Unfiltered: Introducing the Beauty Industry’s New Hero Ingredient

Whether it’s being celebrated online or in our make-up bags, there's a new hero ingredient that’s unifying the beauty industry: community.

This article first appears in Volume 33: Collective.

From London to Ghana, Los Angeles to Seoul, attitudes towards beauty are shifting. As beauty lovers connect across the world, inclusivity is becoming the industry's new foundation. Doors once closed to minority groups and those who don't conform to conventional aesthetic standards are being flung open.

Social media is saturated with content creators. But away from the ring lights, INFLUENCER10 discount codes and paid-partnership disclaimers, skincare enthusiasts are going guerilla and building their own online communities. These people are as hungry for unbiased advice away from the #sponsoredpost as they are for the inside scoop on Korean skincare.

In days gone by, your seven-point skincare routine might have been discovered by way of an Avon lady knocking on the door. But today many of us are logging into Facebook groups to share our latest, greatest and wasted beauty buys. Unlike Instagram's rose-tinted highlights, these groups are run by real people and resemble the real world. There are no filters, no trolls and definitely no paid-for bullshit. Forget Facebook marketplace and a feed littered with the relationship updates of an old school flame; in these niche networks you'll find hundreds of highly engaged, extremely knowledgeable beauty obsessives.

These self-care sanctuaries are the online version of drunk girls hanging out in the bathroom – except they aren’t female only but inclusive places for all.

Mira Aguirre, the admin of Skincare and Beauty 101, watched the community graduate from flawless, curated content to honest recommendations suggested by peers. "I think the desire for authenticity has really helped Facebook groups grow," she says. "People trust community forums more and are turning to them for guidance, as opposed to the traditional influencer."

Indeed, far from being a platform that's dying out, Facebook's beauty groups are overflowing with make-up and skincare enthusiasts building bonds over everything from brands to breakouts and blemishes. In comparison to the often narcissistic tone and individualism you find on Instagram and unlike Reddit's r/beauty channel or MakeupAlley, where long-standing members dominate and dictate the flow of boards, a Facebook group's focus is on forging connections. Replies tend to be near instant, non-judgemental and there's a noticeable willingness to share.

Among the comments, suggestions and peer-to-peer recommendations, members are forming friendships. Lucy Johnson, admin of Korean Beauty Fanatics - a group with more than 15,000 members - can testify to making connections that have moved from Facebook to FaceTime to, well, facetime. "It can be hard to make friends as an adult, but Facebook forums are amazing for meeting new people." Likewise, Mira turned to her skincare group for uplift when IRL connection was lacking. "I sought refuge from the worries, financial insecurity and restrictions I was facing in real life." People may be drawn to these groups for the latest sheet mask or eye-shadow palette release, but they stay for the community.

Scroll through posts and you'll find as many requests for life advice as there are for planet-friendly sun cream. My boyfriend cheated on me. Dump him. My housemates keep stealing my skincare. Set a booby trap. I feel lonely in lockdown. Want to chat? Members have cheered one another on through surgeries, gender transitioning and trauma. These self-care sanctuaries are the online version of drunk girls hanging out in the bathroom - except they aren't female only but inclusive places for all.

As people unite over holy-grail products and a passion for palettes, the sense of place in the beauty community is strengthening too.

Big beauty brands are catching on too. Versed's The Good Skin Crowd has 27,000 members; 14,600 people are in the Beauty Pie Community; Glossier's Into the Gloss: The Group has 21,000. "They're like focus groups on steroids," says Rob Weston, Chief Marketing Officer at Beauty Pie. Beauty labels are harnessing the power of these pages, using them to test and learn. "There have been instances where we've changed a product based on conversations with people in the group," Rob affirms. Brands have minimal input, rarely interject and let chats unfold organically. Far from simply shelling out freebies or performing an exaggerated PR stunt, brands are founding these groups in order to carve a deeper connection with their audience.

It's not just big names tapping into these virtually established communities; they're a powerful source for independents too. "The support for smaller skincare brands has been overwhelming," agrees Mira. The UK-based, women-owned, sustainable skincare label Maysama launched last year - it was the (first) peak of the pandemic, and sales and support from Mira's Facebook community group helped massively. It was similar for Deepica Mutyala, a long-time beauty-inclusivity activist and founder of Live Tinted, a community for minority groups often underrepresented in mainstream beauty. Feedback from her online "family" played a vital part in creating her first product, Huestick, and soon after launch, the #TintFam clicked "add to basket" in droves.

The next generation of beauty isn't just being cultivated online, however. As people from around the world unite over holy-grail products and a passion for palettes, the sense of place in the beauty community is strengthening too. Joining the likes of K-beauty, Scandi beauty and G-beauty (that's German beauty, for the uninitiated) in the mainstream spotlight is African beauty. Of course, it's been around for centuries, but only now is it getting the attention it deserves thanks to an expanding definition of what "beauty" means and the long-awaited celebration of Black culture on the global stage.

Black beauty entrepreneurs such as Charis Udeh are helping African beauty to get noticed. Based in the UK, she has strong ties to her upbringing in Nigeria - and it shows. Charis' skincare range KYALLI uses recipes passed down by her grandmother and great-aunt, as well as indigenous ingredients including marula oil and yakuwa-plant extract. Likewise, Malée, whose luxury skincare and fragrances were born in South Africa, wants to develop wider connections with the world through sharing cultural knowledge. Malée's sell-out staples are modelled around the ancient wisdom that was passed down to founder Zeze Oriaikhi-Sao by her extended family. The same blend of botanicals used in her bestselling Natural Conditioning Verdure Body Cream - white beeswax, almond oil, shea - have been used as skincare staples in African beauty regimes for generations. It's thanks to brands like this that game-changing ingredients are finally infiltrating the global market.

Whether it's being celebrated online or in our make-up bags, community is the new hero ingredient that's unifying the beauty industry. Through the democratisation of knowledge and the strengthening of global connections, it's a space that is becoming more inclusive - and all the better for it. In these new beauty communities, everyone gets a seat at the make-up counter. And really, that's where the true beauty lies.

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