How Messed Up is the Beauty Industry? An Evaluation of Makeup Companies

Put your seatbelts on because here is a super long article about every controversy the most famous (in America) makeup companies had in the past five years or so. Now I'm not a beauty guru, but I consider myself a makeup enthusiast, like how someone with a few tattoos compares to a tattoo artist. Nonetheless, thanks to my YouTube obsession combined with my makeup obsession, I know all the tea about almost all makeup brands. This article isn't meant to judge the quality of every makeup product these brands ever put out, but I want to compile all of the problems, drama, law suits, funding, controversies, and general success of the most well known makeup companies to better inform your decision when you’re considering buying that new collection. These are in no particular order, and feel free to read about only your favorite (or least favorite) companies!  

Jeffree Star Cosmetics

If you haven’t heard of Jeffree Star by now, you’re not doing the internet right. Jeffree Star is one of the earliest internet celebrities by ranking in fame on MySpace as early as 2003, then running a music from the mid 2000s to the early 2010s. He then transferred to YouTube and began posting vlogs, and over the years he took his love for makeup and made the decision to begin his own makeup company named after himself in 2014 (Insider). By 2018, Jeffree Star ranked himself as the number 5th top earning YouTuber by making a whopping $18 million dollars, not counting the over $100 million in sales he made from Jeffree Star Cosmetics (Forbes). Despite having 14 million subscribers and millions of loyal fans, Star is one of the most controversial people in the beauty industry. Back in his MySpace days, Star made a number of videos using blatant racist and homophobic slurs (despite being part of the LBGT+ community, he used the terms against other people in a demeaning way). He has since apologized (Insider). His most famous trope is getting into feuds with pretty much everyone. The Kardashians and the Jenners, the owner of Too Faced named Jerrod Blandino, makeup-company-owner Kat Von D, and many beauty gurus including Laura Lee, Manny MUA, Gabby Zamora, Nikita Dragun and many more (Allure). Unfortunately, because Jeffree Star Cosmetics is named after him, his face is in every ad, and the company is essentially just his, then his bad reputation affects the rep of the company. Nonetheless, YouTuber Shane Dawson made a series  looking into the life and controversies of Jeffree Star in 2018, and putting Star in a better light helped contribute to sales.

 

Fenty Beauty

There’s not much to complain about for Fenty Beauty, and here’s why. Music icon Rihanna owns and leads the makeup company, and the entire vision in doing so is to create a line of inclusivity. Fenty was named by Time Magazine’s as the Best Invention of 2017, claiming “‘In only a year, Fenty Beauty has pulled off a makeover of the makeup industry’" (Teen Vogue). Fenty reportedly made what Jeffree Star Cosmetics did in all of 2018 in just its first 40 days on the market, and now caters to 29 countries. Other makeup companies have been seen making new ranges in their products and trying to reach new countries, called the “Fenty Effect” (Teen Vogue). I wanted to include this company because it’s still worth noting that Fenty has advantages no other company has. An A-list celebrity is the owner, not someone who become popular through the brand, but was already famous as they could be as the brand launched. Vox talks about how much “inclusion sells”, especially to millenials (Vox). A foundation range with 40 shades meant a lot to people, and it shows. However, Savage X Fenty was released, a lingerie line. Ads showcased women with big chests and curves, but like most other brands, it fell short because the largest bra size was a DDD, leaving hopeful fans disappointed. However, I know Rihanna is doing inclusicity right because fans complained there were no trans women used in ads for Fenty when it first launched, and Rihanna told them that she wouldn’t use trans women as a “gimmick”, because trans women know the brand is made for them even without a trans women being shown on Fenty’s Instagram (Vox). Despite this, Rihanna faced backlash for releasing a highlighter named “Geisha Chic”, which angered fans because she strived to have such an inclusive company, but no one on her team managed to care about the offensiveness of this product to Asian cultures (Independent). The product was removed to be renamed.  

 

NYX Cosmetics

NYX is known to have super colorful makeup of decent quality for super low prices. It ranks #3 on the best budget-friendly makeup brands (Girlfriend). However, cheap doesn’t come without problems. If you’re not aware, makeup companies have a past of testing on animals, and they also have a past of lying about it. Although NYX labeled themselves as “cruelty free”, but NYX’s parent company is L’Oreal, who is not cruelty free. L’Oreal sells products in China, and all brands that sell products in China are required to perform animal testing. This means NYX Cosmetics is in fact not cruelty free (Augsburg University). In 2011, NYX was accused of a scam by its biggest fans. Everything on NYX’s website was going to be $1.20 for 12 hours, and fans were super excited to get items that were so cheap, up to 90% off. Supposedly, because of the high traffic to the site, NYX’s website wouldn’t load, so the sale was extended to 24 hours to give customers a chance to get their purchases, but everyone on social media was complaining that they couldn’t get on. If you did manage to get on, you could see the prices were correct at $1.20, but no payment would load. Instead of extending it longer, NYX gave a coupon for 50% to customers. This was nowhere near as low as the original sale, and people were pissed. In the end, NYX lost customers and got accused of getting people to use this 50% coupon instead of the better sale (Hellogorgeousartistry). And my favorite NYX controversy of them all: the NYX FACE Awards. The FACE Awards takes place every year when different influencers, beauty gurus, and general makeup lovers compete to win. It comes down to a top 30 who make specific videos on YouTube, then top 6 who are flown in to complete challenges and videos. I followed the NYX FACE Awards for a few years because artists I love, like Glam and Gore and Adelaine Morin, but then I found out NYX doesn’t even view all of the submission videos. Because you can track who views your YouTube videos, people saw NYX only watched 15 seconds of their submission videos before choosing other people instead of them. In the end, NYX chose people with the best following, best equipment to make their videos, and most views, not what they claimed they chose the winners based off of, like the content of the video and their talent (Youtube).

