Urban Decay (cosmetics)

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Urban Decay's logo

Urban Decay is an American cosmetics company founded in 1996 by Sandy Lerner, cofounder of Cisco Systems, and Particia Holmes.1 Lerner and Holmes hired David Soward as CFO and Wende Zomnir as Marketer.

The label is based in Newport Beach, California with a distribution center in Hialeah, Florida.

The birth of Urban Decay began about 15 years ago when pink and red dominated the beauty industry. Zomnir was recognized as a creative and strong-minded businesswoman with a determination to shake-up the cosmetic industry. The team mixed nail polish in Zomnir’s Laguna Beach bungalow. From there, they launched Urban Decay in January 1999, which included a line of 10 lipsticks and 12 nail polishes. Their color palette was inspired by the urban landscape with names such as Roach Smog, Rust, Oil Slick and Acid Rain.2

Urban Decay does not to employ animal testing in the creation of its products, and its website points out its products as vegan. Every box includes its cruelty free philosophy: “We don’t do animal testing. How could anyone?” Both PETA and The Leaping Bunny Program (CCIC) certify the brand as cruelty-free.3 It offers 100% synthetic fiber makeup brushes, which includes blush and powder brushes, made from taklon. Taklon is an alternative to typical brushes constructed from animal hair.4 100% vegan items are denoted on the website by a paw print, which means it is "Marley Approved." Marley is a dog that belongs to an Urban Decay executive.

The brand is primarily sold in mid to high-end beauty stores such as Ulta, Sephora, and Macy's.


  • In 2000, Moet-Hennessy Louis Vuitton (a diversified luxury goods group) purchased Urban Decay.
  • In 2002, the Falic Group (owners of the Perry Ellis fragrance lines) purchased Urban Decay.
  • In 2009, Castanea Partners (a private equity firm) acquired Urban Decay.5
  • On June 6, 2012, Urban Decay announced that it would begin selling its products in China, a country that is known to conduct animal testing on products before releasing them to the public. Therefore, PETA subsequently removed Urban Decay from their list of cruelty-free companies. On July 6th, 2012, Urban Decay announced that it will not sell its products to China.8
  • On November 26, 2012, the L'Oreal Group (a French cosmetics and beauty company) announced that it would purchase Urban Decay Cosmetics.9 As of 2012, the L’Oreal Group continues to use animal testing in some products, but the company donated $1.2 million to help abolish the practice.10 This is not the company’s choice. Since the company is based in France, European Union regulations require ingredients to be tested on animals.11
  • The L’Oreal Group acquired the company in 2013. According to Nydailynews.com, the L’Oreal Group paid an estimated amount of $350 million for Urban Decay.12

Where Urban Decay is Now[edit]

Today, Wende Zomnir steers Urban Decay’s ongoing growth as Executive Creative Director along with General Manager Tim Warner. Urban Decay continues its expansion into the prestige beauty market with growing numbers of retailers in Canada, the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Singapore and the Middle East.

Urban Decay is known for experimental shades and new products. They are known for their Eyeshadow Primer Potion, highly pigmented eye shadows, waterproof 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencils, All Nighter Long-Lasting Makeup Setting Sprays and three of the best-selling eye shadow palettes: Naked, Naked2 and Naked3.13

Urban Decay has assured PETA in writing that its animal-testing policy will not change, and the company will remain cruelty-free.14 It will generate profit for the L’Oreal Group although the L’Oreal Group is in a gray area when it comes to animal testing. So, the L’Oreal Group is a big contributor and founding member of the European Partnership for Alternatives to Animal Testing (EPAA), which is an organization that aims to end animal testing by using alternative methods to ensure consumers’ safety.


1. Holmes v. Lerner, 74 Cal. App. 4th 442 (1999).
2. "ABOUT US." Our History. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.
3. "Commitments." Urban Decay Cosmetics for Eyes, Lips, Face, Body and Nails. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.
4. Is There a Squirrel in Your Makeup Bag?. PETA.org. Retrieved on 2011-09-28.
5. Castanea Partners Announces Investment in Urban Decay. Reuters (2009-03-30). Retrieved on 2011-09-28.
6. Cruelty Free Nail Care Products. LeapingBunny.org. Retrieved on 2011-09-28.
7. ETA's Sixth Annual Proggy Awards December 2008. PETA.org. Retrieved on 2011-09-28.
8. "[Urban Decay] Animal Testing Policy". Retrieved 26 July 2012.
9. "L'Oréal: News Release: "L'Oréal signs an agreement to acquire Urban Decay"". EuroInvestor. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
10. "L'Oréal Buys Beauty Brand Urban Decay in a Deal Estimated at $300 to $400 Million." NY Daily News. N.p., 26 Nov. 2012. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.
11. "What Does L'Oréal’s Acquisition of Urban Decay Mean for the Cruelty-Free Brand?" Feminspire. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.
12. L'Oréal Buys Beauty Brand Urban Decay in a Deal Estimated at $300 to $400 Million." NY Daily News. N.p., 26 Nov. 2012. Web. 26 Mar. 2014
13. "Urban Decay: Makeup, Cosmetics - L'Oreal Group." Urban Decay: Makeup, Cosmetics - L'Oreal Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.
14. PETA. "Beautiful News: Urban Decay to Remain Cruelty-Free!" PETA Beautiful News Urban Decay to Remain CrueltyFree Comments. N.p., 30 Nov. 2012. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.

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