We Need To Talk | Inclusivity In Green Beauty Episode 1: In Conversation with Kimberly Felix
Clean beauty For All?
In Fall of 2018, I did a talk and subsequently a blog post on the general topic of Clean Beauty, as well as on my personal story and experience with the switch to Green Beauty brands and products. I remember how truly excited I was about the new “beauty journey” I embarked on a year earlier and how delighted I was to share my story with all of you! I enthusiastically titled the blog post “Clean Beauty For All”, to highlight that this somewhat scary “switch” can be done by anyone who felt inclined to do so, and as I published it - I couldn’t wait to hear your feedback and wondered if my story would inspire some of YOU to join the Clean Beauty Movement too!
Since that day, however, time and time again I wondered if my privilege and my excitement for the movement blinded me from the fact that no matter the strive…many of you will not find this switch as exciting or simple as I did. And that many of you, in fact, will find it frustrating, confusing and purely disheartening. And that ultimately, unfortunately, many of you will feel unwelcome in the community that I so fondly advocate for and that needs to change now.
Clean Beauty does not equal Inclusive Beauty and We Need To Talk about it.
Because of my subjective experience with the industry, I felt that I needed help to speak adequately on this subject and so I asked my dear internet-friend and fellow content creator - Kimberly Felix if she could answer a few questions on the topic and share her own experience with the Green Beauty Industry with me and all of you! So without further ado, I bring you Kimberly and her thoughts!
Please tell us a bit about yourself, how did you get into Clean Beauty and what inspired you to create Fe’Lix, Inside & Out Blog?
It is still so strange to hear myself referred to as a clean beauty influencer — because I so don’t consider myself a “beauty girl”. I used to blog as a mommy blogger, under the moniker “Cultivating Motherhood,” where I shared clean living tips and information as it related to cultivating a motherhood experience that was beautiful, stylish, and fun. Basically — you can be a mom without being a mom. That content centered around nutrition, clean living, non-toxic kid products, and the luxe products that made life easier (while still being stylish). From that my following grew as people wanted to know more about what I was using on myself. After answering those questions and sharing that content for a while I made the decision to re-brand so that I could talk about all of those things and more. Hence, Fe’Lix, Inside & Out was born- a blog about wellness, inside & out. Clean beauty was a logical first step because I realize so many of my followers were moms who, like me, used all the best non-toxic products on their kids, but were still putting junk on themselves. So, the transition to clean non-toxic skincare (and beauty) became my first pedestal.
When was the first time you got excited about the Green Beauty Movement and why?
I am so not a DIY girl, so the growth of the Green Beauty Movement has been so essential to my transition. I always purchased luxe skincare products, a habit I picked up from my mother, so to see eco/clean beauty meet those needs is exciting. Like me, so many women steer clear of the “green beauty” movement because we think we’re going to have to spend all of our time whipping up DIY masks and pit pastes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but some of us just aren’t built that way— so to be able to just pick up a full lineup of effective, luxe, products is fantastic. I spent the last year almost exclusively exploring the green beauty movement, so I’d say my excitement was obvious to all my followers. ;)
In your experience, is switching to Clean Beauty easy? If not, what are the biggest hurdles you encountered?
My personal experience is that is has been easy, for me. But not that it is easy. Like you, I experience a level of privilege that made it easier than for many. For one, my family is financially in a place that allowed me to literally throw away hundreds of dollars worth of products and to immediately replace them. I definitely replaced things in phases, starting with skincare (more important to me) and then working on makeup (which I don’t wear every day); but I have become poignantly aware that the price of a complete turnover is prohibitive for most people. Another hurdle is the diversity elephant in the room. As a light-skinned woman of color, I was able to go to most brands to find colors that worked for me when I began my search for green makeup, but I am very tapped into my community and immediately noticed the limited shade range. And even for some brands with a few shades that might work for women of color, the undertones might be off. So for many of women in my community, green beauty makeup just is not an option.
