Urban Decay (cosmetics)

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Urban Decay Cosmetics
Industry Personal care
Founded 1996
Founder Pat Holmes, Sandy Lerner, Wende Zomnir, David Soward
Headquarters Newport Beach, California, United States
Area served
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, Pat Holmes, Wende Zomnir, and David Soward. It was later acquired in 2012 by cosmetics company L'Oréal.[2] It targets young consumers with products that include lip, eye, and nail colors, as well as other face and body products. [3]

Urban Decay makeup is sold online and in specialist retailers such as Ulta, Sephora, and Macy's.[4]


Urban Decay was founded in 1996, when simple pink and red tones dominated the beauty industry palette. In 1995, while Lerner and Holmes were at Lerner's mansion outside of London, Holmes mixed raspberry and black to form a new color, which they both loved. As they were coming up with names for the new color, they decided on Urban Decay and decided to form a cosmetic company.[5] Launched in January 1999, Urban Decay offered 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.[6]

  • 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.[7]
  • 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.[10]
  • On November 26, 2012, the L'Oréal Group (a French cosmetics and beauty company) announced that it would purchase Urban Decay Cosmetics.[11] As of 2012, the L'Oréal Group continued to regularly conduct 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.
  • In 2013 the L'Oréal Group acquired the company. According to Nydailynews.com, the L'Oréal Group paid an estimated amount of $350 million for Urban Decay.[12]

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 Chinese market. 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, as well as, 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 their best-selling eye shadow palettes: Naked, Naked2 and Naked3.[13] For Spring 2015, Urban Decay has expanded its social media presence, such as on The Violet Underground, a Tumblr site that features the company's collaborations with young, fresh artists such as Baron Von Fancy.[14]

Urban Decay has assured PETA in writing that its animal-testing policy will not change, and the company will remain cruelty-free.[15] It will generate profit for the L'Oréal 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'Oréal products at L'Oréal'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.[16] It offers 100% synthetic fiber makeup brushes, which include blush and powder brushes, made from taklon, an alternative to typical brushes constructed from animal hair.[17] 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'Oréal brand, they stated they wanted to show L'Oréal that cosmetics not tested on animals could still make a profit. It was pointed out that L'Oréal 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.

Most animal rights advocates believe that L'Oréal and other western companies should have pulled their products from China instead of agreeing to test on animals. Because of L'Oréal'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. They considered doing so 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.


  1. ^ "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. ^ "Urban Decay". Retrieved 9 March 2015. 
  4. ^ "Company Overview of Urban Decay Cosmetics, LLC". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 9 December 2014. 
  5. ^ Holmes v. Lerner, 74 Cal. App. 4th 442 (1999)
  6. ^ "ABOUT US." Our History. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2014
  7. ^ Castanea Partners Announces Investment in Urban Decay. Reuters (2009-03-30). Retrieved on 2011-09-28
  8. ^ Cruelty Free Nail Care Products. LeapingBunny.org. Retrieved on 2011-09-28
  9. ^ ETA's Sixth Annual Proggy Awards December 2008. PETA.org. Retrieved on 2011-09-28
  10. ^ "[Urban Decay] Animal Testing Policy". Retrieved 26 July 2012
  11. ^ "L'Oréal: News Release: "L'Oréal signs an agreement to acquire Urban Decay"". EuroInvestor. Retrieved 26 November 2012
  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. ^ "Baron Von Fancy: A Little Inspiration". The Violet Underground. 26 February 2015. Retrieved 10 March 2015. 
  15. ^ 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
  16. ^ "Commitments." Urban Decay Cosmetics for Eyes, Lips, Face, Body and Nails. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2014
  17. ^ Is There a Squirrel in Your Makeup Bag?. PETA.org. Retrieved on 2011-09-28

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