 

Kat Von D Beauty

Kat Von D, like Jeffree Star, was in the public eye for years before she began her self-named makeup company. She was a star on the TLC show LA Ink for years, and began her beauty company in 2008. In 2016, all products of Kat Von D Beauty were reformulated to be vegan. She even launched a month-long campaign to celebrate world vegan day, and has done tons of charity work, donating her earning from her makeup company to animals (Vegnews). Her first huge controversy was when she uploaded a video to YouTube two years ago calling out ex-best friend Jeffree Star for a number of things, like never paying the artist who designed his company’s logo, and never thanking her for helping him start his own makeup company. I can’t tell you who won the feud (although Jeffree definitely did), but Von D’s makeup brand continued to be successful until the summer of 2018 when she was expecting her first child. A fan messaged her on social media to warn that vaccines aren’t vegan, and Von D agreed, and explained she would be raising her child completely vegan (with an at-home water birth with a midwife and doula) after doing research, AKA she won’t vaccinate her son. And oh boy, was the backlash bad. She immediately lost tons of fans and customers, and there was a trend of photoshopping her product’s names to be the names of preventable diseases (USA Today). In March of 2019, Von D posted to YouTube to address everything finally, saying she wasn’t anti-vax. She claimed she was a first-time mom and read about things that scared her, so she consulted with her pediatrician and learned. However, she never shared if her son was vaccinated or not, all she did was claim that she refused to share (USA Today). Von D managed to share a lot of questionable parenting details online, and it really put her brand in a bad light. She gave her son someone else’s breast milk because she refused to use powdered milk when she could not produce her own milk (and the donor HAD to be vegan), and her baby is following a vegan diet, amongst other questionable things (Babygaga).

 

Urban Decay

Famous for their Naked palettes, UD doesn’t have too many controversies. They were recently celebrated for listening to their followers by posting unedited photos on Instagram that show pores, freckles, facial hair, and other imperfections on close-ups of gurus wearing their makeup, when other brands airbrush all that out (Independent). However, they’re not totally controversy-free. In 2016, UD tweeted “Ready for some Razor Sharp Swatches, UDers?” with a picture of a woman’s wrist and her clenching her fist. On her wrist were thin, horizontal lines in bright and glittery shades. Viewers were quick to point out how horrible it sounded to put “razor sharp” and horizontal lines across someone’s wrist (Business Insider). UD never removed the post, but they explained the name of the eyeliners were called “Razor Sharp”, and the picture shows swatches on someone’s arm and they never meant to depict self harm. Still, if people said this picture was triggering, it should have been removed. And how did the whole marketing team not realize what it looked like? (The Drum). Their marketing team continued to be terrible, because in 2017 they got called out for having a shade named Druggie (a shimmery purple). Sephora apologized for selling UD’s palette with this shade name in it, and said it’d be renamed. A reminder to Urban Decay: the 130,000 who died in 2016 from drug overdose, and the thousands more who committed self harm ARE NOT MARKETING TECHNIQUES (Huff Post). But wait, there’s one more. Also in 2017, UD announced a collab with Ruby Rose for a collection in honor of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Basquiat advocated for representation for POC, and incorporated them into his paintings because he didn’t see them enough in art. Rose is a huge fan of Basquiat, and has two tattoos dedicated two him, however, UD customers didn’t understand why they didn’t do the simple thing, what Basquiat would have wanted, and just had a POC be the face of this collection (The Cut).

Tarte Cosmetics

Tarte’s faced a huge boycott not too long ago, and I’m not talking about the racist meme they posted in 2017 to their Instagram. Why is a makeup company posting things that has nothing to do with makeup? No idea. But why post something that has the phrase “potato potato, ching chong tomato” in it? Well, “As far as the beauty industry has come in terms of representation and inclusion, it clearly still has a long way to go” (Teen Vogue). Shape Tape (pictured above) is the name of a foundation Tarte released in 2018 with two formulas and 15 shades in each formula. Only two of the fifteen shades were dark enough for people of color, and one is brown. The lack of range in the shades is called “harmful” by the Insider, and almost everyone was furious (Insider). Tarte turned off comments on their post showing the shades, then announced they were working on the release of ten more shades, which wasn’t good enough for Jeffree Star, who reviewed the line on his YouTube channel and spoke about that the product should not have been released until it was inclusive enough for all of Tarte’s customers (YouTube). YouTuber Jackie Aina said in her review of the product that “‘Tarte has to be the most whitewashed brand out there, from their marketing to their Instagram...This brand just embodies the exact opposite of what I stand for...They don't do anything that makes people feel included...This foundation launch just reinforced that for me’” (Insider). Tarte finally released a statement, saying they realized their mistake and were going to make sure it never happened again (Insider). In 2019, Tarte launched a Big Ego campaign for their new vegan EGO™ mascara, in which they held events to teach young girls confidence, double standards, facts about inequality, and general feminist things, which is really cool to see (Instagram).

