Have we reached peak beauty saturation?
That’s the question I had when going over our third annual Lightning Beauty Awards. (Editor’s note: while typing this out I’m still in awe that Very Good Light has been around for THREE whole years! Wow!) I came to this conclusion while getting my 70th box of skincare products earlier this year and couldn’t help but wonder how really good the beauty industry’s become. According to this report, beauty as an industry is now worth half a trillion dollars. HALF. A. TRILLION! That’s more than the economies of many entire countries.
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It’s not a surprise. Beauty is now the new fashion, nothing to really bat your eyelashes at. But what’s really remarkable is how democratic, transparent, accessible – and inclusive – beauty brands have become in the past decade alone. Today, we have a brand that speaks to most people. Whether it’s Glossier and its DTC model that’s changed beauty’s landscape, Milk Makeup and its notions of inclusivity, Huda Beauty, amplified by one of the world’s biggest beauty influencers, to stores like Ulta and Sephora evolving to meet its customer base, it’s easy to see how these brands are really trying.
But I’d argue there’s still so much more to be done. While I, as the editor at Very Good Light, have witnessed the beauty industry evolving, I think we can go further. We still can deepen the coverage of ethnicities and colors in ad campaigns, see even more cultures and underrepresented voices seen, as well as create more space for various gender identities. It’s especially the latter that I feel is lacking. The beauty industry by and large still doesn’t include masculine-identifying people from across the gender spectrum.
It’s still predominantly catered towards femme-presentation, cisgender women, and femininity. Of course, that’s important and empowering. Beauty should uplift women and allow anyone – no matter their gender identity – to feel powerful in their femininity. But what about those who want to present as masc? Gender non-conforming, masc-identifying people who want packaging that doesn’t solely have beautiful cisgender women smiling back at them? What about the average cis guy who just wants to try an eyeshadow but perhaps, doesn’t feel it’s for him because he isn’t represented?
It’s obvious that beauty as an industry, while amazing with its strides for diversity and inclusion, still overlooks men and masculine-presenting people. It’s a shame, as these are the same individuals who are seeking beauty like never before in modern history. It’s why the men’s beauty industry is the fastest growing sector. It’s why magazines like GQ are finally acknowledging that men where makeup (though, hello, they’ve always prescribed to beauty!). It’s why there’s an important beauty awards (this one here!)– the only one of its kind – that judges products not by the gender they are marketed towards, rather than for simply being the best in a specific category.
It’s why Very Good Light is still so important to me. It’s a space where we can come together –in an inclusive space – and feel safe speaking about beauty. And I’m still so proud of what we’ve built here and will continue to do. The Lightning Awards are more important than ever for this very reason. It’s breaking down the gender constructs and seeing beauty products for what they are: lotions, creams, lipsticks, to eyeshadows that empower its users.
And ultimately, that’s what beauty’s about: Empowerment.
Notions of gendered beauty products are dead. Beauty isn’t for girls and grooming isn’t for boys. An eyeshadow wasn’t created solely for women nor were razors just for guys. It’s time we move beyond the beauty binary. And whether you’re in the beauty industry or a Very Good Light reader reading this, it’s pertinent to know that we still have a ways to go. Let’s keep pushing! Let’s keep challenging the status quo.
Let’s keep brands accountable by letting them know that inclusivity means ALL people.
Without further ado, we’re officially launching our beauty awards, with our new logo (see above!). It’s of Apollo, the god of, ahem, very good light. Every day, we’re publishing the best of in five categories: Cosmetics, Facial Hair, Hair, Skincare, and Body. Check back every day this week for new category winners. Together with Apollo, we’ve gathered a group of the most esteemed beauty insiders in the industry, who helped judge this year’s awards. Check them out, below!
David Lopez, Celebrity Hairstylist
Amber Kallor, beauty editor
Arienne Thompson Plourde, journalism professor and PR professional
Garrett Munce, beauty writer
David Yi, Very Good Light’s editor