Unlike old times, people and especially the youth, are now aware of the difference between the conventional beauty standards and the reality of the human body.
Unilever recently announced to exclude the word “normal” from the company’s beauty products. Although this might seem a minor change, it is significant for making Unilever’s products sound and feels more reliable and customer friendly. The word’s exclusion is simple: what is be “normal” the company’s perception might not be the same case for their customers. For instance, if the company decides to call straight hair “normal,” what are the criteria for other hair types?
Roshida Khanom from market research firm Mintel said: “‘Normal’ is such a loaded term because it indicates that there is an ‘abnormal’ and it doesn’t describe anything, so it’s about time that the term is dropped.”
The scarcity of diverse vocabulary is not a new story. It’s about time a company took a step further to make things more inclusive at the consumer level. For instance, Dove, Unilever’s daughter company, has decided to eliminate words like size, proportion, skin color, and body shape.
Unilever has a history of being accused of stereotyping dark skin tone and promoting a very notorious fairness cream brand across Asia, “Glow and Lovely,” which was “Fair and Lovely” before. Though it might look or even hold a bit reality that the new trend of the beauty industry could increase capitalizing customer awareness about beauty standards, it is still in benefit of the consumer, in one way or the other.
What should be excluded for the sake of inclusivity and awareness?
Some of the words frequently in use and that should be excised from the beauty industry are discussed below.
Chemical–free: There is no such thing as a product being “chemically-free.” All beauty products and cosmetics, even the products you consider “natural” or organic,” use chemicals in one or the other in the production. The food you eat is made up of chemical compounds. Your body is made up of chemical compounds. Water itself is a chemical and is named as “dihydrogen monoxide.” To say that a beauty product is “chemical-free” is completely misleading and implies chemicals are dangerous if used in the production of beauty products.
Anti-aging: Do you want a beauty brand to make you feel bad about you getting old, which is entirely normal?
Aging itself is a natural body process and should not be considered as something wrong. Aging is inevitable. Instead of keeping the customers in unrealistic body goals and delusions about beauty, companies should find better alternatives.
Urban: The word “urban” in the beauty industry is often used for the products that are POC (people of color) specific/ African-American communities. The beauty brands keep this factor as something specific and don’t mix the products with the “non-urban” beauty products. Beauty is not an ethnicity. Elimination of the word is significant for equally treating the customers across the globe.
Natural: There is no government ban overusing the word “natural” for beauty products, but it should be. It is just a word that is used with the intention that customers will build their trust in the brand. Many beauty brands often guarantee to be “organic” when the products are full of chemicals in reality. This term is misleading and should be excluded from the beauty industry vocabulary.
Repair: The claim of repairing by beauty brands is one of the tricky things in the beauty industry. These brands don’t tell their consumers that these products can never heal or repair permanent damage or the cosmetic concerns that only professionals can handle. For instance, split ends cannot be repaired but cut. The re-growth of the hair is the only way to gain healthy hair again.
Lightening/Whitening: After much awareness, the term is seldom used in countries like the US and UK but still prevalent in Asian countries. The preference for fair skin is bizarre and has elevated to a level of obsession. And when beauty brands promote “fair skin,” the biases against darker skin tones work in.
Flawless: There is no such thing as “imperfections” in any of us. Some beauty brands still need to realize that they should be excluding the word “flawless” from their vocabulary. Every facial feature is appreciable. It should be a person’s personal choice of going under cosmetic surgery or not. Otherwise, there are no flaws and to propagate this idea among consumers is plain cruel.
Using diverse and respectable descriptors would be helpful for the marketing industry to show empathy with the customer. Being more specific is the key: use plant-based instead of “organic/natural.” Mention a particular hair type instead of labeling it as “normal.” Excluded for the sake of inclusivity and awareness, we hope for a beauty era that will be free from all biases and is both equal and diverse for all consumers around the world.
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