 

MAC Cosmetics

Owned by Estée Lauder, here’s another company that kind of just doesn’t get that they should tone down the racism. In 2016, MAC released a collection called Vibe Tribe, which completely uses a rip-off of Native American styled prints. But oh, it gets worse than that, because “Even the advertisements feature women dressed in traditional garb, complete with colored feathers in their hair and tribal tattoos” (Refinery29). Once the brand was faced with backlash, they claimed the inspiration of the line was musical festivals and deserts, never Native American culture. Even if this is true, it doesn’t matter because MAC’s customers who did buy the products were then using the line to make Native Americans into a costume (see below) (Refinery29). Don’t worry, the racism made it to 2018 when MAC uploaded a YouTube video of a makeup tutorial showing Muslim women a makeup look for suhoor, a pre-dawn meal before fasting for Ramadan. MAC messed up suhoor with iftar, a meal shared with family and friends that’s worth putting makeup on for. No one really gets prettied up for suhoor, meaning MAC had no idea what they were doing. Nice try for representation, but if they did it right and actually had a Muslim woman do the video, they wouldn’t have done it wrong (CNN). If you’re not aware, MAC sells to China, and they have have a law that all cosmetics must be tested on animals before going into stores. MAC’s website claims they want to work towards a cruelty-free world by partnering with the Institute for Vitro Sciences, which works in different countries to end animal testing. But does it really count if they won’t pull their products from Chinese stores? If MAC cares about stopping animal testing enough, they would (Volta Magazine).

Beauty Blender

Famous for (duh) their beauty blender tool, this makeup company recently released foundation, and it shouldn’t have. 32 shades may sound like a lot, but there’s about four brown shades, four dark shades, and a fuck ton of shades for white people. Sound familiar, Tarte? After the backlash, BB told Teen Vogue that they considered 16 of the shades to be catered just for olive to dark skin tones, but anyone who looks at the shades can beg to differ. BB’s founder is a woman of Latina background herself, so it really doesn’t make any sense (Teen Vogue). Even the orange shades, people pointed out, are super orange and not at all what people of color’s skin tones look like. Well, BB released eight new shades to make up for the backlash, claiming that it took longer to make these eight because the undertones just needed more time to get perfect. However, one of these eight shades IS FAIR, and some are brown, and of course it includes the darkest of the shades. But some shades that were released originally weren’t perfect, so why did they rush it and release it early? Probably because they didn’t want to make it inclusive. Owner Rea Ann Silva says they’re planning to make even more (Refinery29). In 2019, BB found themselves in a smaller and more stupid controversy because an idiot runs their social media. On Instagram, Beauty Blender has been comparing their $20 sponges to other brands’ sponges, which are way cheaper. And all comments point out that they’re not in the position to talk shit because they didn’t invent the sponge, or anything special. Their product is more expensive, and beauty gurus have found cheaper and better alternatives to this $20 pink egg of theirs. There’s no need to bash other companies (YouTube).  

Benefit Cosmetics

It seems makeup companies just like posting bullshit on social media to be funny instead of makeup. Benefit’s UK account in 2015 found the #MakeAMovieAFatty just HILARIOUS, and they had to post it. In a tweet, they changed famous movie titles, like Legally Blonde and Magic Mike, into fat-shaming movie titles, like Legally Bulge and Massive Mike. When people started complaining, they replied that they were “only having a little fun getting involved in the trends as we always try to do” (Racked). Fans reminded the brand that just because something is trending doesn’t mean it’s okay. After being called scum, the tweets were deleted. They apologized for any offence, but it wasn’t enough for people (Racked). 2017 rolled around and Benefit’s genius marketing team made an ad to go in stores that said “skip class, not concealer”. People shared photos of the ad, in disbelief that in 2017 girls were still being told that they didn’t need an education if they were pretty. Benefit replied after days of angry tweets, claiming they value education, and said it was miscommunication that made it seem they didn’t. OR it was your marketing team, not miscommunication. Nonetheless, the ad was removed. (Mic). In 2018, Benefit released a foundation called Hello Happy that was (prepare yourself) ONLY 12 SHADES. If 32 wasn’t enough, why did they think 12 was? Looking at different photos, there are four dark shades, three brown shades, and five light shades, so I guess people are just expected to mix shades? And if you’re super dark or super pale, don’t buy it (Revelist).

