Business ideas for 2018: Inclusive beauty

Fenty and Huda are among big-name brands championing inclusivity. 2018 marks the time for aspiring beauty entrepreneurs to embrace diversity

As the saying goes ‘beauty comes in all colours, shapes and sizes’ and yet the beauty industry hasn’t always readily accepted this as fact.

Until now.

Over the last two years, there has been a significant step-change in the beauty industry, with both established brands and new players embracing inclusive beauty and celebrating diversity across variables such as race, gender, and age.

In America, singer-turned-entrepreneur Rihanna recently declared “beauty for all” with her widely-acclaimed Fenty make-up range, featuring 40 foundations for “women of all shades, attitudes and colours” to enable “all women to feel included”.

In the UK, beauty start-up Look Fabulous Forever (LFF) has been shaking up traditional messaging for women aged 55 and over – and winning industry accolades – with a pro-age “not anti-age” beauty range that “celebrates mature beauty and embraces the benefits of ageing.”

Inclusive beauty is here to stay in 2018 and you can follow in Fenty and LFF’s footsteps.

Yell Business highlights that Google searches for the term ‘inclusive beauty’ rose by 23% from 2015 to 2016 and then again by 54% from 2016 to 2017 – so you can expect it to be a popular keyword in 2018.


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Similarly, Connie Jackson, managing director of JAX Global Consulting which works with a number of beauty brands, has said the shift to inclusive beauty means “there is so much to celebrate”.

Speaking at the ‘Inclusive Beauty: Embracing Diversity in the Beauty Industry’ panel in London last July, Jackson explained that brands new, and old, should invest in inclusivity as “no longer will a very elite group of people determine who is beautiful and who is not”.

Starting an inclusive beauty business: Why it’s a good business idea

The beauty industry has begun to strive for diversity so 2018 is the perfect time to launch a start-up that pioneers inclusive beauty and that will help make inclusivity an industry standard.

Alongside Fenty and LFF, you can take business inspiration from brands that have started to pave the way.

YouTube megastar Huda Kattan of Huda Beauty (pictured centre) recently launched an ‘all-inclusive’ foundation make-up range which has gone viral on social media, while American cosmetics brand CoverGirl broke down barriers for gender diversity in 2017 by making its CoverGirl a cover boy; signing influencer James Charles as an ambassador.

In the fashion space, retailers ASOS and Missguided have said goodbye to heavily photoshopped images and unattainable body shapes by embracing unretouched images of models with cellulite and using “real women” to front their campaigns.

Elsewhere, L’Oréal Paris UK made headlines in 2016 with its #YoursTruly campaign where it was applauded for featuring a male blogger to promote its 23-shade range. Speaking at the time, the brand’s general manager, Adrien Koskas, said it showed “we are listening to everybody, different characters with very different stories”.

In 2017, L’Oréal Paris UK made headlines again when it employed British model Munroe Bergdorf as its first transsexual beauty ambassador. However, its message of inclusive beauty was soon lost when Bergdorf was dropped following a controversial race row incident which many criticised the brand for and protested against.

Dove – arguably one of the first pioneers for embracing beauty diversity – has recently joined L’Oréal as a brand that has got the messaging around inclusive beauty wrong; representing an opportunity for budding beauty entrepreneurs to step in to get it right.

In October 2017, a Dove beauty campaign went viral for the wrong reason when it was labelled ‘tone deaf’ for displaying black model, Lola Ogunyemi, taking off her t-shirt to reveal a white woman underneath. Dove apologised and explained the intent was “to use our differences to highlight the fact that all skin deserves gentleness”. While Ogunyemi agreed with Dove, critics were appauled.

Additional incidents with UK publications such as The Evening Standard cropping black singer Solange’s braided crown from their magazine cover – to which she aptly responded “Don’t touch my hair” – shows that there’s still a long way to go until the beauty industry becomes fully inclusive.

This leaves opportunities for start-up founders who can sensitively approach the matter of inclusive beauty to shine…

Inclusive beauty business opportunities

For budding beauty entrepreneurs looking to target inclusive beauty in 2018, the most obvious start-up opportunities lie in creating inclusive beauty cosmetics ranges.

This encompasses everything from foundations and lipsticks to suit all skin colours, to creating beauty brands to target age diversity i.e. make-up with age-specific properties or a vlog business creating beauty tutorials focused at women aged 50+.

This also extends to making cosmetics more inclusive for all genders, such as the transgender community.

Startups’ research shows that there is growing demand for advice for trans women on ‘facial feminisation’, opening doors for a transgender cosmetics brand or vlog channel. For instance, social media entrepreneur and trans woman Stef Sanjita has racked up over 200,000 views with her YouTube video on ‘feminising make-up for trans women’.

Business opportunities for beauty start-ups also lie in the pro-age market.

Mintel’s Beauty Spot report, published in November 2017, indicated that “50 is the new 30” and suggested that businesses launch tutorials, sub-brands and information” to “help women aged between 40-50 navigate their changing makeup needs so they continue to experiment with colour cosmetics.”

The report advised UK entrepreneurs to look to Japan for business inspiration as it has been leading the way in age inclusive beauty with brands such as Chicca Glam; a cosmetic line targeted at ‘stylish and adorable’ women over 50.

Outside of cosmetics, business opportunities for inclusive beauty include launching a consultancy company to advise brands on how to celebrate diversity.

Those with a background in advertising could also find start-up success by launching a marketing agency focused on inclusive beauty campaigns.

Before you start your inclusive beauty business, make sure you have business insurance. Click here for our step-by-step guide to beauty therapist insurance.

Insider opinion

Mark Clisby, product and marketing director of Yell Business, has commented on the emergence of inclusive beauty as a hot business opportunity for 2018:

“It’s surprising as 2018 gets started that there’s still a long way to go until we’re living in a truly inclusive world, which really embraces diversity. Thankfully, more and more industries are taking strides towards being more inclusive with their offering; the beauty industry, in particular.

“There is a very clear rise in demand that won’t just be met by the ‘big names’, as consumers are always interested in a broad amount of choice when choosing a product or brand. Especially when smaller, more niche businesses can often operate on more ethical principles than the big corporates, a benefit that ties into a prominent concern for many consumers of beauty products.

“There is a real opportunity here for a start-up to cater to this demand, which will continue to grow, until ‘inclusive beauty’ becomes the norm in the industry.”