Studies estimate that about 20% of women who visit beauty salons have experienced violence. With close, and often private, moments between women and their salon professionals being the norm during beauty treatments of any kind, other research shows that women are likely to share their experiences of gender-based violence with their stylists. This makes it one of the few public spaces that women have easy access to and, more importantly, that can become a first point-of-contact or intervention for survivors to get help. The unique positioning of the beauty industry in this regard is even being recognised by governments, as evident by New York City’s domestic violence toolkit for salon professionals.
In light of this, the beauty industry has the opportunity and the power to support survivors, shape perceptions, and influence societal norms to improve women’s lives. The industry can use this power to promote positive messages and support causes such as the prevention of domestic violence. In fact, some global beauty brands like L’Oréal Paris and Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) Beauty have been leading the way in the beauty industry over the past few decades in actively addressing violence against women (VAW).
From make-up artists and hair stylists to beauty influencers and cosmetic surgeons, as well as beauty companies and trade unions, the beauty industry encompasses a wide range of individuals, organisations, and communities. With this wide reach, by taking proactive steps, the industry can play a crucial role in fostering not just safe spaces for women but also provide multiple first-step access points for victims and survivors to get help.
Here are 16 actionable ideas for individual beauty professionals as well as communities, groups, or beauty organisations to combat VAW through their work. While not everything on this list is suitable for all, we hope that this will be a useful starting point.
Introduction by Rubina Singh. Researched and written by Rubina Singh. Additional research and content by Regina Yau.
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8 Actions for Individual Beauty Professionals and Influencers
Idea for Action #1: Make Your Salon/Spa/Studio a Safe Space
One of the key actions that frontline beauty professionals such as hairstylists and spa owners can carry out to help victims and survivors is to take steps to ensure that their salons and studios are a safe spaces where all women feel comfortable, safe, and secure. This includes pro-actively making it a refuge for women escaping abuse and/or harassment (even if it is only temporary) or making it a strictly women-only space. For example, Cats Whiskers, a salon in the United Kingdom, announced on social media that women and girls are welcome to come in to escape street harassment,; and in Berkeley, California, USA, Nefertiti Salon, a Muslim woman-owned, women-only salon keeps aggressive and controlling husbands at bay while their wives are inside getting their hair done.
Idea for Action #2: Recognise Signs of VAW and Offer Support
Once beauty professionals have learned to recognise signs of abuse in female clients, you can provide support and resources to these women. You should also establish connections with local support organisations and shelters for proper referrals. For example, the “Cut It Out” campaign equips beauty professionals with training on domestic violence awareness, enabling them to offer discreet support and referrals to clients who may be victims of abuse. You can also explore options for more in-dept training in trauma-informed practices to better support your clients.
Idea for Action #3: Support Local Women’s Organisations
Individual beauty professionals and influencers can contribute to local women’s shelters by organising fundraisers, donating beauty services, or providing personal care items to survivors of violence. By supporting these vital resources, you can help empower women affected by violence. For example, in the wake of losing a friend to domestic violence, make-up artist Annalee Kemsley ran online auctions to raise money for the Taranaki Women’s Refuge as a tribute to her friend and to support other survivors of violence.
Idea for Action #4: Offer Pro Bono Services to Survivors
Violence can leave a survivor with emotional and physical scars. Individual beauty service professionals can offer a variety of services to help survivors get their lives on track and start the healing journey, from a new hair cut to corrective plastic surgery, For example, Marci Bowers, a cosmetic surgeon, partnered with the NGO Clitoraid to perform reconstructive surgery of the clitorises for Kenyan survivors of FGM.
Idea for Action #5: Use Your Platform
In this era of social media, beauty influencers have become major trendsetters in the beauty industry thanks to a large and loyal audience of female followers. If you are a beauty influencer, consider getting educated about the dynamics of VAW and its impact on physical and mental well-being and use your platform to raise awareness and share resources about how to seek help. For example, make-up artist Diala Makki created awareness posts on Instagram to talk about the impact of domestic violence.
Idea for Action #6: Foster Body Positivity and Good Self-Esteem
Another step beauty influencers can take to stop VAW is to promote body positivity and self-esteem by celebrating diverse beauty standards and reframing beauty as inclusive and empowering. Such efforts can help challenge societal norms that contribute to VAW. For inspiration, check out campaigns by inclusive high-profile beauty role models, such as supermodel Ashley Graham and body positivity campaigner Megan Jayne Crabbe (aka BodyPosiPanda) and larger brands like Dove, which encourage women to celebrate and value themselves.
Idea for Action #7: Share Your Story
With research showing that 1 in 3 women across the world experience violence in their lifetime, it comes as no surprise that female beauty professionals and influencers may themselves also be survivors of VAW. If you are one, consider sharing your experience with your clients or on your social platform. Sharing your story with your audience can empowerfor other women to leave their abuser and seek help to rebuild their life. For example, when Chinese beauty expert Yuyamika shared her experiences of domestic abuse online, her courage galvanised many other survivors to begin speaking up and publicly sharing their own stories of abuse.