 

CoverGirl

CoverGirl made the mistake of becoming the official beauty sponsor of the NFL, then they made another mistake in 2014 by releasing an ad that showed a model in a football jersey, a makeup look and...a black eye. CoverGirl called this series of ads the “Get Your Game Face On” ad campaign, showing models wearing colors of each football team. But photoshopping a black eye onto a model right after Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens was caught on video knocking his fiance unconscious. The ad spiraled into people calling for the NFL to do more about the domestic abuse cases of its players. CoverGirl never pulled the ad or its sponsorship, but they released a statement that they started the sponsorship to support female football fans, and they also encourage the NFL to do more (Chicago Tribune). Over the years, CoverGirl has been pretty well behaved. In 2017, their famous slogan was changed from “Easy, Breezy, Beautiful” to “I Am What I Makeup”. The change is to show the company doesn’t just focus on looking beautiful, but teaching others that they have the ability to create beauty themselves. The new slogan is much more inclusive in the belief that makeup isn’t just for beauty, but self expression (Bustle). I wish I could continue talking about how great CoverGirl is doing, but there’s a huge flaw in the whole company, and that is the way they rely on celebrity endorsements. They assign official CoverGirl titles to celebrities, beauty gurus, and models to be in ads, campaigns, and features. Unfortunately for them, one of their CoverGirls was James Charles. Whether or not you like him, he’s an extremely controversial person and just creates drama and scandals. To name a few, Charles tried to hold a giveaway of his merch to fans who already purchased items, instead of fans who didn’t get the chance to get items (YouTube), the tried charging up to $500 for fans to meet him on his tour (more expensive than Ariana Grande or Beyonce) (YouTube), and tweeting that he was afraid of catching Ebola from traveling to Africa (Revelist).

Too Faced Cosmetics

The co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Too Faced, Jerrod Blandino, isn’t a great guy. Here’s an example why. For his birthday, he had a cake that read “Rich Lives Matter”, an insensitive play on the Black Lives Matter movement. Better yet, the parent company of Too Faced, Estee Lauder, were the ones to post the cake on Instagram in the corner of a picture. After heavy backlash, Blandino responded by saying that someone brought the cake to his surprise party and it should not have been posted on social media because it did not reflect his beliefs as a person. Funny, he didn’t seen too bothered by it when sitting and smiling next to it (Girlfriend). Jeffree Star called Blandino out when he threw shade at Tarte’s collection in 2017, and Star continued to call him out for stuff for a while. One thing involved beauty guru NikkieTutorials, who launched a collection with Too Faced. Although Nikkie reportedly signed a contract that kept her from speaking about this, Star and other YouTuber Sanders Kennedy claimed Nikkie was only paid $50,000 despite her collection making $9 million. The product itself was faced with harsh reviews, and many people accused Nikkie of faking her extremely positive review. Nonetheless, Jeffree was attacked by Blandino’s sister on Twitter for trying to stand up for Nikkie when she couldn’t stand up for herself (Pop Sugar). Later on, beauty guru Tati Westbrook also talked about cutting off ties with Blandino because of how rude he was to her in person (YouTube). Okay, so he sucks. Besides the disastrous collection with Nikkie, maybe Blandino runs a great company? Weelllllll...Too Faced’s most popular product is their Better Than Sex mascara, but in 2018 they were called out for false advertising. Too Faced claimed this mascara adds volume to your lashes by 1,944%! That’s a huge number! The National Advertising Division told them to change the packaging and before and after images they used to advertise this claim, because it’s obvious bullshit. Even after removing everything, Too Faced STILL stood by this claim (Allure).

 

Kylie Cosmetics

Remember when I said Fenty Beauty was successful because the company was founded and owned by an A-list celebrity? Well so is Kylie Cosmetics, but this company just seems to do everything wrong. Despite having millions of loyal fans and billions in sales, Jenner has tons of controversies in just her makeup company alone. A number of Jenner’s products have had flaws, like her Royal Peach Eyeshadow Palette that had multiple claims of smelling like chemicals and glue that gave customers headaches (Stylecaster). Her lip glosses had tons of backlash, even from Jeffree Star himself, from the poor quality of the applicator, so she had to completely redesign them (Beauty Packaging). Or the $360 brush kit she released in 2017 that had the quality compared to the dollar store, and literally everyone hated it (YouTube). Her company messed up things often by sending packages with no items or the wrong items, pop-up shops that weren’t well kept, sending pamphlets for charity that called children with physical deformities “monsters”, factory workers report unsafe working conditions (Stylecaster). In 2016, an artist had to literally sue Jenner for copying her art to use as ads for Kylie Cosmetics, which happened more than once. The company logo itself of the dripping lips started as stolen art from makeup artist Vlada Haggerty. Kylie never commented on the law suit, and the logo remained the same (Revelist). Another controversy was over the conspiracy that Kylie Cosmetics was selling ColourPop products in different packaging, because the products and packaging all came from the same companies. It turns out, Kylie Cosmetics and ColourPop are sister companies, but they aren’t selling the same products (Medium).

