The Student
Celebrity beauty: a money-making mission or philanthropy at its finest?
by Molly Workman, 7/10/20

Celebrities love a side hustle. À la mode this season are beauty ventures, with Selena Gomez being the latest in a lengthening lineage of star-turned-stylist attempting to make it big in the multi-billion dollar industry. Lady Gaga has Haus Laboratories, Rihanna has Fenty Skin – and lest we forget the savvy beauty ventures of the various Kardashian siblings.

One could be forgiven for making the assumption that sticking to the tried and tested skincare giants (Clinique, Neutrogena, Estée Lauder) is the key to an unblemished, glowing visage, but I wouldn’t recommend a hasty dismissal of all celebrity brands without a little research first.

The important factor to discern is the venture’s motive. Whilst it is difficult to find a brand that does not purport to be principally designed with consumer empowerment in mind, this perceived altruism is often merely ostensible. Celebrity beauty brands are proven to generate huge financial returns for those successful in infiltrating the already saturated market. Whilst the bulk of Kim Kardashian West’s $900 million net worth is reportedly due to her KKW Beauty business, sister Kylie’s makeup and skincare ranges have afforded her the position of youngest self-made billionaire in history. 

It’s not exclusively good news for KJ, however. Her infamous face scrub recently came under fire for using walnut shells in the formula as the exfoliating pièce de résistance. Aestheticians and dermatologists surged to the forefront of global beauty discourse to warn consumers that such abrasive material can cause micro-tears in their skin, a precursor to redness, irritation and breakouts. Appalled skincare specialist Hyram Yarbro plays a clip of Kylie for his YouTube following, in which she suggests her fans use the scrub daily; he splutters that even the oiliest of skins should be physically exfoliated (at most!) once a week.

Whilst I don’t necessarily agree with his conclusion that Kylie is irresponsible in promoting this product – Hyram’s fears for her ‘very young audience’ who don’t know ‘what [beauty products] are safe to use’ seem marginally overblown – it’s clear that this speckled scrub is more profit-motivated than it is dermatologically sound. So maybe don’t buy this one.

Fenty Skin, on the other hand, challenges this narrative. Not only are Rihanna’s products sustainably packaged and 100 per cent cruelty-free, but they are also genuinely good for consumers. Tiffany Dodson for SELF applauds the evenness of her skin after a fortnight’s Fenty use, whilst Vogue’s Jessica Diner implores the Caribbean Queen to, once again, ‘take a bow’. 

Rihanna’s beauty venture is fuelled by the desire to promote inclusivity and diversity in the industry. Her mission statement is clear: to create beauty products ‘for women of all shades, personalities, attitudes, cultures, and races’. On her website she clarifies: ‘that’s the real reason I made this line’. She recognised the difficulty that those from minority backgrounds experienced when trying to find their skin tones in paltry foundation collections, and promptly bandaged this flesh wound in the market.

Better yet, Fenty Skin has been instrumental in the emergence of more black and POC creators in the beauty industry, distributing volumes of promotional product to lesser-known influencers to afford them deserved recognition. She’s revolutionising the beauty industry from within. 

Thus, the verdict on Gomez’s range remains to be seen. She is an undeniably philanthropic figure who radiates positivity and self-love, but it is exactly the monetisation of these two things that can forge the route to damnation. Let’s hope she follows in Rihanna’s Fenty footsteps rather than slipping into Jenner’s mink slippers.  

Image Credit: pony96 via