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Makeup is for Everyone: Gender Inclusive Brands Are Here to Stay

Makeup is for Everyone: Gender Inclusive Brands Are Here to Stay

2018 saw a rise in gender inclusive beauty brands—it’s more than just a trend.

Marsha P. Johnson (left) and Sylvia Rivera (right) march in New York City in 1973. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

Marsha P. Johnson (left) and Sylvia Rivera (right) march in New York City in 1973. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Stonewall Riots—the series of political protests started by young black and brown trans people of color standing up against police brutality at The Stonewall Inn in New York City. These riots have given us what we know today as Pride, a month long celebration of identity and remembrance! LGBTQ+ folks have been fighting for equality since before 1969, but this particular protest is celebrated because of individuals like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, two transgender women of color, taking their humanity into their own hands and demanding fair treatment by any means necessary; the police raid was the breaking point, and many of the Inn’s patrons had finally had enough: sparking a revolution.

Fighting for a place in society, many queer people find solace in makeup.  Makeup has found itself centered in the queer community as a tool for self-expression and reinvention, particularly in the last few years as gender neutral beauty brands are starting to cement themselves in the beauty world. .

For a lot of brands, Pride Month has become a prime opportunity to pander to LGBTQ+ consumers. When these brands simply  throw a rainbow on their products, declare an undetermined percentage of their proceeds from said profits will be donated to LGBTQ+ organizations, and only do this in June, consumers become wary of the brand’s true intentions. The brand’s attempt at “support” comes across as tokenistic. Rather than a rainbow body count for brownie points, brands like JECCA Makeup, Fluide, and SPKTRM Beauty integrate an inclusive culture into their company images all year around. 

They are changing the game by carving explicit gender inclusive/genderless LGBTQ+ spaces in the beauty industry, and here’s why it’s more than just a trend or capitalist scheme:

No Gendered Marketing

For a long time, the main consumer demographic in the makeup industry was white, most likely straight, cis females under 34. Women spend $7 trillion in the U.S., according to a Nielsen report. They control about 85 percent of consumer spending. And when the global cosmetics market is expected to reach $863 billion by 2024, brands are going to cash in on what they think straight cis-women want based off of gender stereotypes: pretty pink packaging, effeminate scents, and campaigns starring other conventionally attractive straight cis-women. Almost everything is gendered in this way: razors, deodorant, pens, shampoo, and makeup. 

But this cis-gendered picture is a limited, binary view of the cosmetics market -- especially in a time when millennials are nicknamed the “gender-fluid generation.” 

According to a 2017 report from GLAAD, in general, young people are more likely to identify as LGBTQ+ than previous generations. Within that population, 12 percent of millennials identify as transgender or gender non-conforming. Gender nonconformity, though, isn’t just a millennial phenomenon. The idea that gender isn’t binary has been around for centuries, and not just in  Western society. Ancient Egyptians gender-swapped to get into the afterlife. Examples of this are the Hijras of India, and Native American Two-Spirits

“Consumers increasingly view gender as fluid and the beauty industry is reflecting this shift in mindset with products that present a neutral aesthetic,” Jessica Smith, Foresight Editor at the Future Laboratory told Glamour. “New genderless strategies on skincare are built on the premise that men and women have chemically identical skin, so products should be formulated for end results rather than targeted at any specific gender.”

Take a look at the beauty brand Non Gender Specific. Not only does the skincare company use recycled packaging and low impact manufacturing processes, but its main goal is to offer quality products to people of all gender identities (as its name implies.)

At the forefront of inclusive marketing, is Illamasqua. They were one of the first beauty brands to show both men and women wearing makeup, and the first brand to snag transgender model Munro Bergdorf after L’Oreal dropped her from their campaign. They regularly post gender inclusive images on their Instagram and promote in-store courses that assist transitioning customers on how to apply their makeup.

LGBTQ+ Social and Economic Power

Social media has become a great way for many marginalized individuals to connect with their favorite brands, and actually be heard. Or even become ambassadors of accurate and diverse representation themselves. BeautyCon LA and its lineup of Youtubers and influencers is a great example of this. The convention was created by Moj Mahadara, an out lesbian, and showcases a more inclusive view of the beauty industry’s buyers and sellers. Many of the fans and influencers attending BeautyCon LA are not the straight cis white women regarded as makeup’s target demographic. With social platforms like YouTube, beauty lovers of all identities have the opportunity to share their looks and makeup skills with people just like themselves. Model and activist Adwoa Aboah told Into, “I think what Instagram and what social media has really done is it’s given these people who wouldn’t have necessarily had a voice, is giving them that moment.” Makeup artist and founder of U.K. based company JECCA Makeup, Jessica Blackler, got her start after some of her transitioning Instagram followers messaged her asking for tips on where to buy makeup and what to use. 

