Free the birds

Beauty, Diversity

That’s definitely not me

The Beauty Industry has a mountain of diversity to climb

As an over-40s beauty junkie, working in beauty branding, our Partner Sara Jones joins legendary beauty maven Caroline Hirons in shouting #THATSNOTME to the beauty industry marketers who continue to misrepresent their consumers. And empathises with the rest of the consumer population who don’t fit the young, thin, attractive and able-bodied model. Hashtag designed by us truly

Whether it's haircare, skincare, personal care, cosmetics, or otherwise, no one looks like me or reflects me in brand campaigns. Older celebrities, glorious as they are, don't either. .

I’ve worked in branding for over twenty years, in beauty branding for nearly that long, and I’ve been a beauty junkie for even longer. So it’s particularly disheartening to see the huge, widening chasm between marketing and communications for most beauty brands and me personally as an over-40s female consumer. Whether it’s haircare, skincare, personal care, cosmetics, or otherwise, no one looks like me or reflects me in brand campaigns. Older celebrities, glorious as they are, don’t either.

This isn’t only in terms of brand imagery, but also in the use of scare tactics to frighten me into buying products, rather than inviting me to positively enjoy them. Negative language and brand names exhort me to fight the imperfections of age. Not to mention the portrayal and unachievable representations of the magic products can do. It’s deceptive and, of all people, older beauty consumers know it. We’ve seen it, done it, and bought the t-shirt. Twenty years ago. A 19-year old Kendall Jenner advertising Advanced Night Repair for Estée Lauder is not only preposterous, it’s downright offensive.

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"A 19-year old Kendall Jenner advertising Advanced Night Repair for Estée Lauder is not only preposterous, it's downright offensive."

Women are increasingly frustrated with the barefaced ageism in the beauty industry. Beauty maven Caroline Hirons has written a damning blog on the subject, and started the hashtag #THATSNOTME, as has Jayne Cunningham, the British Beauty Blogger. Aside from how insulting it is to define beauty as only belonging to those under 30, it’s commercially senseless: older beauty consumers have the experience, knowledge, and confidence to try new things and, rather importantly, the means to buy them!

There’s something else though. Not just the ageism, but all the other faces and bodies that aremissing. A case in point is Sephora’s latest Reach Out and Gift campaign that’s allegedly meant to signify individuality and diversity. Deborah Yeh, Sephora’s senior vice president of marketing and branding told Glamour Magazine: “We were very deliberate in choosing talent who represent individuality in beauty, both inside and out.” According to Yeh, that meant featuring employees who reflect the range of Sephora’s clientele, and the mix of unique beauty styles that find a home in the store’s community.

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Really? Who reflect the range of Sephora’s clientele? No one over the age of 30 (most seem to be early or mid 20s), no one much larger than a UK size 14, no one with any visible disability… effectively young, thin, very attractive, and able-bodied? I must be imagining all the fellow customers who don’t fall into that bracket when I’ve been shopping in Sephora… maybe it’s my age…

"Beauty comes in all sorts of ages, abilities, shapes, sizes and colours. And consumers are starting to feel that and get angry about the lack of real representation from beauty brands, about being considered flawed, or rendered entirely invisible."

I’ve written before about the industry’s lack of bravery in tackling diversity as it really is, in large part due to who is working inside it. Beauty comes in all sorts of ages, abilities, shapes, sizes and colours. And consumers are starting to feel that and get angry about the lack of real representation from beauty brands, about being considered flawed, or rendered entirely invisible.

People, including me, will be saying #THATSNOTME for the foreseeable future to brands who don’t get it and don’t do something about it…