Every Time A Beauty Company Seriously Flubbed Sensitivity

You’d think that beauty company blunders would be few and far between. But racist, fatphobic, and insensitive marketing campaigns seem to increase by the day.

Major beauty companies mess up much too often. There was the time when Kim Kardashian was accused of using blackface to sell contour kits and the time when Tarte Cosmetics tweeted a racist slur. And don’t forget the time when Dove used a black model to represent dirtiness and a white model to represent cleanliness. As varied as the beauty brand mistakes are, they all have one thing in common: unrelenting brand backlash followed.


    In 2015, Benefit Cosmetics's UK team jumped on the wrong hashtag bandwagon when #MakeAMovieAFatty was trending on Twitter. The brand joined in the Twitter-wide trolling of plus-size people, coming up with movie names like "Massive Mike" and "Friends With BeneFAT." Customers were quick to call out the makeup brand for fat-shaming, but Benefit UK was slow to apologize.

    At first, the team claimed they were merely having fun and they shared

    "Lovely Benebabes. We always get involved in hashtags that are trending. We are not poking fun at anybody."

    But when the scandal continued to escalate, an official apology was issued. 

  • An Italian Nail Polish Brand Used A Racial Slur And Defended The Decision


    People all over the world were outraged when Italian nail polish brand Wycon Cosmetics named a new black nail polish Thick As A N****. 

    The backlash started when Italian beauty blogger Loretta Grace pointed out the insensitive and offensive shade name to her followers. The situation then escalated into an international scandal. Wycon actually defended the racist name, saying

    "We’re sorry that this post has triggered these types of reactions: Every color from our Gel On collection is inspired with a cheerful attitude and a pinch of naivety by famous song titles, many of which derive from the landscape of hip hop. For example 'Drop It Like It’s Hot' by Snoop Dogg, 'Bootylicious' by Beyoncé, 'Candy Shop' by 50 Cent, 'Lollipop', 'Lady Marmalade' etc… The reference here is 'Thick N*****' by DBangz. Wycon is the brand for everybody #nobodyexcluded is our motto and we didn't mean to offend anybody!"

    Shockingly, no official apology was made.

  • Tarte Tweeted An Asian Slur


    In 2017, Tarte Cosmetics inexplicably tweeted a meme called "My Brain During the Day VS My Brain at Night." For some reason, a derogatory Asian slur was thrown into the mix. The brand's followers immediately called for the meme to be taken down, pointing out the racist implications of the phrase. Eventually, Tarte CEO Maureen Kelly responded. She said:

    "I'm sorry and embarrassed. Yesterday, we made a mistake by sharing an insensitive meme with a racist term. There is NO EXCUSE for using any type of racial slur regardless of the context. We understand that this ignorance has caused us to lose loyal fans and we completely understand. I take full responsibility, and we thank you all for helping us to educate our team [and] each other."

    For some fans, the apology was too little too late.

  • Dove Used A Black Model To Represent Dirtiness, While A White Model Represented Cleanliness


    Dove usually gets praised for its inclusive, diverse, and body positive ads. But in 2017, the brand came under fire for a Facebook ad that depicted a black woman turning into a white woman, supposedly after using Dove body soap. The ad implied that the black woman was dirty, and the white woman was clean. The ad quickly went viral but not in a good way. Critics pointed out that Dove profited from outdated, racist ideals. 

    The brand quickly apologized, saying

    "An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offense it caused."

    But this isn't a situation that consumers forgave and forgot; Dove lost many loyal customers during the scandal.


    Tarte Cosmetics' Shape Your Money Maker Eyeshadow Palette named each color in the palette after things that had to do with shaping up or going to the gym. There are shadow names like Cardio, Flex, Tone Up, and a shade that's since come under fire, called Slim.

    Writer Nicola Dall'Asen was not happy about it. She shared

    "Take it from someone's who's worked in women's health and fitness journalism: There's an extremely fine, blurry line between healthy 'fitspiration' and flat-out body-shaming... This name certainly falls in that area."

    Many agreed with Dall'Asen. While names like Tone Up and Cardio aren't size-specific, Slim seems to promote unrealistic standards of beauty. The shade has yet to be renamed.


    2017 was not a good year for beauty advertising. Nivea's embarrassingly racist deodorant campaign went live and many people were shocked. The ad depicted a woman in a white robe and the script read:

    "Keep it clean, keep it bright. Don't let anything ruin it. White is purity."

    Twitter quickly made memes out of the marketing disaster, calling Nivea "the official moisturiser/anti-perspirant of the #AltRight." The brand apologized, suggesting that the campaign was "misleading" and unrepresentative of Nivea's core values. The damage was done, though.