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There Is No Inclusivity in Beauty Without Accessibility

Published June 30, 2024
Published June 30, 2024

The Fashion Institute of Technology’s Master's in Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management (CFMM) program is a think tank of innovative leadership providing advanced education for emerging executives by fostering both creative and analytical business skills.

The class of 2024 delivered their capstone project before a packed house at the school’s Haft Theater, reflecting the partnership between industry and the classroom. Working in teams, graduating students developed an innovative, in-depth, interdisciplinary approach to inclusive beauty through the lens of accessibility.

The students unveiled results from "The Future of Accessible Beauty," a comprehensive research study from its 2024 capstone initiative focusing on consumers traditionally overlooked due to physical, emotional, social, or economic limitations. It integrates six months of original quantitative and qualitative global consumer research to explore strategies focusing on inclusivity across three realms: emotional impact, economic consequences, and social implications.

Part One: Emotional Impact

Inclusivity is a powerful movement reshaping the beauty industry, impacting everything from boardrooms to product labs to marketing campaigns. While there have been increasing efforts toward diversity, equity, and inclusion in areas such as skin tone, body type, gender, and age, a significant demographic remains overlooked—20% of the global population identifies as having a disability. This group advocates for a holistic approach, integrating accessibility into every facet of the beauty experience to truly meet the needs of all consumers. As a group that commands spending power of over $13 trillion, their inclusion is a moral imperative and a lucrative business opportunity for growth and shifting expectations.

Opportunity: Embracing Diversity and Inclusion

To fully embrace diversity and inclusion, the beauty industry must include people with disabilities—whether neurological, physical, or sensory—in product design, omnichannel sales, and marketing strategies. This will tap into an underserved consumer base and foster brand loyalty. Additionally, meeting the needs of people with disabilities requires a multifaceted approach across all brand functions to be authentic and effective. Developing inclusive workplace policies and educating associates across all functions will create a supportive environment for all people with disabilities, enriching organizational culture and spurring innovation.

Part Two: Economic Consequences of Deserts

Unlocking lasting and equitable economic access lies in addressing an often overlooked challenge: deserts—geographic areas where services or products are unavailable. Today, deserts are a pressing macroeconomic phenomenon affecting consumers across critical sectors. In the United States alone, 121 million consumers live in healthcare deserts and 54 million live in food deserts. What deserts exist within beauty? With an industry-first concept of beauty deserts, our mission is to identify the unmet needs of consumers in deserts, create widespread access to fundamental beauty products and services, and reignite our responsibility to serve consumers of all socioeconomic strata.

Opportunity: Expanding Access and Affordability

To address the macroeconomic challenge of deserts, the beauty industry must actively navigate the three factors that define its existence:

  • Excessive distance and time spent traveling for beauty products and services
  • High costs in acquiring these products
  • Sparse assortment and availability of products that meet key consumer needs

Brands must re-envision their traditional distribution, pricing, and investment strategies to create lasting change, reach overlooked consumers, and solve for this estimated $10 billion opportunity.

Part Three: Social Implications 

While the beauty industry has long championed women's empowerment, there's a vital yet overlooked area: hormonal health. Despite the wellness market's moves to integrate into beauty, a disparity remains in the support of the needs of women's comprehensive hormonal health needs throughout key stages of their lives. From puberty to menopause and beyond, women face a journey fraught with hormonal fluctuations leading to many wellness concerns with scant support. The aim should be bridging the gap between beauty and wellness by advocating for accessible education, products, and research tailored to women's comprehensive holistic well-being. 

Opportunity: Integrating Wellness and Beauty

Integrating wellness and beauty offers the industry a profound opportunity to develop educational initiatives and resources that raise awareness about the impact of hormonal health on beauty and well-being, empowering individuals to make informed choices and prioritize self-care. By considering hormonal health in product development, research, and education, the industry can cater to the unique needs of women across different life stages. Supporting women's holistic well-being through their hormonal changes enables the industry to seamlessly integrate into their lifelong journey, fostering authentic and lasting relationships. 

"The capstone research of the FIT Beauty Think Tank provokes discussion and provides a roadmap for future-proofing brands on critical issues of importance to brands and brand leaders, time and time again," said Corey Moran, head of industry–Luxury and Fashion at Google, CFMM adjunct faculty member, and program alumnus. "The research is informed by extensive field work in global markets, interviews with experts from across industry sectors, and original quantitative research with consumers."

The 2024 FIT CFMM graduates are: Shivani Banerji, Brandon Kaitto Bernard Mollie Rose Blank, Amber Cardona, Marissa Casazza, Sabina Gosto Dersh  Tori Orlandra Douglas, Kelsey Marie Galindo, Sanam Sushil Gidwani, Victoria Healey, Jessica Junquet, Erin Krug, Shiyin Lin, Maclean Cole Liotta, David Alejandro Lucas, Monique McKenzie, Shelby Newell, Amanda R. Nieves, Kylie Adele Phelan, Lena Maria Rubiano, Prabhjot Saini, Deja Michelle Stephens, Stephanie Taylor, Mary N. Torelli, Mia Wilkowski.


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