Changemakers Behold: The Beauty Changemakers Making Positive Waves in the Industry The Debut Issue
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Behold: The Beauty Changemakers Making Positive Waves in the Industry

This year, we have made it clear to brands: Get a POV or GTFO. Brand identities were fairly literal just a few years ago: Are you pro-artist? Are you easy and breezy? Natural or glam? Prestige or mass? Lines have been blurred with the introduction of mass-teige brands, and advocacy is a huge part of a brand’s potential to connect. That’s because the beauty masses are well-informed, from INCI lists to sustainable business practices. At the very least, brands have to be authentic and forthcoming with information. Beauty connoisseurs depend on cosmetic experts to educate, empower, and lead the way, because it’s not enough for us to sit and look "pretty"—and it’s not enough for brands, either.  

We not only care about what we’re putting on our face, body, and hair, but we want to know the brands we support align with our personal ideologies too. In the great words of Cher Horowitz, “You see how picky I am about my shoes, and they only go on my feet.” The lipstick we wear better look great and the brands we support with our dollar better be vocally anti-racist. Is that too much to ask?

This cultural reset in the industry has shed more light on beauty heroes: from racial equality advocates to those creating products that cater to underserved communities. These are the change-makers, the people who strive to make the beauty industry better. 

The Voice

sharon chuter
Sharon Chuter/Design by Cristina Cianci

Sharon Chuter, CEO and creative director of UOMA Beauty and leader of Pull Up For Change

If you haven’t heard Sharon Chuter, you haven’t been listening. Chuter launched UOMA Beauty in 2018, an inclusive brand that celebrates individuality, African Pride, and “beautiful rebellion”—the latter of which Chuter has walked the walk. In June, at the height of a social and racial reckoning enacted by the death of George Floyd, Chuter called out brands for faux-activism. Many brands were quick to post black boxes in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement or post a quote from Desmond Tutu, but failed to acknowledge they played a vital role in the systemic problem leading them to post in the first place: Without Black leaders and employees, how can change actually take place? Chuter created Pull Up For Change, a direct-action movement that fights for economic equality for Black people. Pull Up For Change asks brands to reveal what percentage of their company is Black, including positions of leadership. This call to action has resulted in brands not only disclosing numbers and statistics, but committing to bettering themselves. The account’s 135,000 followers take part in holding brands accountable by following up on those commitments. 

What mark do you hope to leave on the industry as a whole?

“To make this industry more inclusive, to empower everyone to show up as their authentic self, and to have that celebrated proudly and loudly. To make sure everyone knows they belong, even if they’ve been told otherwise.”

What makes you excited for the future of the industry?

“Gen Z! The fact that they are holding brands accountable to a degree that we’ve never seen, they will bring about much needed change in this industry. They are using their wallets to bring about the change we need."

The Pioneer

mia davis
mia davis/design by Cristina Cianci

Mia Davis, Environmental & Social Responsibility at Credo Beauty

Whatever your thoughts on the clean beauty movement, you have Mia Davis to thank for it. When many of us think of clean beauty, Credo Beauty comes to mind—the retailer has upped the ante in the beauty space, thanks to rigorous standards set in place by Davis. Davis’s approach to clean, however, embodies more than just ingredients or lack thereof: She wants brands to work harder to make considerations for things like sustainability, ethics, and overall transparency. She’s set regulations in place that may not be industry-standard, but have self-governed many beauty brands in the "clean" space.

What needs to change about the beauty industry?

The beauty industry has come such a long way in the past decade or so—safer ingredients, more sustainability efforts, and less of the 'conventional' view (i.e. white, cisgender, thin) of what is beautiful. 

"But we still need to push for change in all of these areas. It is not enough for beauty brands to be "free of" a couple of ingredients, or to throw a recycling symbol on a package that has no hope of being recycled in a municipal recycling system. And we need to make sure that brands participating in social media campaigns around Black Lives Matter or Me Too, for example, are not jumping on the bandwagon for marketing purposes. They need to do the hard, uncomfortable work—including at the very top.”

What makes you excited for the future of the industry?

“We've been living with regulatory and market systems that disincentivized suppliers to share safety and sustainability information about their products. The thinking has been it is better not to ask too much, just sell this stuff and move on, which is a huge part of the reason we're in some of the messes we're in. 

"But the work I'm leading at Credo Beauty (and with other like-minded companies like Novi, Bloomi, and Merryfield) creates the demand for more data and greater transparency. I am super excited that ingredient and packaging suppliers that actually substantiate their claims are starting to get more of the market share. Let's make it the imperative –– if you want our business you have to show that your stuff is safe, sustainable, ethical. Not just "clean" marketing, but for real.”

