The beauty blogger community online is, in summary, a positive atmosphere for women to teach women how to sculpt, contour, and highlight. However, the community is not without fault, and it certainly has a race issue.
The beauty industry is already riddled with microaggressive, exclusive behavior – between showing lipstick swatches only on pale skin and offering a limited selection of foundation for darker skin – but beauty blogging has the potential to break away from the culture. And some beauty bloggers do. For example, beauty blogger Drew Disaster created a video calling out Lime Crime’s fascist founder and toxic ingredients. But more often than not, beauty bloggers (especially those who aren’t women of color) perpetrate stereotypes and endorse cultural appropriation. For example, bindis and turbans have become popular among women in the fashion industry. However both have ties to Indian religious culture and are only to be worn for certain occasions or to uphold religious tenets. Dreads are also popular, despite the fact that dreads are culturally and politically important to the black community.
There are also less obvious issues, such as women using foundation much darker than their natural complexion in order to achieve skin tones that are vilified when natural, but celebrated when manufactured. Those women are capitalizing off of the beauty of women of color, but they aren’t experiencing the same racism and stigma. In some cases, the difference between natural skin tone and foundation is so stark that it comes across as brownface – a variant of blackface that is primarily targeted against South Asian, Latinx, and Middle Eastern individuals. Henna is also a form of appropriation, although it’s become so common at events and tourist attractions that it seems harmless. Henna “tattoos” are used in South Asian cultures to decorate the body for weddings, funerals, anniversaries, and other special occasions. The complex and beautiful designs have been offensively watered down to kitschy images that are better suited for face paint at fairs. Furthermore, the popularity of henna has led to incarnations such as black henna – which is darker than traditional red henna, but incredibly toxic to skin.
It’s important to be mindful when exploring beauty practices. Women of color, especially black women, are expected to conform to white beauty standards – such as straight, relaxed hair – and so when white women begin to encroach on culturally important and historically misunderstood beauty practices, it’s not only offensive, it contributes to a system of violence and oppression. There are ways to combat racism in beauty blogging, however, such as supporting beauty bloggers of color, shopping from companies that provide swatches and shades for all skin tones, and listening when women of color speak up.