How the beauty industry is trying to change to accommodate disability


L'Oreal presents an automated makeup applicator for people with reduced mobility. Photo: AFP

Putting on lipstick may seem like a simple, everyday task to some, but it can be prohibitively difficult for others, especially when they have reduced mobility of the arm or the hand. But the cosmetics sector is hoping to overcome this with the help of new technologies, finally making makeup accessible to all.

Long overlooked by brands in all sectors, people with disabilities finally seem to be getting some of the attention they deserve.

After the fashion industry, which is trying to offer more inclusive clothes through various timid but nevertheless meaningful launches, it's the turn of the beauty industry to reinvent itself to allow as many people as possible to take care of their skin, and especially to make the whole experience of makeup easier and more pleasant.

Wearing makeup is an everyday thing for many, but it can be much more difficult to access for people who form part of what's sometimes referred to as the world's largest minority.

More than a billion people live with some form of disability, or nearly 16% of the world's population, according to the WHO.

And while not all of them have difficulties applying makeup, many of them, because of their reduced mobility, may find it hard to apply mascara or lipstick. But new technologies could soon change this.

If beauty tech has previously mainly been used for personalization and online sales, it is now proving to be an essential tool in making beauty more inclusive.

This is evidenced by the latest innovation presented by a giant of the sector at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, which opened Jan 5.

Read more: Beauty is everyone's business? How makeup is no longer just a woman's thing

'Smart motion controls'

The power of social networks is such that it pushes brands to take action on all kinds of levels – especially social and environmental – for fear of seeing their prime targets look elsewhere.

As a result, many sectors, including fashion and beauty, are striving to be ever more inclusive.

L'Oreal is one of the cosmetics companies that has been particularly committed to making disability more visible for several years, through numerous programmes, but also through its muses and models, and its L'Oreal Paris ambassadors, including Aimee Mullins since 2011, but also Bebe Vio and Marie Bochet.

At CES 2023, the cosmetics giant is taking another step towards inclusivity with the presentation of an innovation designed to facilitate the beauty experience for people with reduced mobility.

Called HAPTA, it takes the form of a "handheld, ultra-precise computerised makeup applicator" that should enable people with reduced arm or hand mobility to apply lipstick more easily from 2023.

Currently under development, this applicator is expected to be equipped with technology created by the American company Verily, originally designed to allow people with reduced mobility to "stabilise and level utensils" when eating.

The connected, wearable device relies on a "combination of built-in smart motion controls", capable of replicating those of a makeup routine via all sorts of customisable accessories.

The company explains that this can range from handling packaging to the precise application of a product, such as a mascara or lipstick, for example.

"HAPTA is equipped with a magnetic attachment that allows for easy ergonomic use, enabling for 360 degrees of rotation and 180 degrees of flexion. A 'clicking' feature allows the user to intuitively set the intended position, stay in position during use, and allow for the user to lock in a customised setting for future use," explains L'Oreal in a news release.

"HAPTA comes with a built-in battery (three hours to full charge) and device charging which results in one-hour continuous use (approximately 10+ applications)."

Read more: Style Recap 2022: How did skincare overtake makeup in leading beauty trends?

A first step towards inclusivity

Still, the beauty industry has yet to fully embrace disability. In 2019, a few months before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Grace Beauty brand stood out by launching a series of accessories to facilitate the application of mascara.

This involved different handles to allow people with reduced mobility to optimise their makeup experience.

The innovations gained a certain amount of attention, but this may not have allowed the brand in question to gain sufficient visibility, since its last social media posts date from April 2019 and its e-store is no longer accessible.

Meanwhile, the Dulcenae beauty and wellness institute in Paris has also contributed to making beauty more inclusive, by welcoming anyone who doesn't feel up to attending a classic beauty salon, because they don't fit within the various norms of an industry that's struggling to break certain stereotypes.

In this beauty parlour, it is "socio-estheticians" who deliver personalized care to each client, whatever their problem and need, with the objective of offering them a moment of relaxation and well-being, but also to improve their self-confidence.

It is a place that welcomes everyone, but is particularly open to those who have a physical handicap, an illness, a skin condition such as eczema, or who are overweight or obese.

Although still rare, these initiatives testify to the need to make beauty more inclusive, and on a very large scale.

L'Oreal's makeup applicator is a further step in this direction. It will be launched later this year via one of the group's flagship brands, Lancome, in the form of a lipstick applicator at first.

This will be followed by "additional makeup applications in the future", the cosmetics giant said. – AFP relaxnews

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beauty , trends , inclusivity , diversity , CES


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