposed by big beauty businesses. Instead, we should look closely at our own unique needs and seek out and buy from indie and small business brands that meet them. Rather than impose their ideals, indie beauty brands are more likely to be responsive to our needs and to foster community around our issues.
We have the power to not only vote with our wallets, but also do what Ekwy did; formulate cosmetics for ourselves. By empowering ourselves, we can break the ‘we-know-best’ attitude of the mainstream industry.Thank you for joining us for this episode of the Formula Botanica Green Beauty Conversations podcast. If you enjoyed listening, please share, subscribe and review this episode on iTunes, Spotify or Youtube so that more people can enjoy the show. Don’t forget to follow and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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Lorraine Dallmeier is a Biologist, Chartered Environmentalist and the CEO of Formula Botanica, the award-winning online organic cosmetic science school. Read more about Lorraine and the Formula Botanica Team.