Urban Decay (cosmetics)

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Urban Decay Cosmetics
Industry Personal care
Founded 1996
Founders Sandy Lerner, Wende Zomnir, David Soward
Headquarters Newport Beach, California, United States
Area served Worldwide
Key people Wende Zomnir (Chief Creative Officer), Tim Warner (Chief Executive Officer)
Products Cosmetics and beauty products

Urban Decay is an American cosmetics brand headquartered in Newport Beach, California. The company was founded in 1996 by Sandy Lerner, a co-founder of Cisco Systems, Wende Zomnir, and David Soward. It was acquired by cosmetics company L'Oréal in 2012.[2]

The brand is known for its "edgy" products and eye-catching packaging and product names.[1][3] Urban Decay makeup is sold online and in specialist retailers such as Ulta, Sephora, and Macy's.[4]


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

  • 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 continued to reularly use animal testing. The company donated $1.2 million to help abolish the practice which is less than 1% of the profits they have generated by selling in China. Testing on animals is no longer mandated or allowed in the European Union.

For years Europe has prohibited all animal testing, however products which have been tested on animals in other countries (mainly China) may still be sold there. When animal testing became required in China in 2012, L'Oreal abandoned their cruelty free status and resumed animal testing in order to stay in the lucrative Chinese market.

Most animal rights advocates believe that L'Oreal and other western companies should have pulled their products from China instead of agreeing to test on animals. Because of L'Oreal's new policies regarding animal testing there was a great deal of concern that Urban Decay would follow suit and abandon their cruelty free principals which they considered doing when they announced they would enter China but public outcry prevented Urban Decay from entering the Chinese market and subsequently - testing their products on animals.

  • 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

Present day[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.

Stance on animal testing[edit]

Urban Decay does not employ animal testing in the creation of its products although profits from the sales of their products directly fund animal testing done on other L'oreal products at L'Oreal's labs. Its website points out some of 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.

When asked why PETA supports a L'oreal brand, they stated that they wanted to show L'Oreal that cosmetics not tested on animals could still make a profit. It was pointed out that L'Oreal already knew that when they bought Urban Decay, and that the only way to effectively speak to a company that tortures animals for profit is through money (lower sales volume), which could be done by PETA revoking Urban Decay's certification of being cruelty free. PETA did not respond.


  1. ^ a b "Urban Decay At-A-Glance". Paula's Choice Skincare. Retrieved 9 December 2014. 
  2. ^ Daneshkhu, Scheherazade (26 November 2012). "L’Oréal buys Urban Decay cosmetics brand". The Financial Times. Retrieved 9 December 2014. 
  3. ^ Goulds, Josephine (26 November 2012). "L'Oréal strikes deal to buy Urban Decay". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 December 2014. 
  4. ^ "Company Overview of Urban Decay Cosmetics, LLC". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 9 December 2014. 

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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