 

Anastasia Beverly Hills

It makes me happy to read about a company that doesn’t have that many controversies, so here’s all I could find on ABH. Owner Anastasia Soare Soare doesn’t have much coverage herself, but her daughter Norvina Claudia Soare has become the President of the company, and she’s super down to earth and drama-free (Revelist). In 2017, ABH released a palette called Subculture, and it had colors that they never released before, like mustard yellow, army green, and deep plum. Fans were super hyped for the release of this palette, but it was quickly discovered the product wasn’t performing well with loose powders falling out of the pan and making a mess on the face. Norvina Soare spoke up right away and said it was the first time ABH used an automatic pressing machine for its shadows, and she fully refunded customers with faulty palettes. Supposedly, the shadows just weren’t pressed hard enough, and ABH had no idea which palettes weren’t pressed enough and which ones were unless every single person who got a faulty palette told them so (Bustle). In 2018, fans noticed the Subculture palette in Marshalls, a cheap retail store, and Soare was asked if the palette was going to be recalled, and she said eventually yes, because there were incoming products to replace it. Fans weren’t shocked that she was ready to replace the palette that costed her so much in losses (Allure). However, it’s still for sale on Sephora’s website, so supposedly she made up for the losses (Sephora). The only other complaint I could find for ABH is surprisingly super recent from March of 2019, and covers ABH’s PR list. In 2019, ABH made a list of over 1,000 influencers from Instagram, YouTube, and other makeup companies to receive free products. About $5,300 worth of free products, that is. Most brands only send to big influencers, not this many. The idea behind it, as explained by Norvina Soare, is that ABH wants to support influencers no matter how many followers they have, so they can have new products and brushes to do makeup on clients to earn money and gain more followers. This immediately exploded, and tens of thousands of people were sending Norvina Soare makeup looks done with ABH products. Everyone wanted on that list, of course, and it caused fights to break out in the comments. Influencer James Charles messaged Norvina Soare to warn her about the fights, and she made everyone know that those who were fighting in the comments would not get free products. In the end, this meant Soare’s Twitter account was boosted because of the heavy traffic that Twitter’s algorithm picked up on it, so people are wondering if that’s the whole reason ABH did this (YouTube).

 

Morphe

There’s two things to know about Morphe: 1. every single beauty guru has an affiliate code for Morphe and 2. every single beauty guru uses their brushes. I can’t just talk about how they made too many affiliate codes because we already know they did, but let’s talk about the brushes. The prices are comparatively good, but that’s because customers report them shedding, the brush heads just falling out, and being scratchy. “Big YouTuber’s will use a $5 brush with a $60 foundation and claim that it is the best brush in the world….it really isn’t unfortunately”, meaning beauty gurus only hype them up so much because they’re always sponsored by them (LiyaBeatyBlog). Let’s quickly talk about another makeup product, a foundation line they released in 2018. Almost every mention of foundation in this article has been because there weren’t enough shades. Well, Morphe released a line with 60 shades and STILL fucked it up. Even before the swatches were posted online, people didn’t have high hopes because Morphe’s ads never feature people of color, and the few POC who are featured are posted multiple times, instead of Morphe finding more influences of darker complexion to post (Revelist). So how did they fuck it up? Morphe broke up the 60 shades into 5 categories, 12 shades in each category. A “category” was represented by a general skin tone including “light”, “medium”, “tan”, “rich,” and “deep”. In photos that weren’t from Morphe themselves, people could see the undertones looked weirdly too red in the deeper shades. Once the foundation was released, YouTuber Nicol Concilio swatched the darker shades and they stained her hand. Both Concilio and beauty guru Manny MUA said the formula was extremely drying and creased. Alissa Ashley tried Morphe’s concealer and foundation in darker tones, and the undertones just gave her an orange look. Overall, the formula sucks for everyone, and the darker shades suck (YouTube). The last controversy includes Jaclyn Hill, who had a collab with Morphe called the Vault Collection. The Vault was pushed back much later than Hill told her fans because the first batch was quarantined, and overall had so much more wrong with it than James Charles’ palette with Morphe came close to having. Hill was heartbroken over the bad reviews of the product, in the midst of receiving hate for shoving Morphe products down her fans’ throats. I really think Morphe should have done more to save the product than Hill, because they’re the damn makeup company, not her (Inquisitr).

Maybelline

In good news, I didn’t find much about Maybelline, but in bad news, most of what I found was the same racist bullshit about not being inclusive. Maybelline made the mistake of making a foundation line called Dream Velvet with only 12 shades, but then they got rid of HALF of those shades in the UK. And guess which shades they dropped? The darker ones! Maybelline went as low as to use a model from the UK to model a darker shade that they didn’t sell to the UK, online or in stores. The model, named Jourdan Dunn, could not purchase the foundation she is advertising if she tried. It makes no sense. Blogger Nadia Gray called out the bullshit, saying there was no excuse because people of color exist in the UK. Their parent company, L’Oreal posted online that Maybelline embraced diversity, with a photo of two spokesmodels who were women of color. A spokesperson for Mayebelline UK finally answered, and said they would release Dunn’s shade “caramel” in the UK, but it’s literally not even a dark shade, it’s on the lighter side of dark shades, meaning many women would still be ignored (Daily Mail UK). The only other Maybelline controversy I could find from five years ago is hilarious. NikkieTutorials partnered with Maybelline to do a number of promotional videos on Maybelline’s YouTube Channel, and well, they’re terrible. Nikkie is trying so hard to act like she’s in LOVE with the products, but she never uses the products that she swears are her favorite in these videos. The set design is horrible with bad lighting and a weird background, and everyone just turned it into a meme, calling for Maybelline to let Nikkie out of their basement, because their marketing just sucks that much (YouTube).

