Is Call-Out Culture Changing the Beauty Industry for the Better?

call out culture

Gone are the days where beauty consumers and enthusiasts eat spoonfuls of new beauty trends and mindlessly shop for products that have mysteriously hit the shelves overnight. Social media has made us aware of how most glitter isn’t biodegradable, how excess packaging impacts our carbon footprint and, most importantly, how many brands are a lot less ethical than we thought. Whether we are talking about lack of inclusivity (Fenty Beauty’s foundation range has set the bar high), cultural appropriation in advertising or using drug culture for marketing purposes, the beauty community is becoming more and more vigilant with every launch. 

Trend Mood (@trendmood1) was the first account to post exclusive sneak-peaks of upcoming beauty launches, giving the public a chance to build their own opinion on upcoming products without looking at them through the filters of brand claims and advertorial content. Sophie Shab, the make-up enthusiast behind the account works relentlessly to keep on top of any industry moves, with multiple sources contributing information and images of forthcoming beauty launches. Cosmopolitan UK has even named the account ‘Instagram’s No1 Beauty Authority in New Makeup Launches’ and with over 1.5m followers and counting, Trend Mood continues to entice the community by revealing launches ahead of their date.

The Trend Mood movement has allowed the beauty community to build a collective voice and actively express their opinions (both positive and negative) in the beauty industry. But it wasn’t until the Instagram account Estee Laundry (@esteelaundry) took off in 2018 that brands experienced a new kind of pressure to be on their best behaviour. The anonymous collective is responsible for some of the industry’s biggest call-outs, such as Fenty Beauty’s highlighter called ‘Geisha Chic’, which ‘Laundrities’ have instantly dismissed, causing the brand to recall the product, or the infamous 2019 Instagram DM thread from Mecca employees who sent appalling stories about the Australian retailer’s toxic work culture. 

The Estee Laundry community is believed to be formed of at least 5 members as stated in a piece by Refinery29, all of whom work in the beauty industry in different parts of the world and were eager to show the world the dark side of a glamourised industry. Similarly to its fashion sister, Diet Prada (@diet_prada), an account which has spoken out on multiple occasions on fashion’s biggest copycat moments and cultural appropriation mess-ups (see Gucci’s ‘Blackface’ jumper, which was recalled from sale due to its association with racist references), Estee Laundry’s Instagram activity resulted in many public apologies and removals of products from the market. Most brands have already experienced the backlash of call-out culture and are now striving to pioneer everything from moving towards more sustainable packaging and ingredients to ensuring all campaigns and online content isn’t offensive towards any nationalities, races, genders or minorities.

Social media is a more powerful tool than a letter of complaint sent to a brand. Millennials and Gen Z natives are the generations with the strongest purchasing power according to recent studies, hence most beauty brands primarily targeting them when marketing their products. With both generations being known to value transparency, authenticity and ethical branding, there is no wonder why an account like Estee Laundry has gained so much popularity over the last few years; the Instagram account has given beauty consumers a powerful voice, channeling a new type of democracy that the beauty and fashion industry seemed to have ruthlessly disregarded in the past. 

Could call-out culture instigate a new type of public humiliation though? Whilst many like to stand up to injustice, a matter which the beauty and fashion industries are no strangers to, there are instances when call-out culture can destroy reputations, without giving the protagonists of the drama a chance to redeem themselves. Internet-breaker Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Skin range has received instant critiques addressing pretty much everything, from the range’s walnut scrub and unsustainable packaging to the Instagram story of Kylie using her own products to cleanse her face (she used a filter when filming it AND there was foundation left on the towel after her using her infamous products), all of which was captured and discussed on Estee Laundry. 

The anonymous collective also raised the issue of Nikita Dragun’s brand, Dragun Beauty, which seemed to celebrate inclusive beauty, with its campaign stating that it celebrates ‘Trans people and ALL people’ and using models of ‘all shapes, sizes and colours’. Estee Laundry posted Dragun’s 2012 racist tweets (‘Imagine being black? I could never.’), questioning whether her inclusive brand was ‘all for show’. 

Many see call-out culture as being the equivalent of cyberbullying, especially when aimed at one particular individual rather than a brand or industry entity. Influencer and brand owner Kat Von D, who has been attacked by the media for multiple reasons, from accusations of being a neo-Nazi to people critiquing her for choosing not her vaccinate her baby, has seen her brand collapse and has lost multiple followers. ‘I have a son now and seeing all these awful comments and what people are saying, I can’t just sit around and pretend it’s going to go away’ she tells E! News. Under Estee Laundry’s post about Kat attempting to defend herself, many ‘Laundrities’ have expressed their opinion; ‘I personally will not be supporting her brand anymore. The name of that lipstick (‘Selektion’) is reason enough for me’ says one follower. Whereas a lot of people have defended her name, Kat von D is unquestionably an example of a ruined reputation, and people still wonder whether she has been treated fairly by the media. ‘I just want to move on and I want to move forward’, she says, but any of her future moves regarding both her public and family life are bound to be dissected by the beauty community. 

With call-out culture’s power to get products recalled, destroy reputations and even threaten careers, there is no wonder why influencers, brands and beauty authorities now strive for political correctness, inclusivity, and authenticity. The beauty of the digital era lies within the power it gives to all communities to speak up and stand for what they believe, with the beauty industry being no exception; after many years of following unrealistic standards and not being mindful of the damage such a powerful industry can do, people are finally speaking up and voicing their opinion, one ‘unfollow’ button at a time.

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