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For many, a trip to the salon is a time to indulge in some TLC – but for transgender individuals, these places can feel unsafe and unwelcoming. In a bid to make beauty experiences more inclusive, Pantene has launched a project to promote awareness of transgender identity and safety in salons. We explore the insights behind the brand's latest move towards trans activism, and why, when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues, being a true ally is about more than recognition.

A study conducted by Pantene found that 93% of trans people in the UK have experienced being misgendered during a visit to the hairdressers. Off the back of these findings, the beauty brand teamed up with the Dresscode Project to change the salon experience for transgender individuals. The project’s aim is to create a network of hair salons with staff members who are trained in the art of creating a fun, affirming, and safe salon experience for LGBTQ people. Transgender influencers including Paris Lees are supporting the campaign, and Pantene is also releasing a film to promote the initiative, which will showcase the importance of hair and acceptance in the transition process. 

Aw Creative (2019) ©

With 1.4 million Americans identifying as transgender, and 74% of Gen Zers say that transgender rights should be acceptable in society today, transgender issues are becoming increasingly visible. However, while successful LGBTQ+ campaigns remain focussed on representation and bold statements of inclusivity, such as fashion house Chanel’s new trans model and Google’s gender-fluid emojis, brands are continually in danger of demonstrating inauthentic activism by failing to resonate with LGBTQ issues in a concrete manner. Budweiser’s pro-pride packaging move serves as a prime example of problematic marketing. 

It's important for brands to remember that while trans activism grows, the daily experience and expressions of transgender individuals remains riddled with frustrations. Not only are they often misgendered, but Pantene’s study also found that 29% of trans people report feeling stressed, and 24% feel anxious every time they visit a hair salon. And with a study conducted by Yale University showing that hair ties into a person's self-esteem, Pantene’s on-the-ground initiative shows the brand’s commitment to understanding the everyday problems that may exist for a community where identity and self-esteem come with their own unique complexities. 

Upping the stakes when it comes to authentic activism, brands are paying attention to forms of inclusivity and representation that tap into people's more subtle everyday needs. From elderly homes that accommodate the unique needs and interests of older LGBTQ generations to Tinder’s alerts to protect its LGBTQ members who travel to countries where homosexuality is illegal, brands are starting to offer more than vocal support to show their status as active allies. 

Matilda Ruck is a Junior Behavioural Analyst at Canvas8. She has a degree in Politics and Philosophy as well as a foundation in psychotherapy and is passionate about exploring the interplay between creativity, psychology and culture. Outside of work, you can find her writing short stories, tending to her ginger cat Thomas O’Malley or oscillating between yoga and karaoke practice.


27 Nov 19
2 min read

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