 

Revlon

Revlon doesn’t have much going on. Cheap products with mediocre quality, but they’re doing the best they can and staying out of trouble. But they ran into a small problem in 2018. Revlon was giving away a Changemaker award as a part of their LiveBoldy campaign, which sounds awesome. However, the winner, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, refused to accept the award. Al-Khatahtbeh is a beauty blogger and founder of MuslimGirl.com, and she rejected the award because Revlon’s grand ambassador is the actress that played Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot. Gal Gadot is Israeli, and used to be an Israel Defense Forces combat trainer. If you’re not aware, Israel and Lebanon have been in conflict since 1948, and Gadot’s involvement in the war isn’t playing well with her involvement in other things. Wonder Woman was banned in Lebanon, and when a Lebanese fashion designer dressed Gadot for an event, they both faced tons of criticism (FOX). Al-Khatahtbeh spoke about an innocent girl who was incarcerated, and said she couldn’t accept Revlon’s award if she didn’t feel like the women’s movement Revlon stood for included ALL women. She said plain and simple, “we can’t accept role models that support the oppression of women and girls in other parts of the world” (FOX). Revlon should be more involved in this conversation, and NPR puts it in a perfect way: “Beauty Brands Struggle With The Diverse Opinions That Come With Diverse Faces...companies are starting to face [problems] as they move to be represented by a more diverse cast. Is it real diversity if brands don't want the opinions that naturally come with faces from different races, faiths, genders and sexuality?” (NPR). NPR talks about Revlon’s double standard Al-Khatahtbeh called out, and that brands want inclusion to make profit but they ignore the issues that come with the diversity. So when Muslim girls are fired for speaking about the Israeli-Lebanon conflict, but Gadot continues to rack in millions, we have a problem (NPR).

 

E.l.f. Cosmetics

E.l.f. has been cited as pumping out new products way too fast for way too cheap (BusinessOfFashion). The ingredients of E.l.f.’s products are cheap, alternatives to nicer ingredients, toxic if in high amounts, and linked to skin irritation and respiratory problems (Truthinaging). Hence, why E.l.f. products are so cheap, because they’re cheap to make. Customers have reported having acne breakouts and allergic reactions to different products over the years, but the FDA hasn’t removed anything (SouthHighBusiness). What about the packaging? Also shit. In 2018, a video went viral on FaceBook that showed the inside of an E.l.f. primer, and it looked like there was a smaller inside where the product was kept, instead of the actual size of the bottle. After lots of hate, E.l.f. spoke up and said the empty space outside the inner tube filled with product was for functional purposes, because the product came out like an air pump. They ensured accusers that they never lied about the amount of product inside, but it’s still shady (TruthInAdvertising). Lastly, we have a really serious controversy. Between 2012 and 2017, E.l.f. shipped 156 shipment of what was thought to be eyelash kits to North Korea, but it was actually illegal materials. “Considering the company’s cruelty-free, vegan ethos, the potential backlash could reach far beyond government sanctions” (Vox). The US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a settlement for almost $1 million, although owner of E.l.f., Tarang Amin, said they didn’t even know about it until early 2017. Fortunately for E.l.f., these kits were made in China and sent to North Korea, so it’s harder for the US to get involved because the US can only restrict US companies that have a flow of product or money into North Korea (keep in mind that E.l.f. claims to be vegan when they make products in China, because China has a law that cosmetics must be tested on animals only if it is sold in the country) (Vox).

 

ColourPop

In 2016, ColourPop released a line of concealers called Sculpting Stix, that came in 12 shades. Of course no one was excited for the release after seeing the swatches, which features super light shades and some dark shades, and not much in between. People also didn’t appreciate that ColourPop showed swatches on a dark model’s arm when the collection wasn’t made with her complexion in mind. Personally, I think it’s stupid when brands name flesh colors things that aren’t flesh, like “caramel”, “honey”, or “cocoa” (may I bring up Crayola’s controversial “flesh” crayon that’s a pale color?). ColourPop did it anyway, and oh boy did they mess up. While lighter shades in this collection had names like “gummy bear” and “castle”, ColourPop was called out for naming darker shades “typo”, “yikes”, and “dume” (Essence). People were outraged, and made sure the company knew their skin tone wasn’t a TYPO. ColourPop apologized and the names were changed from “typo” to “platonic”, “yikes” to “bloom”, and “dume” to “Point Dume” (a state park in CA). Earlier in the same year, ColourPop had to change the name of a lipstick from “gypsy” to “calypso” after facing backlash (Cosmetics Business). Between then and 2017 they learned nothing, and posted a photo of three models’ arms with lipstick swatches. Their post was reuploaded by @cocoaswatches (see below), who pointed out how clearly photoshopped the darkest arm is. ColourPop, instead of hiring a person of color to model these shades, just photoshopped a white model to seem inclusive (AOL).

