How Technology Can Make the Beauty Industry Accessible

How Technology Can Make the Beauty Industry Accessible

Is it possible for an industry based on physical appearance to be accessible to people with vision impairments?
An assortment of complexion makeup supplies, brushes and sponges.
An assortment of complexion makeup supplies, brushes and sponges.

In the last couple of years, beauty brands have increased their focus on inclusivity when it comes to race, gender and age. But what about people with disabilities? People with disabilities often have a different experience when using and shopping for makeup and beauty products.

For people who are visually impaired, distinguishing between beauty and hygiene products can be a big challenge. Only judging a product by touch can be difficult, especially when packages are generically shaped without markings or braille information on them. This provides an accessibility dilemma in a sighted world, where we’re expected to keep up a certain appearance without the accessible tools available to necessarily meet those expectations.

In a recent episode of 13 Letters, Sumaira Latif, Company Accessibility Leader at P&G, came by to explain how placing of tactile markings on Herbal Essences’ products finally brought accessibility to cosmetic product design. This trend is starting to catch on, but there are still a lot of gaps to fill in the industry to allow the people who are blind or low-vision total independence in their daily beauty routines.

Accessibly labelled Herbal Essences shampoo and conditioning bottles.

The beauty industry is inaccessible nearly every step of the way. “For a while it was hard to love something that didn’t want to be accessible to me”, says Lucy Edwards, YouTuber and author of the Blind Beauty Guide. She continues, “without sighted assistance, how does a blind girl access the makeup world? They don’t. I am thankful that my sister wanted to keep my passions alive when I lost my eyesight but there are many visually impaired individuals in this world that don’t have the assistance that I had.”

Lucy Edwards facing towards the camera with prominent red hair flowing in the wind and an eye makeup look that matches her hair.

Not everyone has access to such a supportive network when shopping for beauty and cosmetic products. And until all products are designed to an accessible standard, people with a visual impairment still must rely on extra assistance when shopping for and identifying beauty supplies. Asking a shop attendant for advice may be the easiest way to receive quick assistance, but sometimes hailing a shop employee when you’re blind is no simple task. 

In a world that is adapting to a new reality, the shopping experience is also changing. In many stores, not just beauty and cosmetics stores, personal assistance from an employee might not be possible because of physical distancing requirements. On top of that, product testers will not be readily available for hygienic reasons, making it difficult for people who are blind or have low vision to learn about the texture and feel of a product. If a shopper does manage to get this support, they will be on their own from there. When they get home, they have a whole bag of unlabelled and inaccessible makeup supplies.

A woman testing out three different shades of foundation on the back of her hand.

So what is a visually impaired makeup and beauty lover to do when the major beauty brands create inaccessible products and shopping experiences? Luckily, there are some simple solutions already available that beauty brands can easily incorporate to support people who have a visual impairment.

Technology has gone a long way in providing valuable customer service opportunities. “If I was able to pick up the phone and video call someone in an instant it would truly change my life and I know many blind people would say the same”, Lucy told us in regards to providing solutions to a largely inaccessible industry. “Unbiased, knowledgeable advice from a professional would make so many people feel so much more independent and confident about their makeup bag!”

With video support, beauty experts can remotely support consumers seeking visual assistance every step of the way: from selecting the right products in store, to shade matching, to explaining how to apply the products with their own personally tailored tips. Thousands of visually impaired men and women already use Be My Eyes as part of their makeup and skincare regimen, but with the added ability to call a beauty expert, visually impaired makeup lovers can receive personal guidance, whether they are in the store or at home.

So maybe it’s time to rethink how we package beauty products, and provide a more accessible support experience in the beauty industry. We should all feel unique, beautiful, and confident about the way we look. People with disabilities should have the same access to express themselves through beauty and makeup, and the first step could be just a call away. 

For more information and tips on makeup from a blind beauty enthusiast, visit www.lucyedwardsofficial.com, check out Lucy Edwards’ The Blind Beauty Guide, visit Lucy Edwards’ YouTube channel filled with useful makeup tutorials and listen to the episode of the Be My Eyes Podcast, where we had Lucy as a guest.