How to Vet Beauty Brands in 2022, According to Estée Laundry

POPSUGAR Photography | Matthew Kelly
POPSUGAR Photography | Matthew Kelly

If you look at the beauty landscape today, it certainly feels like there are more beauty brands than ever. From celebrity-owned lines becoming the new celebrity-perfumes-circa-the-early-2000s to a new skin-care, makeup, or hair-care product popping up on your For You Page every day, vetting the brands that you want to support can feel like a full-time job.

This is where Instagram accounts like Estée Laundry come in. A self-described "beauty collective" that launched in April 2018, the page has been hailed as a sort of quasi watchdog for the beauty community, making it a point to hold the industry accountable. From calling out cultural appropriation to spotlighting beauty executives displaying problematic behavior, one Instagram post to Estée Laundry's almost 200K followers has the power to spark conversation around any topic that might otherwise go unnoticed.

While the beauty industry has taken strides in the right direction since the page's inception, the truth is there is much work to be done. Beauty is one of the largest contributors to landfill waste, many companies are still pushing outdated and harmful beauty standards in marketing materials, and the mistreatment of employees is still going on behind closed doors. That's why Estée Laundry is sharing the most common markers of a beauty brand doing it right that you can look for when shopping — so you can feel good about the products you're adding to your cart.

Tip 1: Pay Attention to a Brand's Inclusivity Efforts

The collective has some metrics to help you narrow down the next brand you want to support. Chief among them? Inclusivity and sustainability. "Alongside creating innovative, well-made products, brands need to ensure they're being conscientious," Estée Laundry tells POPSUGAR. "In the past, 'exclusive' used to be considered synonymous with luxury, but times have changed and inclusivity is everything."

Gone are the days when Instagram feeds or ads only feature one skin color or body type. Now, beauty brands have a responsibility to own their parts in giving visibility to marginalized communities otherwise excluded from the conversation. "When thinking of diversity, for instance, it's no longer enough if you're using a few BIPOC models that conform to Euro-centric beauty ideals," Estée Laundry says. "Brands that meaningfully include people with different body types, genders, and disabilities are the ones moving the conversation forward."

Doing just enough to hit isn't enough, though, and consumers can easily spot a brand not truly committed to the work. "The brands that are hitting those metrics are the ones that are setting new standards," Estée Laundry says. "It's not enough if you're doing the bare minimum. It's about finding ways to go above and beyond."

Tip 2: Look For Authenticity

One of the easiest ways for a brand to better serve its customer base is to be more authentic. "Being open and honest is always a great strategy," Estée Laundry says. "If a brand is working on a metric, they can be upfront about it. Customers love transparency and are willing to support brands who take them on their journey."

Tip 3: Note When Brands Own Up to Their Mistakes

One of the most common mistakes that the collective sees brands making is not owning up to their slip-ups. "No brand is perfect and they're all bound to make mistakes, but the best way to handle a mistake is by acknowledging it and taking action — not just hoping that it will blow over," Estée Laundry says.

Take Ulta Beauty, for example, which sent out a marketing email with a poor word choice in its subject line. Instead of brushing the incident under the rug, the retailer addressed it head-on: "Ulta Beauty acknowledging and apologizing for an insensitive word choice to describe a Kate Spade product has been a great example of a company owning up to a potential oversight," Estée Laundry says.

Another way to see if a brand is owning up to its mistakes is if it listens to its customers, and not only when it comes to feedback on a product. "The way Estée Lauder fired executive John Demsey for his racist meme a few months ago was a good example of a brand taking immediate steps to stop things from escalating further," Estée Laundry says. "They listened to their consumer's concerns and were lauded for their swift decision making."

Tip 4: Note When Brands Take a Stand

When brands do make it a point to listen to their customer bases, Laundry often gets that positive feedback too. "There has been so much positive commentary on E.l.f. Cosmetics's decision to take a stance on reproductive rights," Estée Laundry says. "They stood firm despite getting trolled by anti-abortion groups and their customer based loved it."

While no brand will ever be perfect, using your money to support companies that align with your ideals is one way to amplify the causes that are important to you. So before you go on your next shopping trip, keep these tips in mind.