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Brown Girl Hands

We need more Black and Brown hands on beauty community Instagram

@Browngirlhands is addressing the industry’s lack of diversity one hand pic at a time

If you’re anything like us, your infinite Instagram scrolling and Explore page will be full of nail artists, inspo, and brands – but where are all the Brown hands? The unbearable whiteness of beauty brands is all the more glaring in the world of nails.

It’s no secret that representation of Black, Asian, and other ethnic minorities in the beauty industry leaves much to be desired. It’s an industry run largely by white men at a handful of dominant corporations, meaning the beauty world has prioritised and upheld white European beauty standards for centuries. That’s prevalent through the products it does (and does not) offer, and through the models – white, slim – represented in advertising. In response to this lack of diversity and the sea of glaringly white hands, one Instagram account has dedicated itself to giving a platform to images of Brown hands.   

Founded by Hannah, a college student in Florida, “Brown Girl Hands” stemmed from an article written by journalist Jessica DeFino who reported on her experiences with overwhelmingly white beauty feeds. Titled “Where Are All The Brown Hands?” DeFino’s piece analyses the Instagram accounts of brands such as Essie and OPI to find out how far she needed to scroll before finding an image that was not of a white woman. You won’t be surprised to hear the results weren’t positive.

“I think the biggest shock to me wasn't even the lack of diversity for some brands,” Hannah tells Dazed Beauty, who was inspired to create her account after reading DeFino’s piece. “But the fact that Jessica stated over a dozen media outlets turned down publishing the piece.” Having always enjoyed taking photographs of her hands, Hannah decided to take matters into her own hands, literally, and create an account that would address the problem.

Dedicating a space to Brown hands, @browngirlhands currently consists of several images of Hannah’s hands holding cult and well-known beauty products, including Glossier’s lip balm and Necessaire body lotion inspired by the style of accounts such as @gelcream. Hannah is hoping it will encourage the beauty community to engage with images of Black models.

“It's not about pointing fingers at anyone – no pun intended! – but just creating a new space,” she says. A recent newsletter by DeFino highlights this urgent need – the writer shared that a woman of colour in a social media role had reached out to her to say they didn’t post Black hands because they didn’t perform as well. “This means the beauty community collectively can help usher in more diversity through simply actively engaging, liking, and sharing content that not only features Black hands but also, Black faces, and Black bodies – not just now but always,” Hannah adds.

“Representation in all facets of beauty is so important. The imagery and people brands and the media chose to portray have the power to impact standards of beauty, self-confidence, careers, as well as product development. It's important for women to see themselves, to feel valued, beautiful, and seen, because isn't that the point of beauty?”

Currently just a few days old, Hannah has big plans for her account. “I'd love to share resources, accounts and other black hands as well as the stories behind them,” she says, as well as hopes to produce content for brands and review her personal favourite products across beauty categories.

“I'm very proud of the beauty industry these last few weeks for stepping up and so many brands enacting new policies and initiatives, posting the numbers as well as donating. Now, they just need to keep those promises,” she says.

Pointing to initiatives like Glossier’s grant scheme for Black-owned beauty brands, Hannah says it is these long-term programs that will make real changes in the industry. “I hope moving forward diversity and inclusion can be authentic, purposeful, and come from within. From within, I mean the creators brands work with, their leadership and employees, and the brands retailers chose to add to their shelves.”