The Peacemaker

nabela noor
nabela noor/design by cristina cianci

Nabela Noor, entrepreneur and content creator

Nabela Noor doesn’t “call brands out,” she “calls them in.” This says a lot about the first-generation Bangladeshi-American and her dedication not only to advocacy, but to positivity. She also uses her platform of 1.6M Instagram followers to call attention to issues in various marginalized communities, including the plus-sized community, Muslim community, South Asian community, and women of color around the world. Much of this problem-solving starts with addressing the issues at hand and calling on people to advocate for what is right. Recently, she has called on her followers to inform themselves on fast fashion, and Bangladeshi workers who are exploited. She has also gotten in touch with brands like Shein to discuss their role in selling culturally appropriative and anti-semetic apparel and ultimately get those products pulled from the site. Her own brand, Zeba, is centered on body celebration and self-love; she’s also the founder of Noor House, a non-profit scholarship program based in Bangladesh providing education and resources in poverty stricken communities. 

Her fans follow her to get a dose of sunshine from series like “Our Way Home” on Noor’s IGTV as well as information on how to become better advocates and consumers. 

What needs to change about the beauty industry:

“The beauty industry needs to do a better job at reflecting and representing beauty in all forms rather than perpetuating the same age-old standard of beauty that breeds insecurity and low self-esteem. The beauty industry is responsible for so much of the insecurities polluting the hearts and minds of impressionable, growing generations. What if such a powerful industry used its power to make people feel beautiful as they are rather than inferior and inadequate? What if the images and advertisements we saw reflected beauty in all shapes, sizes, ages and colors? The beauty industry is so focused on one type of Instagram goals beauty that it is tough for everyday individuals to even feel like the word ‘beautiful’ includes them. That needs to change.”

The Imperfectionist

karen young
karen young/Design by Cristina Cianci

Karen Young, Founder, Oui the People

Karen Young wants to change the conversation around body hair. Young is an entrepreneur, having created Oui the People (formerly Oui Shave) in 2015. Founded on the idea that women deserve an enjoyable shaving experience, she created a gorgeous, single-blade safety razor covered on both sides to help prevent ingrown hairs and protect women’s skin. The razor is made of stainless steel, as is the replaceable blade, making it more sustainable for the environment than other razors. Changing your name early in a brand’s life may not be a popular decision, but it was a means to be more inclusive of non-binary consumers who expressed love for the brand. 

Oui the People wants to reconstitute beauty, changing how people and brands talk within the industry: there’s no use of the words “flawless,” “perfect” or “anti-aging” on any products or materials. One of Young’s greatest accomplishments, in her own words, has been “getting older.” It goes hand-in-hand with her personal mantra: “‘F*ck that’ to perfection.”

What mark do you hope to leave on the industry as a whole?

“The conversation we’re broaching with OUI isn’t new, I’ve seen it surface over the last decade only to be quickly overrun by a barrage of products promising perfection. I know women are tired of this message, and I see a lot of upstart brands like ours embracing an updated approach to our branding and messaging. How do we celebrate women, as they are, and offer products that produce results without the added pressure to be perfect? I hope to have had enough of an impact, collectively, so that my grandchildren and great grandchildren don’t have to buy products that reinforce negative messaging. I hope when someone buys a product a hundred years from now the language has been changed.”

The Realist

stephen alain ko
stephen alain ko/Design by Cristina Cianci

Stephen Alain Ko, Cosmetic Formulator and Skincare Expert

Stephen Alain Ko has shaken up Instagram and become a go-to for many beauty journalists, influencers, and enthusiasts alike thanks to his extensive skincare knowledge. Instead of reviewing products on how they feel or work him personally, he explains how specific ingredients work (or don’t) based on science. Novel thought, right? Switching from journalism to neuroscience and landing on chemistry in school, Ko shares the chemical makeup of cosmetics on his page and blog, educating his followers to make their own decisions—not decisions based on trends or marketing.

Favorite accomplishments?

“Helping to dispel myths on sunscreen and ingredient mixing!”

What mark do you hope to leave on the industry as a whole?

I hope that I've helped more people become interested in science and chemistry. I didn't fall in love with the sciences until I realized how deeply it was interwoven into one of my passions—skincare and makeup.”

What makes you excited for the future of the industry?

“The rise of digital native brands has made it easier for smaller and new brands to reach out and offer things to groups of people that may have previously been ignored. Not every brand needs to be the size of L'Oréal or Estée Lauder to be successful and serve a community.”