Lime Crime

Lime Crime has been KNOWN for being controversial for quite some time now, despite being popular, and here’s a few reasons why. Xenia Vorotova is the founded of this monstrosity, first as a fashion line on eBay in 2004. She was accused of stealing designs from two different designers before venturing into the makeup world. In 2008, Vorotova took up the stage name Doe Deere and led a music career (it’s worth noting she dressed up as Hitler in 2007 and still gets hate for it, as she should). Then she launched Lime Crime in October of 2008, but by 2009 the company was already being accused of reselling cheap mica pigments for way more than they were worth, AKA their Unicorn Lipsticks. There’s a lot between then and 2014, like bullying beauty bloggers who don’t like her products, creating a racist palette called China Doll with a white woman on the cover, and then making claims that appropriation doesn’t exist. But to stick to the theme of focusing on recent controversies, in 2014 Lime Crime made a huge step by being picked up by Sephora. But that lasted only weeks, because Sephora dropped them after so many customer complaints. But Urban Outfitters picked them up, and they still carry them somehow. They also sued to have a website called Doe Deere Lies taken down. Lime Crime has always claimed to be vegan, despite animal by-products that aren’t vegan, like beeswax, being in products. In 2014, people noticed these ingredients just disappearing from being listed online, hopefully because the products were remade, or because Deere figured out she was lying. Later in 2014, they were hacked and it customer information was stolen, so Lime Crime posted on Instagram to let them know. AFTER people told them just an Instagram post wasn’t enough, they sent out emails to all customers, but it was too late and many people were victims to identity theft. In 2015, the FDA sent an official warning to Lime Crime for using two ingredients that were not allowed to be in makeup, then Lime Crime told its customers it was mislabeling. Fans claimed that they had been asking about these ingredients, just to get blocked, banned, or ignored. In 2016, Lime Crime expanded, which meant Doe Deere was pushed back in her power in the company (Revelist). Then, in 2018, a miracle happened, and “beauty’s most controversial brand was just sold” (Racked). Racked agrees that Lime Crime kept its nose clean since 2016 by making Kim Walls the CEO and shoving Deere into the background. Lime Crime has built partnerships with Ulta and Riley Rose. Now, a private equity firm called Tengram purchased a majority stake, and will be replacing the CEO. Tengram’s goals are to tripe the company, oh, and Deere is gone! Bloggers who dedicated social media pages to calling out Deere’s bullshit gladly retired their pages, and we all hope Lime Crime knows how to treat their customers in the future (Racked).  

 

L'oreal

L’Oreal went through a controversy similar to Revlon, so read that above if you haven’t done so already. Just like Revlon struggling with diversity, L’Oreal was called out in 2017 by many news outlet for firing a transgender model, but for good reason. L’Oreal hired the transgender model, named Munroe Bergdorf, as part of a diversity campaign “of its #AllWorthIt campaign to introduce the five new shades of its True Match face makeup” (The Local). Bergdorf was fired after posting a comment online in reaction to the white nationalist in Charlottesville who ran over people with his car at the “Unite the Right” rally on August 12th, 2017. Bergdorf posted “Honestly I don't have energy to talk about the racial violence of white people any more. Yes ALL white people. Once white people begin to admit that their race is the most violent and oppressive force of nature on Earth...then we can talk” (The Local). L’Oreal responded, after firing her, that they celebrate diversity and breaking down barriers (The Local). Okay, decent reason to fire someone, but then it happened again in 2018. L’Oreal made Amena Khan, a Muslim woman who wears a hijab, one of their hair care ambassadors. A historic and bold choice, and people were all for it. None of Khan’s hair is shown in ads, but she’s a woman with hair, so the products still cater to her. However, tweets from Khan in 2014 resurfaced about the war between Israel and Hamas, in which she called Israelis insensitive things. Khan had to step down from her position, and L’Oreal agreed in their statement about tolerance (NPR). So L’Oreal generally makes good moves towards inclusivity, but when news coverage makes titles like “LOREAL FIRES A TRANSGENDER MODEL”, it hurts the company. Now let’s cover much worse controversies over the years. L’Oreal has been called out across years for heavily photoshopping ads, they were sued by the FDA for lying that their skincare products had medicine-like properties by changing your genes, the FDA also found lead in their lipstick, their “Great Lash” mascara and their children’s shampoo both have an ingredients linked to cancer, they’ve been linked to illegal labor, their animal testing claims have many loopholes that basically “that allows them to engage in animal testing, presumably whenever they feel like it” (The Talko). The products are definitely not natural because “Toxic chemicals are seen in a lot of their products”, and over the years there’s been “in total, over 11 types of cancer-causing agents found in their products” (The Talko).