Affordability is certainly a big one with Green Beauty and is topic I’m 100% planning on covering in the “We Need To Talk” series! Focusing on inclusivity, in your opinion, are Clean Beauty Brands doing enough to make sure their lines are inclusive? If not, how does that make you feel?
In a word, no. I would say that most brands aren’t doing enough. And it makes me sad. But let me qualify.
There are several brands that have expanded their ranges over the years to include darker complexions and tones. But some of them don’t work with enough women of color to market those products and so women of color rarely know they exist. I mean, how does one google "clean brands with brown shades” if they brand new to the clean beauty space? It’s difficult. Also, it’s important to note that there is more to it than just offering a range of darker tones. The work must be done to address undertones as well and formulations as well. For example, I’ve found plenty of foundations that I like, but I’m still on the hunt for something that wears more like a BB/CC cream that I love.
Additionally, while I definitely commend brands that are working diligently to include a broader shade range, these things must also be accessible. I’ve spoken with retailers who say they don’t like carrying the darker shade ranges because women of color aren’t buying them and that it costs too much to keep the inventory on the shelves. Essentially shifting the blame onto women of color for not buying brands that we either have never heard of (poor marketing) or don’t trust (we never see ourselves featured in their feeds, or reviewing the products). So it’s an industry-wide issue that must be addressed on all levels, from production to marketing.
What do you think is the best way to bring awareness to this problem? What is the one thing that all clean beauty enthusiast can do to promote change?
This is the big question, right? And I’m so glad you asked. I don’t have all the answers, but I think a good place to start would be for the Clean Beauty Industry to ASK women of color what we’re looking for in a product. We face different skincare and makeup issues than their current market, so they have to do the market research.
I think the one thing a clean beauty enthusiast can do to promote change is to amplify the voices of those who they are seeking to support. This conversation is one example of doing that, and I appreciate you asking me to participate. When brands make a new launch and you happen to notice it’s not inclusive, point it out. Ask them if they have plans to expand their range and hell, tag me in it, I’ll add my voice to the conversation.
If you could sit down and talk directly to the CEO of popular Green Beauty brand that is not inclusive - what would you like to say?
Look to women of color. Hire women of color. Ask questions of women of color. And then make products that include women of color.
You can’t simply seek out a few women of color, which aren’t representative of the entire community (shade wise), as tokens for marketing purposes. I find that often brands will want access to my audience, but don’t think about the fact that even I don’t struggle to find shades as much as my mocha colored friends. Work with women of color (period). But also work with a broad range of women of color — representation matters and women of color are looking to support brands that see them.
Do you have favorite Clean Beauty brands that are in your opinion striving to be inclusive? Can you share them with us?
I was wondering if you’d ask me to name names. I am happy to! A few brands that I think are genuinely and authentically striving to be inclusive include (alphabetical):
Ere Perez Natural Cosmetics
Sappho *I have not used the brand yet, but I have been eyeballing them for a while because of their inclusive range.
These brands not only feature shades that are more inclusive, but include women of color in their social feeds.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us! Is there anything you would like to add?
Thank so much for having me. The only thing that I would add is that this is just the beginning. This conversation, along with others in the green beauty space, is the beginning, and that makes me happy. I think next, we need more women of color have to speak up and make it known that we’re here and that this space needs to grow to fit us, too. Brands are, slowly, beginning to hear this message — and the more we vote with our dollars, the more these brands will be forced to demonstrate more diversity in their products and marketing.
I agree with Kimberly, this is only the beginning of the conversation! I want to highlight that this is not an attempt to give you all the answers but rather to start a conversation that needs to happen in order for progress to occur. I thank you all for reading and please join in on the conversation!
Huge thanks to Kimberly for sharing her honest experience with me and all of you - make sure you follow her on her social channels:
IG: @kimberly__felix (double underscore)
Youtube: Kimberly Fe’Lix
Pinterest: Kimberly Felix
Twitter: @kimberly__felix (double underscore)