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The downfall of celebrity beauty brands

By Reagan Liu Dec. 15, 2022

Celebrity image has been commodified for decades, but the explosive success of Rihanna’ beauty brand Fenty in 2018 sparked a new era of celebrity beauty branding, with numerous A-list stars moving beyond endorsements and partnerships to found their own companies—often with no experience. In the past five years, these lines have flooded the beauty space in a continual stream of launches, from Millie Bobby Brown’s florence by mills in 2019 to Brad Pitt’s Le Domaine in September of this year.

Lyn Kang Art

The expansion and efficacy of celebrity branding stems from a variety of factors. The beauty industry is lucrative with high profit margins—incentivizing celebrities to capitalize on their massive fanbases. Moreover, authenticity is salient in marketing and the primary influence behind purchasing decisions, psychologist Pamela Rutledge states. Fashion and culture YouTuber Mina Le elaborates, explaining that consumers are more likely to trust individuals—namely, their favorite celebrities—over corporations, despite these individuals being tied to companies themselves.

“Oftentimes, the fame and reputation of a celebrity is the sole asset they offer. It gives them an invaluable head start when starting a beauty brand, even if they lack industry expertise,” Senior Jeffrey Zheng said.

Across social media, fashion industry veterans have expressed increasing disillusionment with celebrity beauty lines; makeup artist Kevin James Bennett referred to them as “cash-grabs.” Following news of the imminent launch of his skincare brand Le Domaine in October, five London-based beauty brand founders issued an “open letter to Brad Pitt,” asserting that celebrities with zero experience in the industry are dominating the market space, taking focus away from beauty founders who have been researching and innovating for years to build better products and platforms. They implore him to invest in existing brands that are working towards more sustainable and inclusive solutions instead, offering an alternative route for celebrities who are genuinely interested in taking part in the beauty business.

Lyn Kang Art

A growing base of young, conscious consumers is also rejecting celebrity-endorsed products. According to The New York Times, research firm Gen Z Planet found that 19% of Gen Zers cited celebrity promotion as a factor behind their purchasing decisions, while 66% reported that friends were the predominant influence. Social media has created greater awareness; many customers now recognize that celebrities undergo costly surgical and cosmetic procedures, giving them flawless complexions that cannot be achieved merely through skincare and makeup products. Additionally, several celebrity brands have been unsuccessful in the past year; for example, Vanessa Hudgens’ and Madison Beer’s Know Beauty became inactive following its debut in June.

“By making false claims about manufacturing practices and placing minimum effort into their companies, celebrities perpetuate a cycle of malpractice and irresponsibility,” Sophomore Caleb Park said.

There are a few outliers. According to Vogue Business, Pharrell Williams’s skincare company Humanrace formulates its products in collaboration with Dr. Elena Jones—Williams’s long-time dermatologist. Additionally, Rihanna’s Fenty became immensely successful after introducing 40 shades of foundation in its 2018 launch, setting a precedent and proving that profitability could go hand in hand with inclusivity.

Despite continued proliferation of celebrity beauty brands, more vocal protests by experts and conscious consumers and recent celebrity beauty brand failures may signal an impending paradigm shift within the beauty industry.


About the Contributors

Reagan Liu

entertainment & student spotlight editor

Reagan Liu is a junior at Leland High school and a page editor at the Leland Charger Account. He loves music and listens to many different genres of music in his free time. He never skips a meal and consumes all the nutrients needed to stay healthy.

Lyn Kang


Hyunsuh Kang is a sophomore at Leland High School and the Community News Investigative Report. During her free time, she enjoys sleeping, eating, and playing with his friends.

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