“Inclusion is not a matter of political correctness. It is the key to growth.” – Jesse Jackson
This powerful quote perfectly sums up the essence of our article today: the beauty industry’s ongoing struggle to be truly inclusive, especially when it comes to addressing the needs of people with disabilities. While many brands embrace diversity in terms of gender identity, skin colour and body types, the unique needs of disabled consumers are often overlooked. This oversight not only leaves a significant portion of the population underserved, but also represents a major missed business opportunity.
In support of inclusive beauty: Xian Horn and Terri Bryant
Xian Horn, a disability advocate with cerebral palsy and founder of Give Beauty Wings, points out that conventional beauty products are not designed with disabled people in mind. She points out that many people with disabilities require assistance when using make-up and personal care products, which can limit their choices and independence.
“Depending on your vision, mobility and dexterity, many of us in the disability community need help with things like makeup or our personal care routines. This is simply because the products have not been made with us in mind,” says Xian Horn.
Terri Bryant, a celebrity make-up artist diagnosed with Parkinson’s and founder of accessible make-up brand Guide Beauty, supports Horn’s view. After struggling with dexterity issues that affected her ability to apply makeup, Bryant was inspired to create a brand that applies universal design principles to serve users with all physical abilities.
“When product design fails us, we often blame ourselves. I want to help change that narrative. I fell in love with makeup artistry as an art form that celebrates what makes each individual face so special and unique; it only makes sense for products to be designed with that spirit in mind,” explains Terri Bryant.
Some key points that Horn and Bryant address are:
- The need for more adaptable make-up and tools in the beauty industry
- The importance of universal design principles in creating truly inclusive products
- The need to change perceptions and recognise the value of disabled consumers
- Challenging the status quo: Kohl’s Creative and Beyond
Kohl Kreatives, a makeup brand that designs brushes for people with disabilities, is another pioneer in this space. Trishna Daswaney, the brand’s founder, believes that developing products for people with disabilities is not just a niche or a marketing tactic, but should always have been. Kohl Kreatives also supports the community through free make-up workshops as part of its Kohl Kares charity initiative.
“This isn’t a niche or a tick box, it’s not just marketing. In reality, it’s just the way things should have always been,” says Kohl Kreatives founder Trishna Daswaney.
While some mainstream brands have begun to integrate disability representation into their marketing, more progress is needed across the industry, from product development to advertising. Disabled models like Jillian Mercado and Ellie Goldstein are helping to increase the visibility of people with disabilities, but disability inclusion must become the norm and not just a token gesture.
Merging thoughts: the path to true inclusion
Looking at the perspectives of these experts, it’s clear that while the beauty industry has made some progress on inclusion, there is still much to be done. Innovations such as packaging with Braille, recognisable shapes on products, raised QR codes linked to audio signals, and adaptive aids such as Olay‘s easy-open lid and L’Oréal’s technology-based products are promising steps in the right direction.
But to create a truly inclusive beauty industry, we must:
- Prioritise the development of adaptable products and packaging
- Incorporate universal design principles in product development
- Constantly challenge the status quo and push for the presentation of disabilities in marketing
A call to action
The beauty industry needs to prioritise the needs of disabled consumers and take significant steps towards inclusion. Instead of dismissing inclusion as a secondary concern or a disingenuous marketing strategy, it must become the leading force that determines the future of the industry.
I invite you, dear reader, to join this important discussion and participate in the development of a beauty industry that truly promotes accessibility and inclusion for all. As we continue to challenge established norms and advocate for change, we should keep in mind the inspiring words of Jesse Jackson: “Inclusion is the key to growth”