Breaking Down Beauty Barriers: Con inspires the industry to…


People of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds entered the dimly lit halls of The Reef, a creative space built into a historical structure in the heart of Los Angeles. They wore decadent eyeshadow with bold eyeliner, shimmery powders with glistening gloss and extravagant outfits to match. These beauty barons are masters of blending makeup, yet they do anything but blend into a crowd.

Beautycon 2023 broke the boundaries of hair and makeup and shined a light on important conversations about homelessness, eco-friendly materials and being confident without using filters.

It’s pretty difficult to recognize a beauty influencer in a room where everyone looks like a professional artist. Luckily, the line of people following them through the crowd gives it away. But Beautycon is a chance for them to coexist with their fans and share a face-to-face conversation, unbound by the confines of a screen. It’s also a chance for them to engage with each other in meaningful conversations about the beauty industry.

In a Sept. 16 panel, Shirley Raines, Zara Rahim, Tess Holliday and Sophia Dennis touched on the topics of homelessness and plastic waste in the beauty industry. Raines runs a nonprofit called Beauty 2 the Streetz, providing food, clothing, hair and makeup on Skid Row. She talked about how using makeup is a privilege that many people take for granted. 

For individuals in homeless communities, having their makeup or hair done can have a huge impact on their confidence. Influencers in the beauty community receive hundreds of PR packages that go unused and could be donated to these individuals. Raines also urged members of the audience to donate unused products that might be just sitting in drawers in their homes. Oftentimes, these products end up in the landfill, which also poses a threat to the environment.

Dennis explained the environmental damage caused by makeup and hair packaging specifically. Many brands still use predominantly plastic packaging, including squeeze tubes, bottles and tubs. They’re then wrapped in more plastic to keep them sealed in stores. Dennis talked about how some beauty brands are working on more eco-friendly packaging, including using recycled materials, but there’s really not enough of a push. 

“It’s not just in the hands of brands, but also of legislators,” she said. She asked members of the audience to vote for stricter environmental regulations so more brands will be forced to make the change.

In an earlier panel, Rocio Roses, Monica Ravichandran, Alabama Barker and Laylo Qasim talked about how filters can influence the way we perceive ourselves. In an effort to make themselves look better, people are actually altering their brain chemistry to be more unhappy with the way they naturally look. 

“I actually feel more confident not using filters,” said Ravichandran, who self-identifies as “your filter-free brown girl makeup bestie,” on Instagram. She also explained the difference between using the words “makeup” and “beauty.” “Makeup is just something you put on your face,” she said.

Because beauty is so much more than just makeup, many brands this year focused more on promoting their skin and hair care products. Among the freebies guests could grab were lotions, body oils, curly-hair cream and face serums. Meanwhile, representatives from Walmart, Palmer’s and other brands educated shoppers on how to use these products to enhance natural features, not hide them.

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