This week, TikTok influencer Mikayla Nogueira sparked controversy in what some social media users dubbed “mascara-gate.” When reviewing a mascara for L’Oréal, Nogueira allegedly put on false lashes to enhance her lashes and convince people to buy the product. Once this rumor spread, it sparked reactions across social media apps.
Notably, fellow makeup influencer Alissa Ashley spoke on how this situation breaches people’s trust in influencers. Nogueira has not responded, but this lack of accountability can be studied across the beauty industry. Since the rise of social media, the industry has been changing. One early indicator of this was with Black hair stylists. For Refinery29, Alexis Johnson and Venesa Coger reflected on the changes in the Black beauty space.
They wrote: “[D]uring the Jim Crow era, Black beauty salons and barbershops transformed into safe spaces for activism while also creating entrepreneurial opportunities for the Black community.” This momentum continued onward through the 90s and early 2000s when salons felt like second homes.
Now, with social media, things have changed. For one, YouTube’s rise in popularity allowed people to enter the industry with no formal training. This increased entrepreneurship around beauty, but the authors noted that this also resulted in a decline in basic customer service.
As horror stories populate social media every day, it makes me as a Black beauty customer wonder, “When did it change?” I remember joyously going to the braid shop every two weeks to get my hair braided for years, and none of the modern issues arose with late arrivals, fees for basic services like detangling and blow drying, or booking policies that discriminated against short hair.
Alas, the breached trust only started with the stylists. In recent years, it has extended to manufacturers too. In 2017, Shea Moisture caught flak for releasing a commercial that largely isolated its core audience from it, according to Snopes. The commercial reflected on “hair hate,” or disdain for your own hair, but centered on white and light-skinned women who had looser curl patterns.
This same year, the brand was acquired by Unilever, a larger white-owned corporation. Some consumers felt that the brand started changing their products afterward, which SheaMoisture denied, Snopes reported.
SheaMoisture was one of many formerly Black-owned brands that were acquired by a larger white corporation. Most recently, Mielle Organics was acquired by Procter and Gamble. As with SheaMoisture, consumers are worried about product changes.
Jeanel Alvarado, an expert on retail insights, said, “Mielle may or may not, change their formula but it is inevitable as a brand continues to redevelop, grow and scale, to focus on making products more efficient across the entire supply chain.”
Her sentiment was echoed by Kesi Gibson, a beauty entrepreneur who founded Club Debut. Gibson acknowledged that “the worry is not unfounded,” but added that, “[s]upply and demand drives economics. It is most brand’s dream to create a product that serves a wide and diverse market segment.”
In other words, Mielle is expanding its market, which some might interpret as a betrayal. Yet, some TikTok users were not surprised by Mielle’s changing market, as the brand has had controversy surrounding its products before. Some brought up how, in 2020, Mielle’s founder went back and forth with popular vlogger Linda Lynn because she gave a bad review of their rice water.
Linda also accused the founder’s husband of harassing her through phone calls. Additionally, other creators alleged that they did not pay influencers to do sponsored content but went on to strike a deal with rapper Megan Thee Stallion. Given these controversies, their latest scandal did not come as a shock to these users.
Nonetheless, when looking at the beauty industry as a whole, it is understandable why people feel betrayed and distrustful. Whether it’s the “hair box” girls not actually using the products they were paid to promote or Morphe closing its door suddenly, beauty consumers are at odds with many brands and influencers.