We love an event here at The Glow Up; it’s a treat to get away from the skin-depleting blue light of our laptops and out into the field. Our ultramodern, minimalist office space—although filled with laughter and camaraderie—drops to meat-locker-level temps when the mercury dips. Not to mention, we’re passionate about beauty.
Our latest outing was to an afternoon with Unilever, the parent company of popular brands Degree, TRESemmé, SheaMoisture, Suave, Nexxus, Axe, Dove and more—and yes, we’re still asking pointed questions about Dove’s racially questionable dustup last year; we’ll circle back on that conversation when we get answers.
In a carnival-like atmosphere that was part sideshow and part science, aestheticians demonstrated product while scientists explained the molecular get-down of Unilever’s newest products for face, hair and body.
Did you know that every seven seconds you shower, you use enough water to fill a bottle of wine? I had no idea that much clean water gets used up that fast, mostly while we’re trying to rinse conditioner out of our hair.
Enter Love, Beauty and Planet, a new line of hair and skin-care products engineered to rinse completely clean in half the time of regular conditioners and washes, while ensuring that nothing goes to waste. Most of us don’t know that bottles with labels that are not easily removable are ineligible for recycling and get tossed into garbage dumps; Love, Beauty and Planet’s labels meet this requirement and are 100 percent post-consumer material.
And what’s in the bottle? All goodness, with argan and coconut oil formulas and delicious scents. Though you can’t drink them, the idea behind this line is that it’s “fast and fabulous,” carbon neutral, rinses clean quickly and aids in saving 20 percent more water every shower.
Dove, well, what can we say? Many of us grew up using its products, and though the company admittedly messed up on that last campaign, some good may have came out of it. Esi Eggleston Bracey, an African-American exec whose hustle and glow over the past decade have made her one of the most powerful in her field, joined Unilever in January as executive vice president and chief operating officer of the company’s North American personal-care business.
It’s important that we have a seat at the table, not only for gatekeeping our image but, most important, for opening the gates of opportunity when it comes to mentoring and recruiting women of color at the C-suite level of corporate America.
That said, Dove has both new product and an inclusive, new campaign for DermaSeries, created to treat severely dry skin conditions, including eczema and psoriasis. Ashy folks everywhere, get ready to leave dry skin in the dust; the formulations include rich, hypoallergenic balms that glide on and give an instant glow.
As someone who intermittently suffers from eczema, the caring philosophy behind the launch of DermaSeries speaks to the truth that severe skin conditions can rule your life, determining everything from what clothes you can tolerate wearing against your skin to where you’ll go socially because of “good-skin privilege,” to being able to let someone touch you—even to shake hands or give you a pat on the back. It can be a lot. The women in the campaign—all nonmodels—address conditions that affect 1 in 4 Americans at some point in their lives.
“Hi! Want to make a meme?” was the question that came from an unlikely presenter—no more than 15 years old—who made up half of the duo behind the Generation Z consulting firm Jüv. Currently lending their talents to the campaign for Axe body spray, these kids were there to guide us through the feel-good points of the brand’s latest advertising initiative, working in partnership with singer John Legend, among others, to help redefine what it means to be a man, and to help clear the air of toxic ideas about masculinity that have existed in our culture for eons.
“So, wait; Axe is gender-fluid now?” I asked. “No ... something like that,” the kid answered, before asking if I knew what memes were. Umm, yeah. I do.
From a nearby table stocked with props, I put on my carnival disguise of heart-shaped glasses and fuzzy antennas, and the kid directed me to make a happy face, “like you’re ready for prom in January.” While the marketing exec—who looked like a character from The Big Bang Theory—was snapping away pics on the phone for Insta-stories, I got the spiel for Axe Gold’s kinder, gentler version of masculinity.
This version encourages men to find their magic ... though I don’t know if #ManMagic will become a thing, like #BlackGirlMagic (I checked—it’s not). It also asks the question, “Is it OK for guys to ... cry, be skinny or be the little spoon?”
In a “Man Box” study Unilever commissioned from global firm Promundo, the statistics tell a compelling story: When young men feel pressure to conform to negative stereotypes, it often leads to unhealthy behavior—81 percent turn to bullying, 71 percent to sexual harassment, and 51 percent experience depression.
The social-change campaign Senior Orientation was created around John Legend and Axe to demonstrate how delving into your creative side can be a way to escape a host of unhealthy behaviors. Legend told Forbes why he joined the campaign, and shared his thoughts on traditional definitions of masculinity:
It can be limiting because it’s all based on stereotypes and dated notions of what men are expected to do in society and the truth is men come in all kinds of varieties and their roles are different depending on who they are, how they were raised and what they want to do in life. We need to allow the space for them to be creative and to be an individual and not be overly constrained by what tradition says men are supposed to do. It can be very limiting to both to men and women to assign these roles, and Axe is tapping that for men, given that it’s their target audience.
Who knew all that was going on in a can of body spray? Here at The Glow Up, we love talking about beauty as a means of both expression and empowerment—from luxury-level tech innovations at a drugstore price to black female executives on the rise—and, certainly, our men’s armpits exuding the sweet smell of a safe space. We had a great day out. Thanks for hosting us, Unilever!