As an above-elbow amputee who loves beauty, I’ve spent a lot of time studying products in order to find ones that are great in terms of both quality and ease of use with one hand. There’s nothing worse than struggling to open your lip gloss and finally dropping the wand on your white pants. But in my ventures to find accessible products for myself, one thing constantly bothered me: Some things that were great for me sometimes weren’t accessible to those living with other needs, such as people who are visually impaired.
When I started looking at products from a different perspective, many questions popped into my head surrounding accessibility on this front. I can’t speak from personal experience regarding inclusivity in the world of beauty for those with visual impairments, so I reached out to some members from the blind community who shared their thoughts on product accessibility and helped me understand what might make a makeup, skin-care, or hair product more accessible for someone who’s blind or has low vision.
Cailey Darling is a plus-size influencer and makeup enthusiast. Darling became disabled and visually impaired with a rare eye condition in 2012, and as her vision changed, so did her approach to products. “I was someone who became visually impaired after already being interested in beauty products. As my vision issues shifted and deteriorated, I noticed it was the first time I had new standards when searching for products,” Darling says. “I stopped shopping with brands that didn’t include detailed color and formula information on their website and brands that didn’t include color swatches on skin.”
She also no longer used products without color indicators on the packaging. “I much preferred products that I could see through the packaging,” Darling explains. “Starting out with normal vision showed me just how many products aren’t accessible to me.” Now, her standards include transparent product packaging to avoid having to scope out a tiny color label to know what you’re reaching for, makeup palettes that have a color story indicated on the packaging, products with texture indicators in that’s either visible due to see-through packaging or presented with large-enough writing, and travel sizes to avoid poking herself while working very close to a mirror.
Mackenzie Strong is a legally blind college swimmer and social media influencer who says that products must be accessible from a shopping standpoint. She get anxious about shopping in person versus online, where she can search for the product, zoom in, and have complete confidence in what she’s buying. “However, when I go to a makeup store, it’s overwhelming because there are so many products everywhere,” she says. “Usually, the brand section names are large enough so I can know which area shop. Still, once I get to the products themselves, I have to either take a picture of every product just to read their labels or shove my face super close to the shelves to read the price, product name, and shade color. It’s embarrassing to me.”
Strong emphasized that a lack of accessibility and a need to ask for help takes away from her independence and, as she puts it, “is a tough pill for me to swallow.” But, as with the products featured below, it’s clear that accessibility is increasing. “I believe that inclusivity in the beauty industry is growing, especially in representation,” she says. “I love makeup and the confidence it’s given me. I’m hoping that as time goes on, we as a beauty community can find more ways for makeup to be more inclusive for people with disabilities because we all should be able to enjoy feeling beautiful.”
Mackenzie’s accessibility priorities include product packaging with large enough writing, good online product descriptions (since that’s where she does a lot of her beauty-product searching, and colorful products that catch her attention since small details are difficult for her to make out.
So with the help of Darling and Strong, I was able to highlight the Allure Best of Beauty Award winners that offer the accessible components shared by these two voices. With their help (along with tips learned from many YouTube videos and tutorials from the blind community), the list below was composed specifically with visual disabilities in mind.