A lot of unequivocally good stuff that happened in beauty this year. Strides were made, changes were implemented, and new, innovative products continued to shake things up. But as the idiom goes, with the good comes the bad, and 2018 wasn’t immune to conflict and controversy. From ongoing acts of cultural appropriation to bad behavior on behalf of tastemakers and celebrities, here is a look back at some of more contentious beauty news that dominated 2018.
The Never-Ending Deciem Drama
Way back in 2017, Canadian skin-care company Deciem and its affordable sub-brand The Ordinary were lauded for selling clinical ingredients without the traditional markup. All was well and $7 hyaluronic acid was ours for the taking, but things began to spiral in 2018 — specifically around CEO Brandon Truaxe. From his unusual Instagram comments in February to his cries for help in April, from his July rehiring of his co-CEO (he fired her in February, before firing the entire U.S. staff two months later) to his full-on meltdown in October and subsequent court-ordered ousting, Deciem Drama aired the entire calendar year. Hopefully, last week’s happy news that The Ordinary is relaunching at Sephora in January 2019 was the season finale.
Beautyblender’s Foundation Fail
We’re living in the age of the Fenty Effect. Thanks to Rihanna and her 40 shades of foundation, consumers will no longer accept skimpy product ranges that alienate women of color. But Beautyblender didn’t seem to get the memo. In July, the brand’s extremely hyped Bounce liquid foundation finally launched, and people were less than thrilled. Of the line’s 32 shades, roughly an eighth seemed suitable for anyone with a skin tone darker than “light” or “medium.”
The brand responded to the backlash with a list of excuses: It’s about undertones, not actual shades. Trendmood was using “a wacky filter.” Our founder is Latina. Fast-forward to last week: Beautyblender launched eight new foundation shades (they’re darker) and founder Rea Ann Silva explained to Refinery29 that the blunder wasn’t a blunder at all:
“When we started developing Bounce our goal was to launch with 40 shades of foundation. We were able to perfect 32 of those shades in time for our launch, all while continuing to work towards our initial goal of 40. There was so much excitement around BOUNCE that we immediately got right to work meticulously shade matching the remaining 8 blends.”
Those “remaining 8 blends” are now available on the brand’s site and Sephora’s — a whole five months after the collection launch, which was all part of the plan, apparently.
Gigi Hadid’s Vogue Italia Shoot
Gigi Hadid showed up on the May cover of Vogue Italia wearing a lot of Dolce & Gabbana and looking waaay tanner than usual. Fans were less than pleased at the blatant skin-darkening in lieu of more diverse casting. So much stir was created on social media that Hadid took to Twitter to exonerate herself, complete with a photo of what she looked like leaving the shoot to clear up just how bronzed she was on set and how much extra bronzing was Photoshopped in later.
Kendall Jenner’s American Vogue Shoot
Later in the year, Hadid’s model friend Kendall Jenner found herself in a similar situation when she appeared in the November issue of Vogue with a curly hairstyle that sparked accusations of cultural appropriation. Many were annoyed that the style looked like it was dressing up as an afro, but the publication explained that it was simply “meant to be an update of the romantic Edwardian/Gibson Girl hair which suits the period feel of the Brock Collection, and also the big hair of the ’60s and the early ’70s, that puffed-out, teased-out look of those eras.” Okay!
Sunday Riley’s Fake Reviews
In October, beloved brand Sunday Riley became the center of Instagram drama when @EsteeLaundry, an Instagram account dedicated to beauty-specific drama, posted a leaked company email directing employees to write fake positive reviews for the brand’s products. It not only included characteristics to gush about, but advice about how to use a VPN so reviews couldn’t be traced back to employees’ IP addresses.
A Redditor claiming to be a former Sunday Riley employee confirmed that the email was real, and eventually, Sunday Riley did too. “At one point, we did encourage people to post positive reviews at the launch of this product, consistent with their experiences,” an Instagram comment from the brand’s account read.
Kim Kardashian West’s Hair Styling
Kendall’s older sister Kim also got dragged by the internet this year due to a hairstyle. In June, pictures emerged of North West on her Birthday Eve with her hair super straight and pulled into a high ponytail. Afterward, Kardashian West was heavily mom-shamed for straightening her half-black daughter’s natural curls.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Kardashian West cleared things up. “She wanted straight hair and I straightened her hair one time,” she told the outlet. That seemed to clear the air for a bit … until Kardashian West wore Fulani braids to the MTV movie awards a few days later. But she had an answer for that one too, telling Bustle she “did that look because North said she wanted braids and asked if I would do them with her.”
Drunk Elephant Accidentally Bashing Glossier on Instagram
Back in February, the flames of a feud between millennial skin-care brands Drunk Elephant and Glossier were fanned after a screenshot of an Instagram comment thread started circulating on Reddit. In it, user @stephgrey3434 rags on Glossier’s use of fragrance and accuses the brand of copying Drunk Elephant’s packaging. @lunar_vibesss tells @stephgrey3434 to get off her high horse, and hours later, Drunk Elephant’s official Instagram responds to @lunar_vibess with “I’m not on my high horse…” Oops!
