Beauty industry aims to bridge gaps for disabled customers
Updated: Nov 13
Beauty should be accessible to everyone, yet many products currently available still lack inclusivity. In recent years, numerous brands have taken steps to ensure their products cater to diverse gender identities, skin tones, and body types. However, the beauty industry conversation has largely overlooked the needs of the disabled community, constituting one in four American adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Depending on your vision, mobility and agility, many of us in the disability community need help with things like makeup and personal care routines – mostly because the products have not been made with us in mind," said Casey Titus, a Sephora employee with cerebral palsy.
In 2020, Selena Gomez launched her first makeup brand, Rare Beauty, specifically designed to be user-friendly for individuals with upper body disabilities like arthritis. Gomez, who struggles with Lupus, faced challenges in applying and opening products herself, leading her to create a brand with rounded tops for ease on joints.
“Arthritis can make opening jars seem like an impossible dream, there are many assistive devices to help you get a grip, but the ball tops on the Rare beauty blush, for example, makes it so much easier to open,” Gomez mentioned on Rare Beauty’s website.
Inclusive designer Christina Mallon, living with dual-arm paralysis, emphasizes the importance of one-step application products, easy-open packaging, various product sizes for differing strength levels, and multi-use items like a blow-dryer-and-brush hybrid. Mallon shares her experience using such tools, enabling her to achieve a salon-like look despite her condition.
"As a person with no use of their arms, I'm able to hold the device between my knees and glide it through my hair for that 'just out of the salon look,’'' explained Mallon when describing one of her go-to accessible styling tools.
Sarah Kovac, the accessibility editor at Reviewed, who has arthrogryposis, requires products with smaller handles that fit between her toes, one-foot-friendly options, lightweight choices, products without the need for precision and long-lasting formulations to minimize touch-ups.
Some products, like Glossier's Body Hero exfoliating bar, are designed with disabilities in mind, featuring easy grip and one-step functionality. A Proctor and Gamble study revealed that only 4% of companies actively create accessible products, despite 13.7% of U.S. adults having a mobility disability with serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs, as per the CDC.
Sarah Desouza was diagnosed with amblyopia, also known as a lazy eye.
“It finally made sense why my eyeliner was never quite aligned. Suddenly, my lazy eye became my biggest insecurity and struggle when applying any eye makeup,” she said.
Sarah Desouza, although not categorized as disabled, shares her struggle with amblyopia, emphasizing the importance of inclusive products for everyone. The beauty industry should consider actual people with disabilities and talent to represent the community, Titus suggests, fostering a more inclusive standard of beauty.
Titus expresses gratitude for the progress some companies have made but desires true representation in the beauty industry. Featuring individuals with disabilities in campaigns can inspire inclusivity and help people see themselves by beauty standards, Titus concludes, noting the positive impact on children, and showing them that disabilities do not define their potential.
By Luiza Desouza