As Brown Beauties, we seem to have an endless choices of products now marketed directly to us, from our own enterprising communities and from others, including mainstream brands. Whilst this is fantastic and means that inclusion seems to be happening, let’s not always fall for the hype.
Behind the scenes at the Boutique, we do a lot of research into products, branding and marketing. We’ve witnessed a phenomenon we are going to christen “Brown-washing”. It takes various forms. For example, a brand will put images of Brown or Black beauties in their marketing or in their advertising, however but won’t create products in their range that are suitable for complexions or needs of said models.
This can often happen deliberately, or carelessly, e.g. a large US brand (that also has products for Brown beauties Stateside) wants to launch in the UK does all the press fanfare with all images but the UK distributors just neglect to pick up the whole range, giving the impression that the darker products don’t exist. Humph. Same old story for years.
We might see lots of haute couture fashion ranges with provocative campaigns using “United Colours of Benetton” tactics in print, but on the catwalk, behind the scenes, the diversity is pretty much back to normal.
Alternatively, it can be a brand that is just using the odd Brown Beauty in its imagery to feign diversity, but actually has nothing at all for us, and is not even targeting us as consumers. It is just “tick the box” advertising. Hair Brands that talk about “curls” are particularly guilty as they may indeed have products for curly hair, but as we all know, not all “curly” hair is the same. Rochelle Humes for John Frieda springs to mind. Earlier this year, Rochelle was chosen as a brand ambassador for this haircare brand that well, wasn’t exactly known for focusing on Afro or Mixed hair specifically. Now, in fairness to Rochelle, she can only really represent her own hair type. But that is the whole point. Perhaps they could have found another ambassador who could more closely match the wider range of hair types amongst Brown Beauties. Or not. They chose not.
Lastly, and this is our favourite, when a brand calls on an expert to discuss issues relating to Brown Beauty and Hair, who is not a Brown Beauty!! This is more common than you might think and can actually be quite funny. No disrespect to hair and beauty specialists, who often know what they are talking about however when trying to relate to a community of people who are not homogenous, it surely makes sense to select a proper representative, someone who has fits the target audience? And therein lies the rub. Often, we are NOT the target audience. Simple.
The flip side of all this is when successful brands that focus on the needs of Brown Beauties, try to extend their reach to other communities. We all know how that goes but it is absolutely amazing when the original consumers are airbrushed out of the marketing. Is that because we are already addicted and therefore warrant no more investment?
These factors may be behind the growth of Brown indie beauty products, who know how to reach their consumers, because they ARE the consumer. So they don’t patronise and dismiss, but support and focus on us. For us by us.
We are called the Brown Beauty Boutique because we cater for the needs of all Brown beauties - all shades, all ethnicities, all backgrounds and all mixtures. Our consumers and brands are diverse in the true sense of the word. So we cannot apply a one size fits all approach to our products and we don’t think brands should either.
So please do enjoy seeing more representation out there, but always check who is writing the content and be sure the work has been done by someone who can really understand your needs. Brown-washing is a thing but we’re too smart to be fooled.