As Diet Prada is to the fashion industry, Estée Laundry is the accountability compass for the beauty industry.
An anonymous collective of “beauty outsiders”, the team behind the popular Estée Laundry Instagram account work to call out unfair behaviour and bring awareness to areas they feel require change within the estimated US $532 billion industry.
With a following of 154k at the time of publishing, the whistle-blowers behind the account have established an undeniable sense of power, that on more than one occasion has directly impacted products sold in addition to the practices of global beauty companies.
Copycat campaigns, misleading ingredients, workplace bullying, ignorant product names; it’s all exposed on the platform, and now with such a dedicated following, it’s even more challenging for companies to get away with these behaviours.
“Estée Laundry was born out of necessity. We were dismayed at how shady or unfair the beauty industry can be and saw the need to bring awareness of such issues to consumers,” the Estée Laundry team tell TheLatch—.
As members of the beauty community all across the world, the Estée Laundry owners have chosen to remain anonymous. As they see it, who they are and what they do has no effect on their agenda to expose wrongdoings in their own industry.
“We choose to remain anonymous as our aim is to focus on issues that impact the beauty industry. Who we are or what we do does not matter. We serve as a collective voice for the consumer.”
Estée Laundry began sharing on Instagram in April 2018, almost two years ago. Since then, the collective has seen an impact on their industry, most notably with their first viral exposé of skincare brand Sunday Riley, which they say really put them on the map.
“We discovered Sunday Riley’s founder explicitly directed her employees to write fake positive reviews on Sephora’s website,” Estée Laundry tells us.
“But the most important story we have highlighted thus far was about bullying and how prevalent it is in the beauty industry. We’ve received hundreds of stories regarding bullying from followers who experienced it first hand, and we have tremendous admiration for their bravery and courage to come forward with their stories.”
On more than one occasion, Estée Laundry’s crusade has resulted in products being pulled from shelves. When asked about examples of their direct impact, the team bring two major events to mind.
“After we accused Fenty Beauty of culturally appropriating the name ‘Geisha Chic’ for one of its highlighters, they quickly apologised and pulled the product off the shelves.
“In another instance, we called out Kim Kardashian for cultural appropriation for naming her shapewear line, ‘Kimono.’ After much backlash from us and other accounts, she ultimately changed the name to SKIMS.”
But of course, not all brands are as receptive to being called out. As Estée Laundry explains, some companies react by ignoring or blocking the account, and in some cases, spew hateful diatribe. “Some have their ‘stans’ attack us,” EL adds.
“But other times, brands that are receptive to change will want to have a constructive conversation with us. They are keen on hearing what we (as well as our followers) have to say and see it as an opportunity to improve their customer relationships, brand image and product.”
While much research was undertaken by the team in the earlier era of Estée Laundry to seek out shady business practices, unfair founders, social inequalities and injustices (to include racism, inclusivity, cultural appropriation and bullying), as well as sustainability issues, nowadays, around 60% of content shared sparks from follower submissions.
“We expose issues that we feel would resonate with our followers. Our goal is to educate our followers so they can make more informed decisions.”
When asked about the issues they perceive are most important to changing the DNA of the beauty industry, Estée Laundry list the following.
“Lack of transparency, inclusivity and sustainability. In order to improve upon these issues, brands need to listen to their customers’ concerns and hold themselves accountable.”
On how brands should go about doing this, Estée Laundry has a few ideas. “To provide more transparency, brands need to take a step back and reassess their business practices.
“For example, providing employees with a safe work environment and ensuring they are treated and compensated fairly; making sure product ingredients are sourced ethically; and utilising biodegradable materials for packaging.
“That said, inclusivity issues would improve greatly if people of colour, minorities or underrepresented people are placed in positions of power, especially at the executive level.”
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In addition to making racially-insensitive and out-of-touch comments, it looks like @DazedBeauty’s #KylieJenner AI beauty story idea was very similar to @TushMagazine’s story published way back in September 2018. They even used @SelamXStudio, the same AI studio #TushMagazine used. Not an original way to debut your hard copy edition, #DazedBeauty. 👎🏾
“We’ve never considered Estée Laundry to be a participant of cancel culture. Our intention is not to “cancel” out any brand. We simply bring important issues that impact the beauty industry to light, with the hopes of creating a constructive dialogue amongst brands, followers and consumers.”
With the work they’re doing, in addition to increasingly ‘woke’ consumers opting for brands and products that reflect positivity in all of the areas above, Estée Laundry hope the beauty industry will look very different in 10 years time.
“Transparency, inclusivity and sustainability would no longer be an afterthought, but a priority. Brands would place customers before profits. Things like biodegradable packaging would be mandated.
“Our goal is to create a culture of change. As this culture of change becomes larger, it turns into a full-blown movement, which is how our mission will drive the beauty industry to this place.”