February 01, 2019

Beauty Trends - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Reflects Millennials' Shifting Views on Beauty

EL, ULTA
By Lois Sakany
New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's views on skincare, makeup and diet reflect her generation's dynamic views on appearance, which emphasize an integrated approach rooted in transparency and simplicity.

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may be best known among her detractors for her thoughts on tax rates for the wealthy, but among her followers, she’s admired not just for her progressive politics but also her lifestyle views. Since she was elected, she’s both celebrated and been outspoken about the need for female politicians to wear makeup. When social media followers wondered what lipstick color she was wearing on a TV appearance shortly after her primary election, she responded on Twitter Inc., “I have been getting many inquiries about my debate lip color in the last two days. I GOT YOU. It’s Stila [Corp.] Stay All Day Liquid in Beso.”

Earlier this week, she received global media coverage for her Facebook Inc.'s Instagram Stories musings on skincare, makeup and diet. Not just the voice of a generation, Ocasio-Cortez’s thoughts on beauty can be viewed as prescient in that their emphasis is on caring for skin rather than covering it with makeup. As much as it makes sense that a phone-screen-obsessed generation would embrace makeup, it follows that as the trend matures and the customer ages, they will be more focused on the potential to slow signs of aging, which will likely include backing away from a war paint, full-coverage approach.

While Ocasio-Cortez’s views aren’t going to cause any neck-breaking inflections in demand (though her shade of Stila lipstick did sell out after she announced it), they reflect what might be a shifting tide favoring companies and retailers with the elasticity to authentically adjust their product assortments and service offering. The change may also provide fertile grounds for companies rooted in skincare products emphasizing transparency in ingredients. A natural skin care supplier to Ulta Beauty Inc. said she believes Ocasio-Cortez’s comments “100%” have the potential to influence beauty enthusiasts’ purchases. “I think she’s amazing. I would love to work with her,” she said, having recently rolled out a serum with vitamin C and other ingredients Ocasio-Cortez espouses.

And indeed, during the past few months, companies including Huda Beauty LLC have announced plans to expand into skincare, and last fall, rumors emerged around a Kylie Cosmetics LLC skincare line. At the same time, it was viewed as a big coup for LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE’s Sephora that it won back The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. Deciem Inc.’s The Ordinary brand, a line of low-cost serums celebrated for their minimalist ingredients. Sephora lost distribution of the brand last year, and after it was pulled, it was rumored Ulta would begin carrying the brand, which never came to fruition.

Reflecting her generation’s obsession with ingredients, Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Instagram Stories, “Skincare is straight up a hobby of mine. I’m a science nerd and I truly enjoy the science of it, reading about compounds and studies,” and went on to detail a three-step process that included a Korean skincare approach known as “double cleansing,” along with “toner and actives” and “moisturizer and sunscreen.” The 29-year-old repeatedly stressed the importance of removing makeup before going to bed. She wrote, “When it comes to makeup, don’t use more than you need! If it’s a hobby or creative outlet for you, then definitely incorporate double cleansing and use a face brush or makeup towel to totally clean your face as soon as you can in your day. Let your skin BREATHE.”

While Ocasio-Cortez didn’t provide brands, she advocated for alcohol-free toner, a position that makes us think she’s a reader on Reddit’s wildly popular “SkincareAddiction” forum, where most posters hold the same view on alcohol as a toner ingredient to avoid, a view also pushed by Paula’s Choice LLC with a full-page explainer on its website on why it’s wrong. 

On makeup, Ocasio-Cortez reflects Ulta’s mass/prestige approach, but at the same time proudly states she sometimes doesn’t wear makeup at all. “I’ve used both nice makeup and drugstore makeup. I also straight up don’t wear makeup some days and everyone just has to deal with it,” she said on Instagram Stories.

When Ocasio-Cortez was asked about the impact of diet on skincare, like a lot of her peers, she again reflected her generation’s focus on an integrated approach to wellness and provided an answer that would lead makers of oat and cashew milk to cheer. “I’m very into oat milk right now, which [in my opinion] is the best of all the milks after cashew milk. I know I sound [very] bougie right now so almost any nondairy milk sounds bougie so here we are. My heart wants me to eat less meat and go more vegetarian, and some days I cannot for logistical reasons or I’m just gonna pass out if I don’t scarf down whatever is in front of me. But I do find that I consume way less meat and dairy than I once did. I feel better when I don’t eat it as much, too,” she said on her Instagram Stories.

Contributors: Donna Crothers

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OTR Snapshots are direct feeds from our editors expressing their views on key issues and events in their industries, within and beyond our core coverage. Snapshots feature industry insights, source commentary, and general observations.