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Feminspire | April 16, 2014

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What Does L’Oréal’s Acquisition of Urban Decay Mean for the Cruelty-Free Brand?

What Does L’Oréal’s Acquisition of Urban Decay Mean for the Cruelty-Free Brand?

naked basics urban decay paletteLast week, Urban Decay came out with a new product in their popular Naked line, Naked Basics. Typically, nothing else Urban Decay does can overshadow the release of a new Naked product, but this week’s announcement that Urban Decay was acquired by L’Oréal has done just that.

The reaction at Beautylish, an online community dedicated to beauty products, ranged from disappointment to outrage. It’s important to note the seemingly little-known fact that Urban Decay has not been an independent company since 2009, when it was acquired by Castanea Partners. The 2009 acquisition did not garner such a big reaction, possibly since L’Oréal is a much bigger name and is already associated with cosmetics. The comments mainly expressed concern over two areas: Urban Decay’s quality going forward, and the brand’s commitment to cruelty-free cosmetics.

Urban Decay’s continued quality is put in question since UD is a department store brand, and for many people the first association they make with the name L’Oréal is the drugstore brand of hair products and cosmetics. However, L’Oréal is large corporation that owns many brands. Their portfolio actually includes more luxury brands such as Lancôme and YSL than what they term “consumer products,” which is where L’Oréal Paris falls. The fact that L’Oréal has such a diverse portfolio means that UD fans can rest easy when it comes to quality and the brand’s overall image, since L’Oréal’s acquisition history indicates that the company acquires brands because it can benefit from what the brand is already doing, as with The Body Shop’s 2006 acquisition, not to change the brand.

The matter of cruelty-free cosmetics is a trickier issue. While Urban Decay has committed to remaining cruelty-free despite the acquisition, can the same be said for all other brands in L’Oréal’s portfolio? The answer is complicated. Urban Decay’s website states that UD neither tests finished products on animals nor do they use raw materials that have been tested on animals. L’Oréal has not tested finished products on animals for 20 years, but the product ingredients have been tested on animals. This is not by L’Oréal’s choice: European Union regulations require ingredients to be tested on animals (L’Oréal is based in France). L’Oréal is also a big contributor to and a founding member of the European Partnership for Alternatives to Animal Testing (EPAA), an organization that aims to end mandatory animal testing by producing new testing methods that still ensure consumers’ safety.

So what will change for Urban Decay once the acquisition is final? On the surface, probably nothing. The brand will retain the same image and policies. But on a macro-level, buying Urban Decay will mean generating profit for L’Oréal, and L’Oréal is in a gray area when it comes to animal testing. On the one hand, L’Oréal appears committed to ending animal testing and supports an organization that is working towards this goal, but on the other hand it is impossible for L’Oréal to completely stop animal testing at the moment due to regulations. The issue brings a sad connotation to the popular phrase: beauty is pain.

Will you continue buying Urban Decay products? What do you think of the acquisition? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Written by Sully Moreno
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