“They wanted someone that was accepting of the community, and they couldn’t find this at beauty counters in the local shopping center,” Blackler told Refinery29. JECCA can be used by anyone, but its Correct and Conceal Palette was specially formulated to keep the trans consumer in mind; it helps hide facial hair shadows. 

In its annual Global Corporate Sustainability Report, Nielsen found that 73 percent of millennials are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand. Eighty-one percent of millennials also expect their favorite companies to make public declarations of their corporate citizenship. So really, younger generations just want transparency about business practices and support brands that publicly stand for something. BeautyCon LA and MAC are more great beauty examples of events and brands that promote inclusive messaging and marketing; the convention welcomes “all races, all genders, all ages, all countries of origin, all sexual orientations, all religions, all glamazons, all natural beauties, all unicorns.”  Additional research conducted at the Haas School of Business at Berkeley saw that nine out of ten millennials would switch to a brand associated with a cause. As well as being cruelty free and vegan, JECCA donates five percent of its profits to Stonewall, a UK LGBTQ+ advocacy group.

The emerging queer millennial market is showing itself to be quite powerful. If the LGBTQ+ community were a country, it would have a GDP of $4.6 trillion making it the world’s fourth-largest economy, according to the LGBT Foundation. In their “America’s LGBT Economy” report, the National Gay and Lesbian Chambers of Commerce (NGLCC) found in 2015 that NGLCC certified LGBTQ+ businesses contributed over $1.15 billion to the U.S. economy.  With social media, these consumers are making it known to brands and advertisers that their dollar can be worthwhile if they are truly committed to supporting the community and making a difference—not just cashing out. On average, LGBTQ+ businesses have a lifespan of at least 12 years, which is above the national average of five years for small businesses. Brands that prove to be LGBTQ+ accepting and inclusive in their marketing can expect brand loyalty. 

Authentic Advocacy

Inclusivity is about culture and should include representations of everyone in the LGBTQ+ community. Jonathan-Joseph Ganjian, CEO of Creekmouth Commodity & Strategic Consultant, told the LGBT Foundation that in spite of the trillion dollar buying power the “Pink Dollar” has, “so many of us—especially our trans brothers and sisters, particularly of color—visibly struggle with housing or job stability, and live with much higher risk of homelessness or poverty and may not have disposable income parity commensurate with other demographics groups’ purchasing power.”

Brands should work to include queer people of color with different body shapes and sizes, who are trans, and disabled, including the ones who are not apart of the buying power. 

“Help the most disadvantaged among us tell their stories, live their truths and build their dreams through the lens of your products or services…Show that we’re more than dollars in the bank, but are a community worth investing in. Put your money where your mouth is so that we feel equity, and work to level the playing field for those of us who can’t directly support you with dollars,” Ganjian told the Foundation.

Beauty brands are already in a great position to do this. In comparison to other products on the market, makeup can be seen as more accessible to people of all different socio-economic statuses. Many people of color who are queer, trans, and/or gender non-conforming are already a part of the beauty world; and there is something to be said about using beauty as a tool for activism or activist recovery.

Blair Imani, a queer Muslim activist, told Into that she sees a correlation between beauty and activism, as well. 

“If you grew up believing that you’re never going to be healthy enough or you’re going to be killed at 25, you’ll never know how to take care of yourself in your 30s,” she said. “So when there’s things like skincare and essential oils and ways that we can yield trauma through beauty—beauty products, essentially—I think that’s an important conversation to bring to folks who might not have access to it otherwise.”

Socially aware gender neutral and inclusive beauty is becoming more popular, and hitting all the checkpoints LGBTQ+ millennial consumers want because of the transparency, representation, and advocacy these brands endorse.

Fluide, according to its website, calls itself “a collection of colorful, cruelty-free makeup for all gender expressions, gender identities and skin tones,” for example. Five percent of Fluide’s profits are donated to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and Callen-Lorde, a LGBTQ+ health center; they also promote fair prices with products ranging from $12 to $35. The brand’s makeup is from a queer perspective, for the queer community.

SPKTRM Beauty, founded by Jasmine Glass, also hails itself as an inclusive brand that finds the beauty of everyone no matter their race, age, gender, or ability.  On their website, the brand says it “was born from a desire to help reshape the industry by making it more inclusive and transparent.” They are the world’s first beauty brand to ban model retouching entirely. The brand’s images all feature diverse and relatable people in order to dismantle outdated beauty standards and showcase a realistic view of who can and does use makeup.

Makeup is for everyone. And with the recent uptick in beauty brands explicitly stating this as their mission—and making a point to cater specifically to LGBTQ+ communities—gender neutral and inclusive beauty brands are making sure we actually believe that.

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