While there's long been a glaring spotlight on the fashion industry, calling out its various issues over the years, the beauty industry hasn't faced the same level of scrutiny, despite having just as many problems, like: copycat products, brands that don’t understand the importance of inclusivity, influencers who get paid to say nice things about products, and founders with very questionable behavior. So while everyone knows the Instagram account @Diet_Prada, which was dubbed (by us!) Instagram’s version of the fashion police, only now are people becoming familiar with a group of anonymous insiders who run @EsteeLaundry, the beauty industry's unofficial watchdogs.
Estée Laundry has referred to its page as an “anti-influencer” account and a place to share unfiltered opinions about the industry. Its very first post, from April, highlights the almost-identical packaging and product names of Trinny London and RMS Beauty’s potted makeup products. More recently, it has been following the Deciem saga, Kendall Jenner and Vogue’s “appropriation” scandal, and Sunday Riley allegedly fake reviews.
While the beauty industry has always had its problems, now is a better time than ever before to shine a light on them, because of beauty's newfound ubiquity on platforms like Instagram and YouTube, as well as brands' reliance on influencers. “We’ve come to this point in history where social media has lost its newness and become a mainstream sales channel for brands and influencers,” the Estée Laundry founders tell us. “We thought now was a good time to launch Estée Laundry because the beauty industry is engaging in too many questionable practices, especially on social media. No one was holding them accountable for it, and we wanted to create a change.”
When the team first created the page, it came up with a set of “house codes” to make sure what it was posting was always in line with the account's overall purpose. “It helped us define what we wanted to do and what we wanted to stay away from,” they say. For example, they would never accept sponsored content, “unlike pages like Diet Prada,” they say. “While we wanted to promote transparency in the beauty industry and expose questionable behavior, we wanted to make sure our tone was fair, witty, and balanced, and not unnecessarily snarky or malicious.”
The account's 14,000 followers (and counting)—dubbed “Laundrites”—often alert them to different beauty scandals and insider information and have very strong opinions about the industry. A couple of days ago, Estée Laundry polled its followers, asking which brands they considered to be least and most reliable, and the results were thought-provoking and can be found in its Instagram stories. “We hope that people find us both entertaining and informative,” they say. “We hope our posts help people make more informed decisions!”
However, when you make it a point to call out beauty brands on their BS, chances are there’s going to be blowback. So far, Estée Laundry’s been blocked by Drunk Elephant, and they say U.K.-based blogger Caroline Hirons “has publicly expressed annoyance on multiple occasions.” It’s part of the reason why they’ve chosen to keep their identities a secret. “It’s hard remaining anonymous, but we think that being an anonymous collective gives us the power to stand up against beauty entities with unlimited resources,” they explain.
At the end of the day, it’s their followers they’re trying to serve, not the brands. If that means, as their profile reads, they have to air out “the beauty industry’s dirty laundry” from time to time, in order to hold those brands accountable—and in order for real change to happen—then so be it.
“The beauty industry has always thrived on people’s insecurities and pushed questionable products with no scientific evidence,” they say. “We think educating the consumer, so they proactively demand a culture of transparency, is the best way to change the industry.”