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] Products include lip, eye, and nail colors, as well as other face and body products.[3] Urban Decay's target market is young consumers.

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


Pink, red, and beige tones dominated the beauty industry palette until the mid-1990s.[5] In 1995 Sandy Lerner and Pat Holmes were at Lerner's mansion outside of London when Holmes mixed raspberry and black to form a new color, which they named Urban Decay. They decided to form a cosmetic company.[6] Launched in January 1996, Urban Decay offered a line of ten 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.[7]

  • 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.[8]
  • On November 26, 2012, L'Oréal announced it would purchase Urban Decay Cosmetics.[9] L'Oréal acquired the company in 2013. L'Oréal paid an estimated amount of $350 million for Urban Decay.[10]


Wende Zomnir acts as Chief Creative Officer for Urban Decay. Tim Warner is Chief Executive Officer.[5] Urban Decay continues its expansion in the international prestige beauty market with retailers in Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Singapore and the Middle East.

In Spring 2015, Urban Decay expanded its social media presence with a Tumblr site, The Violet Underground. It features collaborations with young artists such as Baron Von Fancy.[11]


Urban Decay is known for experimental shades and unique products. These include the Eyeshadow Primer Potion, waterproof 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencils, All Nighter Long-Lasting Makeup Setting Sprays, and highly pigmented eye shadows. Three best-selling eye shadow palettes are Naked, Naked2 and Naked3.[12]

Animal testing[edit]

In 2009 Urban Decay received approval by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics,[13] and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) awarded the company with the fifth annual Best Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Line award.[14]

PETA removed Urban Decay from their list of cruelty-free companies following Urban Decay's announcement on June 6, 2012 that they would begin selling products in China, a country known to conduct animal testing on products before releasing them to the public. A month later, on July 6th, 2012, Urban Decay announced that it would not sell its products in China.[15]

Urban Decay does not employ animal testing in the creation of its products. PETA and The Leaping Bunny Program (CCIC) certify the brand as cruelty-free.[16] Urban Decay assured PETA in writing that its animal-testing policy will not change, and the company will remain cruelty-free.[17] Urban Decay offers 100% synthetic fiber makeup brushes made from taklon, an alternative to typical brushes constructed from animal hair.[18] Vegan products 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.[citation needed]

As of 2012, L'Oréal continued to regularly conduct animal testing.[citation needed] Critics argue that profits from the sale of Urban Decay products directly fund animal testing done on other L'Oréal products at L'Oréal labs.

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.[citation needed]

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. ^ a b "About Us | Urban Decay". www.urbandecay.com. Retrieved 2015-09-18. 
  6. ^ Holmes v. Lerner, 74 Cal. App. 4th 442 (1999)
  7. ^ "ABOUT US." Our History. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2014
  8. ^ Castanea Partners Announces Investment in Urban Decay. Reuters (2009-03-30). Retrieved on 2011-09-28
  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. ^ "Baron Von Fancy: A Little Inspiration". The Violet Underground. 26 February 2015. Retrieved 10 March 2015. 
  12. ^ "Urban Decay: Makeup, Cosmetics - L'Oreal Group." Urban Decay: Makeup, Cosmetics - L'Oreal Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2014
  13. ^ Cruelty Free Nail Care Products. LeapingBunny.org. Retrieved on 2011-09-28
  14. ^ ETA's Sixth Annual Proggy Awards December 2008. PETA.org. Retrieved on 2011-09-28
  15. ^ "[Urban Decay] Animal Testing Policy". Retrieved 26 July 2012
  16. ^ "Commitments." Urban Decay Cosmetics for Eyes, Lips, Face, Body and Nails. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2014
  17. ^ 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
  18. ^ Is There a Squirrel in Your Makeup Bag?. PETA.org. Retrieved on 2011-09-28

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