Latinx beauty isn’t a monolith; it’s incredibly nuanced, cross-cultural, and constantly evolving.
Yet, this vibrant community has not always been well reflected in the industry, with makeup and hair-care offerings for diverse skin tones and hair types often limited, and Euro-centric standards regarded as the norm. But this booming population with a passion for beauty and incredible buying power can no longer be ignored: According to Nielsen, Latinx shoppers outspend every other demographic by 30 percent when it comes to beauty products.
At “Making Our Beauty Mark,” a recent virtual panel hosted by ELLE, we examined the evolution and current state of Latinx beauty alongside several trailblazers in the community, including Sonsoles Gonzales, founder and CEO of Better Not Younger, a clean hair-care brand designed to address aging-related concerns; and Sofia Hernandez, global head of business marketing at TikTok. Here’s a recap of the powerful discussion about their personal relationships with beauty, and how the Latinx community is finally moving away from homogeneous standards, leaning into experimentation, and finding freedom in their own skin.
When asked who their role models are, young Latinx commonly name their mamás, abuelas, and tías—people who look like them—rather than pop-culture icons or celebrities. This is due to a lack of representation in the media. “A lot of my ideas of beauty, especially at a young age, came from television,” said Hernandez. “Although it was just a few decades ago, there wasn’t a lot of diversity—it was a lot of blond hair, blue eyes, and a certain body type. That’s what really started to shape my idea of what everyone around me was considering beautiful.”
She remembers what it was like when she began to internalize Caucasian beauty standards in her youth: “I have curly hair, and I started to think, What would I look like with straight hair, what would it be like if I looked like that?” It was Hernandez’s own mother and grandmother who empowered her to embrace her curls and natural beauty. “Luckily, I come from a really strong group of Latina feminists, and they helped me see past what I was seeing in mainstream media and lean into who I am.”
Gonzales began her career in her home country of Venezuela before moving to Ohio for an executive beauty job—where she quickly found herself struggling with unfamiliar beauty standards. “It was such a shock to arrive in Cincinnati as a Latina,” she said. “All of a sudden, I felt like I needed to fit in and look more like everyone else, and that was very stressful.” She soon noticed the lack of Latinx representation at work as well. “[When I started working for major hair-care brands], the products were pretty much all designed for what we used to call ‘normal hair,’ which meant just Caucasian, straight, thin hair.”
Hernandez noted that she has had a similar experience: “I come from a marketing background, and I’ve partnered with some of the biggest brands around the world—and I always felt not even under-represented but, like, not present at all in the visuals.”
Today, however, inclusivity and diversity are improving, with social media playing a huge role in the shift and helping to build self-confidence. With apps like TikTok, diverse creators feel empowered to break away from stereotypical ideals of beauty. The platform gives them space to tell their stories, foster conversations, share helpful tutorials and tips, and spotlight their peers.
“We’re in a time right now where Latinas want to support other Latinas more than ever,” said Hernandez. “We’re going to be able to easily find things [that speak to our uniqueness], because we’re all going to be more vocal. I’m seeing social media being used for good—it’s all about accepting people for who they are.”
IRL, Gonzalez said, she is excited to see more diversity in stores. “The number of products that you see out there—it’s amazing,” she noted. “And you don’t have to go to a special aisle to find them—for the most part, it’s integrated.”
Gonzalez acknowledged the huge strides that the Latinx beauty markets have made in recent years, but said she still sees room for improvement. “I think there’s room to advance,” she said. “[It can still be difficult to find] the right products. There’s not enough variety, and I think the development of products that really cater to this huge community is key.”
When asked about her hopes for the Latinx beauty community in the years to come, Hernandez replied, “I really want to see a lot of different types of beauty. And the more that we can encourage that in our roles as leaders in the space, in marketing, and encouraging brands to do that, the better.”