The beauty industry is traditionally the last place consumers turn to for help in lobbying social change. In recent years, however, we’ve seen a rise in brands striving to defy stereotypes, save the planet, fight against political agendas and rewrite the beauty rulebook.
Elevating the conversation and driving the need for further change is Gen Z. The group is often segmented into two camps: selfie-obsessed ‘Gen Me’ and problem-solving ‘Gen We’. The latter may just be what we need to save humanity and our planet.
Gen We are making themselves heard by demanding diversity, meaning and authenticity from the brands they buy. In response, we’ve seen the emergence of cause-focused brands in the beauty market who are lobbying for change 365 days a year.
Whether they’re donating huge chunks of profit to charity, using their platform to open up conversations or helping to raise awareness of good causes, 2019’s beauty market is seriously switched on.
Here are three Gen Z-approved beauty brands making waves in the US.
Lipslut is the beauty brand launched by 21-year-old Katie Sones in 2016 as a protest after President Trump’s election.
Most of the product drops are cause-driven reactions to alarming political moves in the US, such as Trump’s immigration policies or Judge Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, with provocative names like "F*ck Trump”, “F*ck Kavanaugh” and “Notorious R.B.G”.
The brand’s latest campaign dropped in May as a reaction to anti-abortion laws coming into play in Alabama and Missouri. From May 20th to 24th, Lipslut donated 100% of its earnings to help “provide reproductive health care, work to make abortion more accessible and fight to take down unfair laws”.
Commenting on the campaign, Sones told Hello Giggles: “Women have a right to control their bodies. It scares me that people want to change that.”
Politics is a difficult world for brands to navigate. However, Lipslut tackles this with a fiercely unapologetic proposition, transparency in how they operate, a strong point of view and a relentless desire to fight for those without a voice.
In a world where we can find out if a company is practising what they preach with the click of a button, brands must live their purpose to really earn consumers’ approval.
Next up is NOTO Botanics, the LA-based cosmetics brand that centres wellness and queerness in beauty.
NOTO Botanics offers everything Gen Z (notably Gen We) want in a self-care brand. Firstly, the company takes a gender-fluid approach to skincare and makeup, meaning consumers of both sexes can enjoy any of its products, including items like highlighters and face elixirs.
Secondly, all products are made using entirely organic ingredients, and the result is 100% vegan and cruelty-free.
Behind the brand lies a progressive and determined founder, Gloria Noto, who founded the business in 2016.
Gloria explains how the idea came after feeling like she wasn’t contributing to society in a way that was making any positive change except through aesthetics. She explained: “I wanted to be a part of something that I felt was a reflection of things that needed growth - like the ideas of beauty standards.”
In just three years, NOTA Botanics has grown from making small batches to full operation, including consultants, a production space, manufacturers, suppliers and retailers like Free People and Need Supply Co.
Commenting on her brands, Gloria says: “We all have the same need, and it’s to feel good about ourselves - but what that looks like is incredibly unique and diverse. I want to create a product that fits the mood of making you feel good, but that allows you to make it your own, whatever way you choose”.
The Lipstick Lobby
In a similar vein to Lipslut, The Lipstick Lobby believe big change can come in the form of bold lipsticks.
Since its launch in 2017, the beauty brand has committed to donating a portion of its sales to charities championing the rights of immigrants, and LGBTQ community members.
The first product drop came in the shape of Kiss My Pink Lipstick. This is a bright fuchsia lipstick that helped raise funds for the Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit organisation that provides reproductive healthcare in the US and globally.
Next came Outrage, a matte red lipstick that donates a quarter of sales to charity American Civil Liberties Union: a nonprofit charity working to defend the rights of US citizens against discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and more.
With these launches, and numerous other campaigns and products that followed, the brand has pushed out a powerful message - small actions can create big waves.
When a brand gets behind a cause and supports it financially, the effect can be huge. And it’s not only new brands with cause at the heart who are driving the world to be a better place. Established names like Chanel and Elizabeth Arden are also finding ways to play in this space, powering the conversation and driving meaningful social change.
This SEEN article has been compiled by our Senior Creative, Helen Lazzari.
Want to say hello, ask questions or challenge her cultural knowledge? You can drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.