The Advocate

Trishna Daswaney
Trishna Daswaney/Design by Cristina Cianci

Trishna Daswaney, founder and director of Kohl Kreatives

When it comes to providing for underserved communities, Trishna Daswaney takes it a step further. Notably, Daswaney doesn’t make any personal profit from her brand. Kohl Kreatives was an opportunity for Daswaney to invest in her dream of providing free makeup classes for cancer care patients, gender transitioning individuals, as well as those with motor difficulties. To support this dream, she created the first beauty tools to empower people with motor disabilities, a largely underserved community of people. The tools are easy to grip, unbreakable and highly flexible for consumers with MS, Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. The money made from Kohl Kreatives supports the free workshops.

Daswaney also strongly believes in education equality and works with the various British councils and universities as an enterprise advisor integrating enterprise and diversity into curriculum.

What needs to change about the beauty industry?

The beauty industry needs to become less “tick box-y”. It really needs to adapt itself to what consumers need honestly, rather than what makes the brands look good temporarily.”

What makes you excited for the future of the industry?

I’m most looking forward to innovation but also greener solutions. It’s no secret that there is no planet b, and watching brands come up with creative solutions is super exciting. We currently up-cycle to create our products.”

The Radical

gregg renfrew
gregg renfrew/design by cristina cianci

Gregg Renfrew, founder and CEO of Beautycounter

Gregg Renfrew has been a beauty regulation advocate in Washington since 2013, long before clean and transparent beauty was adopted by the beautysphere. It’s no secret that the beauty industry has minimal regulation, and Renfrew has helped pass nine bills regarding the industry, including the Safer Sunscreen Bill in Hawaii and Safer Fragrance Bill in California. In 2019, Renfrew visited Capitol Hill to testify in front of Congress, in the first hearing in over 40 years on cosmetic reform, which led to the first vote on cosmetic reform in 80 years. At this rate, we wouldn’t be surprised if Renfrew was ultimately the woman responsible for helping get the U.S. closer to EU standards for cosmetic regulation. 

What makes you excited for the future of the industry?

“Clean beauty is so much more than just banning ingredients, for us it’s using best in class research when screening ingredients for safety, using sustainable packaging, and transforming supply chains through responsible sourcing programs.” 

What needs to change about the beauty industry?

Most things to be honest! Our industry is largely self-regulated, and the FDA has limited authority to oversee the $90 billion market. While our laws still have a long way to go to match standards overseas, policymakers are waking up to the fact that consumers are voting with their wallets and clean beauty is here to stay. At the end of the day we need a system where the FDA can determine which ingredients are safe before they enter beauty products and companies are held accountable for the transparency and safety of their products. 

The Conversation Changers

claudia teng and olamide olowe
claudia teng and olamide olowe/design by cristina cianci

Olamide Olowe and Claudia Teng, founders, Topicals

It could be considered criminal how talented Olowe and Teng are, given their age. The recent pre-med graduates are the co-founders of Topicals, a brand focused on “funner flare ups” with scientifically-proven ingredients via third-party, peer-reviewed clinical studies. The two products help with skin issues like hyperpigmentation and eczema-prone, dry and/or itchy skin, respectively. Olowe launched SheaGIRL, a subsidiary of SheaMoisture in 2015 at the age of 19; Teng holds 6 dermatology journals in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and the British Journal of Dermatology. Like we said… the talent in this room is astronomical. 

Topicals encourages their fans to educate themselves while engaging on platforms like Twitter and Instagram, sharing skincare knowledge on their socials; their head of education is beloved esthetician and founder Lily Njoroge of Cave of Beauty. Instead of covering or hiding flare ups, Topicals fans are empowered to share their flare ups proudly. Additionally, the brand advocates for mental health, knowing how closely it is tied to skin, and has donated over $11,000 for the JED Foundation, Therapy for Black Girls, Sad Girls Club, and Fearless Femme 100.

What mark do you hope to leave on the industry as a whole?

"Topicals is transforming the way people feel about skin by making the treatment experience more like self-care rather than a burdensome ritual. We take the focus off of having 'perfect' skin and put the onus on having ‘funner flare-ups.’ Because of Topicals, people will have a healthier relationship with their skin that isn’t based on having clear skin."

What needs to change about the beauty industry?

"There is an unattainable standard of beauty that 99 percent of people don’t fit into. Specifically, the skincare industry has forced everyone to think that clear skin is ideal and flare-ups are embarrassing and shameful. In addition, darker skinned folks have very rarely been included in the conversation. At Topicals, we know that you make skin look good—not the other way around. We are fluid, imperfect, shape-shifting, and real representations of you and your skin. We also test our products on all shades because inclusion is more than just visual representation."

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