Idea for Action #8: Be a Beacon of Hope
Being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel – to feel hope – is vital to the post-abuse healing process. However, is often difficult for victims and survivors to imagine a better life beyond the abuse they are facing at home or the trauma they are continuing to experience after the violence. Salon treatments, such as getting one’s hair done or having a manicure session, can boost self-esteem and well-being for many women, so you might consider taking this a step further by casually mentioning – as part of the conversation with any client who is suffering abuse – women you know of in the beauty industry or even other clients who have successfully rebuilt their lives after escaping the violence. This, along with stating that you are there to help should it be needed, may well provide that all-important sliver of hope for your client that might nudge them toward reaching out for help.
8 Actions for Beauty Companies, Organisations, and Communities
Idea for Action #9: Donate Products and Services
One simple first-step that beauty companies, organisations and communities can take is to provide pro-bono services or products to survivors of violence who are attempting to get back on their feet. Cosmetic treatments ranging from a haircut ahead of a first job interview after leaving one’s abuser to reconstructive cosmetic surgery after female genital mutilation can help survivors rebuild their self-worth and dignity. If your company or organisation is able to do so, take stock of what you have to offer and consider donating tangible beauty products or offering pro bono services to help victims and survivors regain some sense of well-being on their road back to self-confidence. For example, Find Your Fabulosity donates lipsticks to women’s shelters in USA.
Idea for Action #10: Donate to Help Survivors Achieve Financial Independence
Achieving financial independence and economic stability are essential for survivors of VAW to successfully rebuild and sustain a healthy life after violence. Beauty companies, organisations, and communities can help survivors do this in a variety of ways. One way is to donate a part of their proceeds to women’s shelters or survivors of violence to support them. Here are a couple of examples: Evio Beauty donates one dollar from each sale of selected products to a charity that supports survivors in achieving financial stability and the ‘Cut it Out’ campaign offers a ‘Strength in Beauty’ grant to industry professionals who are survivors of violence.
Idea for Action #11: Hire and Train Survivors
Looking for more practical ways to help VAW survivors build a foundation for their financial security that will enable them to lead an independent and violence-free life? Consider making it part of your company policy and culture to hire and/or train survivors of VAW. A growing number of beauty companies and brands of all sizes are already doing so: A salon in India offers training and jobs to members of the trans community in the beauty field; beauty salons in Pakistan are hiring acid attack survivors who have difficulty getting jobs due to their post-attack appearance and disabilities; and Gucci has a pilot programme providing female victims of violence with professional training in creating leather goods.
Idea for Action #12: Train Your Staff
Beauty companies and organisations should strongly consider training their employees to recognise the signed of VAW and how to create a safe and supportive environment for survivors of violence. For example, YSL, as part of their Abuse is Not Love programme, train their beauty teams to understand and identify abusive relationships. If you are a small business or organisation that does not have the resources that huge brands do to fund an internal training programme for staff, consider enrolling them in programmes run by anti-violence against women organisations or industry coalitions in your area that train people in the beauty industry to recognise and prevent VAW. Additionally, if your company or organisation is located in places such as the states of Tennessee and Illinois in the USA, be aware that such efforts are supported by government-mandated domestic violence training for beauty professionals.
Idea for Action #13: Educate Your Community (and Get Educated) About VAW
Companies, organisations, and communities can organise collaborative training sessions or campaigns for beauty professionals and community members to enhance their understanding of VAW, its impact, and effective ways to support survivors. These sessions can include topics such as trauma-informed care and active listening. Not sure how to start organising this type of programme (including what it should include? Check out the Shear Haven Domestic Violence Training and the Hairdressers with Hearts programme to see how it can be done and what their training sessions cover.
Idea for Action #14: Organise Awareness Campaigns
Beauty brands can and do wield significant influence on trends, fashion, and even politics and as such have the power to shift social norms. Whether your company’s products are the hot new things on Instagram or your brand is a household name, consider wielding the power and resources you have to raise awareness about VAW, be it community-based educational initiatives, viral online campaigns that create water-cooler moments or hybrid campaigns that have both online and offline elements. Not sure where to start? A recent high-profile campaign you can check out for inspiration is L’Oréal Paris and their recent launch of the ‘Stand Up Against Street Harassment’ programme to increase awareness of street harassment and violence in public spaces.
Idea for Action #15: Fund Programmes to End VAW
Across the globe, programmes to prevent and end VAW are chronically underfunded and require funds to continue to provide services that range from supporting survivors to educating communities about VAW. One of the most timely and impactful actions that beauty companies, organisations or communities can make is either independently or collectively funding programmes in collaboration with anti-VAW non-profits and charities to help end VAW. For example, L’OCCITANE supports various programmes to empower women in the Global South with profits from some of their products going directly to the UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality as well.
Idea for Action #16: Fund Research about VAW
Finally, beauty companies or organisations that have significant financial resources at their disposal should consider funding research into preventing and addressing VAW. This an underfunded area of study and funding research can provide a long-term solution to address VAW. As a starting point, your company can reach out to organisations such as UN Women or universities with women’s studies or gender issues departments to learn more about any ongoing or upcoming research projects that need funding. Additionally, funding research into areas adjacent to VAW such as gender equity both in the industry and among the customer base is also vital. Wella, one of the world’s most venerable names in professional hairstyling products, did just that via a study titled “An Inside Look at Gender Equity in Professional Beauty”, which uncovered the disparities in power between men and women in the industry, including the gender pay gap.
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