 

Ulta Beauty

Here’s a makeup company that’s also a retailer, so hopefully there aren’t too many flaws. According to Fast Company, there isn’t. Since Mary Dillon became CEO in 2013, Ulta has become a staple in malls across the world. She reimagined the stores by adding the salon aspect, redesigned Ulta’s app, fixed the coupon policy to ensure Ulta is a bargain retailer, and opened hundreds of new locations (Fast Company). The biggest Ulta scandal happened in 2018 when a former employee, named only Fatinamxo on social media, came forward with accusations of the company reselling used makeup products. The outrage was so bad that the company had to investigate the claims. Fatina claimed that when a customer returned a product, managers told staff to use Q-tips to clean it off, repackage it, and put it back on the shelf without it being sanitary. Employees would get yelled at if used makeup was in the waste bin because managers considered it reseallable. Other employees at other stores reached out and have similar experiences. Ulta’s Twitter copied and pasted the same reply to tons of complaints, claiming health and safety is top priority and they are investigating (Ulta). Kimberly Laura Smith-Brown is the name of the brave woman who decided to bring Ulta to court after closely following all of Fatina’s claims online in order to bring justice to any customer of Ulta since the practice of reselling used products began, because they all had the risk of using unsanitary products (WWD). The last controversy upset the YouTube community in 2018 when Shane Dawson uploaded a video where he and his friends filmed inside an Ulta. The video, now with 15 million views, documented Dawson’s boyfriend’s sister getting her makeup done by two employees, one of which was a fan of Dawson’s. The video ended up advertising the Ulta in Texas in a way, because people would call the store and request these two employees specifically after seeing them in Dawson’s video. After a short while, one of the employees posted on her Instagram to share that Ulta had fired her because of the video, so Dawson messaged Ulta to ask them to reconsider. Dawson got tons of support from other influencers. Then the employee, named Carol, explained in more detail why she was fired. In the video, when asked if she could find Dawson’s friend a boyfriend, she told them they were in the “gay area”, which Ulta considered a homophobic comment. Makes sense, right? However, Carol identifies as bisexual, so her comment wasn’t homophobic, but Ulta would have no way of knowing that. Ulta also didn’t like that she shared on social media that the other employee in the video had gotten a different job, but Ulta shouldn’t be involved if the employees were friends outside of work. Then Ulta messed up more by LYING to big influencers online that Carol was no longer fired. After Ulta lied that Carol was rehired, then Carol received a call from a higherup that informed her that she could return and receive pay for the days she was supposed to work that week. Overall, Ulta handled the situation terribly, treated their employee badly, and lied to people (YouTube).

 

Sephora

I had to follow up Ulta with Sephora. Fast Company calls Sephora “one of the world’s most powerful beauty chains” (Fast Company). Sephora basically invented the setup of cosmetic stores where customers could test products in the aisles of the store itself. In 2018, Sephora announced the launch of Clean Beauty, a collection of products without chemical ingredients,which sounds great (Fast Company). So what problems has Sephora been up to? In 2014, Sephora was accused of blocking the member accounts of only people with Asian-sounding names. Four customers from three different US states sued the company after being blocked and deactivated from their website during a sale. These women, named Xiao Xiao, Jiali Chen, Man Xu, and Tiantian Zou, accused Sephora of blocking Asian-sounding accounts because of discriminatory beliefs that Asian customers would buy products in bulk and resell them. Sephora apologized quickly, and said they blocked and deleted accounts because there were a high number of bulk purchases from “automated accounts”. Sephora made no mention of the racist accusation, but instead claimed they knew of “certain entities” that sold their products. Although Sephora said they deleted these accounts “after careful consideration”, a number of people on different social media platforms noticed that only accounts with Asian-based emails (ending in qq.com or 126.com) were targeted, whilst Asian-sounding names linked to accounts could have emails from the US or Canada (Daily Mail UK). Fast forward to 2018, a skin care company, Sunday Riley, was exposed by an ex-employee. Sunday Riley is a bestseller at Sephora, and an ex-employee leaked emails that showed managers telling employees to open fake accounts to leave enlightening reviews on products on Sephora’s website. The email even detailed how to make sure the IP address couldn’t be traced, and how to make sure their account was believable by reviewing products by other brands and making their personalities sound different on different accounts. I’m talking about some disturbing lies, like saying how much acne had plagued your life to seem relatable, so people who are being bullied for acne would read these comments and think Sunday Riley’s expensive products could fix their life. So why talk about another brand’s problem? Because it’s on Sephora’s website. “‘Sephora puts the pressure on brands — they really ‘encourage’ reviews...When you have a new launch, the sales will increase with a ton of good reviews. I do want to reiterate how common this practice for brands is. Sunday Riley just got caught. I’m not defending it, but it’s a vicious cycle’” (Vox). So it seems that Sephora’s reviews aren’t just reliable (Vox). Recently, in February of 2019, Sephora launched a coupon code for $88 off an order of $100, which is an amazingly great deal. Too great for Sephora, so they waited until after people made their purchases to cancel all orders made with the coupon. Sephora claimed that they cancelled the orders because the coupon code was not a valid promotion, and was posted by non-Sephora channels, which is a lie because it worked when customers added it to their online carts. Sephora decided they didn’t want to lose the money I suppose, and lied to make up for their change of mind (Yahoo).