As soon as Lucy was free of the idea that beauty is primarily what we see, she learned a lot about herself. “I have all of these labels that contribute to my sense of self and my identity doesn’t just depend on what I look like.”
For many people, beauty is all about how we look. It’s about an eye-catching shade of red lipstick, a fragrance bottle that looks great on the dressing table or a serum that adds shine and brilliance to hair colour. For Lucy Edwards, beauty is something she had to learn to experience on an entirely different level after she lost her sight aged 17 due to a rare genetic condition called incontinentia pigmenti.
“When I lost my vision eight years ago, It took me a long time to rehabilitate. I used to be able to look in the mirror and see myself, and not being able to do that anymore was traumatic for me as a teenager,” Lucy says. “But I started to realise that the beauty of the world isn’t in what we see and I was free of having to think of beauty in the way society tells us to.”
Although losing her sight gave her clarity on the true meaning of beauty, Lucy also realised that her visual impairment excluded her from the beauty industry in many ways. “Beauty tutorials were no longer accessible,” she notes. “I have had my sister describe probably thousands of beauty tutorials to me over the years.”
Lucy is on a mission to change that, and has a TikTok account dedicated to changing how the world views blindness with videos under the hashtag #howdoesablindgirl, covering everything from cooking, to travelling, to styling her hair and applying winged eyeliner.
“A beauty routine is about taking time for myself, relaxing and unwinding with music, candles and products. Before, I don’t think I took the time to appreciate these things about beauty. Over the years, as I have perfected my routine, it’s meant more and more to me.
“I don’t have to always think, ‘do I look good?’. It’s more about whether I feel confident that I’ve taken care of myself in the ways I want to. I don’t crave the sighted aspects of my beauty routine anymore.”
Another aspect of the beauty world that Lucy has struggled with since losing her sight eight years ago is shopping. “I walk into any beauty store and all the bottles feel the same to me,” she says. “I have to rely on sighted assistance and my guide dog.”
However, Lucy has been working to remedy this shortfall and has just been announced as Pantene’s new ambassador for their Silky & Glowing range, working closely in creating a more inclusive industry, and society – starting with the packaging. Pantene have partnered with NaviLens, a unique technology for visibility impaired people who have difficulty using traditional signage and therefore cannot be autonomous in unfamiliar environments like a highstreet pharmacy or beauty counter.
The new bottles will have brightly coloured codes (which look a little like QR codes) printed on them, that a visually impaired shopper can scan. The Navilens app will then tell the shopper everything they need to know about the product, from the ingredients to the benefits to the shelf life.
“When I tried the technology, I burst into tears. For the first time since losing my sight, I could walk up to any shop shelf, hold my phone out and know independently what was in front of me.”