Redditors theorized that someone from Drunk Elephant created @stephgrey3434 for the sole purpose of bashing Glossier, and forgot to switch back to the “personal” account. Drunk Elephant’s founder Tiffany Masterson vehemently denied it, telling the Cut that she thinks it’s someone who worked for the company in the past. @stephgrey3434’s Instagram account has since been deleted so the mystery will haunt us until the next skin-care scandal.
The Mysterious Whereabouts of Ariana Grande’s Ponytail
2018 was the year of Ariana and there was plenty of drama surrounding her relationships, including the one with her ponytail. In September, the world collectively gasped when she tweeted a video of her ponytail extension flying across a hotel room above the cryptic caption, “til next time.” It was alarming at the time, but in November we got a selfie from Grande without her ponytail following her breakup with Pete Davidson. No word on if it was slumped in a dark corner or on a relaxing vacation, but it’s back for now and we wish them both a happy holiday season.
Pikachu’s New Bangs
2018 was also the year we learned that people care if an electric mouse ditches her signature hairstyle. In July, promotional stills for a new Nintendo Switch game showed our good friend Pikachu with a new, very blunt pair of bangs. The internet immediately wondered if this was a cry for help and more importantly, who was responsible for this transgression and should I get a Nintendo Switch?
Bella Thorne’s Makeup Palettes
In August, former Disney person Bella Thorne launched her first beauty products, two shiny eye-shadow palettes under her Filthy Fangs line of merch. Both nine-shadow palettes sold out in one day, but that didn’t stop the backlash. Thorne was criticized for charging way too much for way too little product ($60 and $50, respectively). Her products were also accused of looking way too similar to the $20, nine-shadow palettes from indie brand Juvia’s Place. Thorne handled things in stride and via tweet, just as she did last month when Filthy Fangs was again accused of ripping things off, this time by Pussy Riot and regarding ski masks.
Instagram Models Pretending to Be Black
Twitter is notorious for unearthing receipts, and last month it helped bring a not-so-new trend to light, one in which several white Instagram models are darkening their skin tones and adopting hairstyles often worn by black women to look black or racially ambiguous. A tweeted screenshot of Swedish Instagram model Emma Hallberg’s account got things rolling and it’s only snowballed from there.
Jeffree Star’s Feuds With Basically Everyone
Makeup artist and vlogger Jeffree Star could single-handedly fill a whole 2018 beauty drama roundup of his own. The half-hour tutorial he created in July entitled “Full Face of Brands That Hate Me,” covers a nice sampling of his current feuds, but here are some SparkNotes that barely skim the surface:
- Kylie Jenner: Last year he likened her brush set to something from the Dollar Tree. This year he asked her why she hasn’t apologized for the overpriced set yet. She removed him from her PR list.
- YouTubers Laura Lee, Gabriel Zamora, and Nikita Dragon: Star acknowledged his past racist comments in a documentary and stated that he isn’t “the bad guy” everyone thinks he is when it comes to his ex–beauty community friends (Lee, Zamora, Dragon). Zamora tweeted that Star is simply bitter and he can’t imagine “stanning a racist.” In response, Star fans dug up old racist tweets from Zamora, Lee, and Dragon and things were never the same. Ulta even cancelled its launch of Lee’s line.
- YouTuber Thomas Halbert: Halbert tried to take down Star via a now-deleted video in which he detailed a meeting with an unnamed person (Star) who dropped the N-word. It didn’t go so well. Star revealed that yes, the two had met, but only because Halbert wanted to use Star’s merchandise company. Star called Halbert “evil,” and Star fans followed up by doing what they do best: digging up Halbert’s old racist tweets.
- Kat Von D: This ten-year friendship died in 2016, but the feud is still going strong. In July, Star realized Kat Von D’s liquid lipstick in the shade “Jeffree” was available on her personal site, despite her 2016 announcement that she would be pulling it from her collection. Unacceptable. In response to a comment on her wedding video referencing Star, Von D replied “Jeffree who? ;)” Then, in December, Twitter users found the KVD line in Marshall’s and TJ Maxx and Star went on a retweeting spree, adding that he “CAN’T RELATE. AT. ALL.”
- Huda Kattan: In July, Star accused Kattan of completely ripping off indie brand Beauty Bakerie with her dessert-themed Easy Bake Setting Powder. DMs were exchanged, screenshots were posted, and a brand-new feud was born. In October, makeup artist Cole Carrigan tweeted about the PR emails he was receiving, one of which was from Huda Beauty. Star simply replied with “Tell Huda Beauty to fuck off and use products from someone with a soul,” so this feud is developing nicely.