Indie Pioneers Podcast

‘It’s a numbers game’: Is the inclusivity movement in beauty all just for show?

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By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Indie Pioneers Podcast: CEO of Orcé Cosmetics questions if the inclusivity movement in beauty all just for show?

Related tags indie pioneers podcast make-up inclusivity Asia

The CEO of an Asian-led make-up brand is questioning the ‘performative inclusivity’ she sees in the beauty industry, claiming it can hurt smaller, less well-funded brands that are trying to solve the frustrations of specific target consumers.

Orcé Cosmetics CEO Shih Yu-Chen was inspired by her experiences as an Asian woman who was unable to find a foundation that matched her Malay-Chinese complexion.

“The message I got at the time was that I should probably whiten my skin so I can find products that would actually work for me. And on the flip side of that I should whiten my skin so I can be considered as beautiful. The signal I got was that there's this parameter – which skin tones are beautiful – and if you're outside of it, then you're not.”

Speaking to CosmeticsDesign-Asia ​for our latest Indie Pioneers Podcast, Shih said she set out to solve a problem she saw within the Asian community, which was often misunderstood by beauty companies.

“There's really a blank space when it comes to shades, especially for Asian skin tones because there's a common misconception that we are fair enough to just use shades created for Caucasians. A lot of us are fair, but our undertones may not necessarily be the same and that's something that a lot of brands forget.”

While it is now typical for beauty brands to champion inclusivity today with a wide range of shades, Shih worries that this is all “performative”.

“The problem with that is the industry rewards those very big brands with a lot of financial backing, who are able to launch out of the gate with 40,50 shades. And it kind of penalises the smaller brands who maybe don't have the budget to launch out of the gate with so many shades.

“But you know, at the end of the day, are you actually creating shades that are working for the people you are trying to target? I see a lot of brands now launching dozens and dozens of shades and I read the reviews from consumers complaining that none of them really, actually work.”

Shih described her vision of a truly inclusive beauty market as one with a multitude of brands that serve their own niche group of consumers.

“What I wish to see in this industry is an abundance of niche brands, each catering to a demographic group that they have a specialised interest in, that they have done the homework on, that they understand. Because, you know, the truth is, you cannot serve everybody.

“Imagine a world where you walk into a Sephora, for example, or any beauty store. And you just know that no matter what your background is, you are going to find a brand that is created for you. That is the world that I would love to strive for.”

To find out more about Yu-Chen and Orcé Cosmetics, check out our podcast above or on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, and more.

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