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The Business of Beauty Begins with Maria

I have a confession to make: I’m a total lip gloss junkie.

I carry at least six different brands of lip gloss in my bag at all times. An untrained eye would say my six lip glosses look almost identical in color. This lip gloss junkie would vehemently disagree. Every. Single. Time.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. Six lip glosses all basically the same color? Really? Are you feeling okay, Jen? It’s become a running joke among my friends, but I don’t care. Lip glosses are my staple. I don’t leave home without them.

Thankfully, I’m not alone. Most women have a “signature” something — a lipstick color, fragrance, mascara, nail polish — that boosts their confidence, makes them feel pretty, or puts some extra sass in their step. But the bottom line is, we all have our own subjective definitions of beauty when it comes to ourselves and to others. (This idea is, of course, nothing new.) Yet, regardless of how we may define beauty, we are each our own beauty canvases. Self-proclaimed lip gloss junkies (a.k.a. yours truly), busy moms, hipsters, college students, young professionals, grandparents — no matter who we are, or what stage in life we are in, we are all unique individuals who each choose our own way when it comes to what we buy and how we use it to sculpt our look.

When you look good on the outside, it makes you feel good on the inside.

Maria is no exception. A 52-year-old mother of 3, happily married for 25 years, with a full-time job, a love of cooking, and a schedule that never ends, she has her own way of doing things when it comes to her beauty routine, which she admits is “paramount” to her. The path she takes is entirely her own based on her unique needs, desires, motivations, and definitions of beauty.

I think we can all empathize with that (yes, even the guys) because at a time where “selfies” are the photo format of the moment and Jezebel offers $10,000 for unaltered Lena Dunham Vogue photos, there’s still Maria. There are still individual people with their own pursuits, hopes, dreams, fears, and joys that (guess what?) use beauty care products not to become cover girls but just to feel confident and feel good.

You don’t need a glossy market-research report full of colorful charts and graphs to tell you that beauty is a big, multibillion-dollar global business. And it’s showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. According to Euromonitor International, over 50% of total beauty product sales by 2018 are expected to come from emerging markets like Brazil, India, and Mexico. It’s therefore critical that beauty and personal care brands distinguish themselves and honor our diversity if they want to make meaningful connections with consumers and build loyalty in a crowded industry.

Dove’s genius Campaign for Real Beauty immediately comes to mind. What I love about this campaign — especially the Real Beauty Sketches video series — is its unabashed bravery. It shows women how insane the pursuit of attaining perfect beauty actually is, celebrating instead the strength, self-confidence, and merit of women as real people, not airbrushed supermodels. It underscores how our distorted self-perceptions — our hang-ups, flaws, and outward projections included — are misaligned with how others see us. It’s a powerful realization that is equally heartbreaking and heartwarming.

M.A.C.’s VIVA GLAM initiative is another powerful example. For years, they’ve been shaking things up and taking a one-size-doesn’t-fit-all approach to beauty and cosmetics, promoting diversity and altruism. Fully 100% of the brand’s VIVA GLAM lipstick and lip gloss sales go to support men, women, and children around the world living with HIV/AIDS. And this year’s VIVA GLAM spokesperson? Rihanna.

The grand paradox of the beauty industry is selling the dream of perfection to intrinsically imperfect human beings, and then keeping that dream alive. Despite this, it’s reassuring and inspiring that some beauty brands like Dove and M.A.C. (and these are just a few) have our backs. They are making bold choices and sincere efforts to go against the grain, shattering the notion that we must always be in pursuit of ideal beauty and (unattainable) perfection. Instead, these brands encourage us to celebrate — in all our shapes, sizes, colors, and, yes, lip glosses — what makes us different, special, beautiful, and (dare I say) perfectly imperfect.

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