In the past several years you couldn’t open a social media app without seeing influencers rave about the very popular and affordable Morphe Cosmetics. Morphe really hit its peak before the pandemic when beauty influencers and beauty content were some of the most desired and consumed content. At the beginning of the pandemic, Morphe showed signs of success as well. A lot of people found solace and a way to cope with the pandemic through makeup and watching YouTubers test the latest and greatest makeup. It was definitely a good distraction even for me. Beauty was something you could control at a time in the world when so many things were outside of your control. Plus with the mandatory mask wearing many were finding ways to express their creativity through fashion and makeup to dress up the drab (but necessary) requirement.
Morphe has currently left its employees in distress, its customers outraged and influencers in the dust. The hashtag #justiceformorpheemployees is currently trending on TikTok as the brand just announced four days ago that they are closing all of the United States retail stores. However, Morphe has been shutting down since early 2022 and most recently escalated the process around Christmas leaving their employees completely in the dark.
Is Morphe Closing all of its Stores for Good?
For the last year, Morphe has been quietly shutting down its stores. Things had escalated right before Christmas as they had increased the closing without informing any of the employees. Morphe gave their employees zero notice that they would be closing stores, let alone all of the stores in the United States. We started to become aware of the issue because employees have taken to social media to expose what the brand was doing. Many believe their announcement on Twitter came from social media pressure to address the terrible way they were laying off employees. We can always count on social media to hold brands accountable.
Four days ago on Twitter, Morphe tweeted that they will be closing all of their retail stores in the United States while keeping a few international stores open. Morphe also said that you can still buy its products online and in “some” retailers.
Former Morphe employees explained that some were only given one day’s notice of their termination. To add insult to injury, it wasn’t like the employees couldn’t tell something was going on. For weeks they hadn’t received any shipments, no re-stocks, and were having sales that included 95% off of some of its most popular products. It was obvious that if not for the store shutting down, SOMETHING was happening and it wasn’t good. Plus, the same influencers that built the brand were also quick to expose that something was going wrong with Morphe. Before the announcement, it was evident to everyone that stores were closing and influencers have been calling out Morphe for treating their employees so poorly ever since.
Interestingly, the expectation for employees is to give two weeks’ notice or more when leaving an existing position. While employers can give less than 24-hour notice seemingly without consequence. What Morphe has done to its employees shows that it is not only a bad company to work for but not a brand consumers should support. The brand as a whole is on its way out and no one wants to give Morphe anymore of their business.
History of Morphe Cosmetics
Morphe has built its brand on cheap cosmetics masked with quality and adorning from influencers. This made it a great brand for people just starting their makeup journey as makeup can be extremely expensive. Everyone is looking for the greatest product at the best price, especially in this economy.
Siblings Linda and Chris Tawil started Morphe in 2008 as a line of makeup brushes. They sold primarily online and at beauty shows. Morphe began to partner and collaborate with some of the biggest youtube stars starting around 2016. This really propelled the brand into the limelight and made them the household name we know them as now.
Morphe was acquired in 2019 by General Atlantic, which is now the largest stakeholder. This is when things took a turn for the Morphe brand. The current investors did not understand the power and reach that influencers had in the brand. Nor did they understand just how much they helped keep the brand alive and relevant. This is also around the time when Morphe started to get some backlash because some of their most influential partnerships such as Jaclyn Hill, James Charles, and Jeffree Starr were having personal controversies that were reflecting poorly on Morphe.
- Jaclyn Hill
Jaclyn Hill had controversy for most of her career at Morphe while she was one of the first influencers to really help make the brand blow up. Hill created an artistry palette with Morphe that sold out pretty immediately and was a total success. A re-launch came to be a total flip when it seemed that the eyeshadow formula had changed and was of terrible quality. Hill never announced the formula would be changing and on the contrary often doubled down that everything was the same and her formula with Morphe was unique to her and only used in her palettes. People began to not trust Hill even more after the launch of problematic lipsticks that were frankly made terribly.
- James Charles
James Charles kind of swooped in to save the day. James was an up-and-coming YouTuber and influencer that was getting millions of views, especially with the younger demographic as James is young himself. In 2021 he was amidst the controversy of being a sexual predator to young men where he allegedly tried to engage in intimate relations via the internet with underage teenage boys.
- Jeffree Star
Jeffree Star was one of the biggest influencers to be affiliated with Morphe. Jeffree Star would literally help open brand new stores for Morphe and would have huge launch parties filled with thousands of screaming fans. Star is and was also known to only accept the best of the best makeup. Therefore a lot of people trusted and valued their opinion. And if Jeffree Star didn’t like a product? They would not hold back, they could destroy a brand or a product in just one video. Star had a collaboration with Morphe that was a huge success. This collaboration was the first Star did outside of his own brand “Jeffree Star Cosmetics” so everyone could feel what a big deal this was.
One of Star’s best friends at the time, Shane Dawson who was one of the biggest YouTubers in 2019-2020 became enriched in several scandals. Dawson was called out for being problematic with his content. This included him being racist, and some also claimed he was predatory and overall just gross and inappropriate with young fans. Morphe decided it was in their best interest to drop Star due to Dawson’s controversy and their connection to Dawson. This is a business move that is still talked about today. Some say this was the exact moment that Morphe began to crumble. Once they detached themselves from Starr the brand took an obvious turn and people literally lost interest…and quickly.
Without the backing of these influencers, it seemed the brand was flopping. Morphe tried to re-vamp its brand by connecting with the newer, younger influencer… the TikToker. This ended up not being super successful for Morphe as most people had simply moved on from the brand and were more focused on newer less controversial brands.
Are the Products Any Good?
I have used Morphe only a few times because, for the price point, the quality never made sense to me. A lot of videos have been made on Morphe’s lack of quality and strong chemical smells. I had a Morphe eyeshadow palette that if you read the descriptions of each eye shadow told me that it was not intended for use around the eyes. No one has the time or the money to be wasting on an eye shadow palette that isn’t safe for use on its intended body part.
Morphe isn’t totally unique in this, many cheaper eye shadow brands use ingredients that are not safe to have around your sensitive eye area. You really have to read the fine print to make sure the products you are using are safe. Often times this kind of warning only comes on the packaging and is not printed on the palette. Most of us quickly throw the packaging away because there is no need to keep it. Therefore you could be left in the dark and use unsafe items if you didn’t read the packaging in the first place.
Morphe was mainly popular because of the people who used it. Morphe did have affordable products that gained attention but they often suffered in quality. Morphe did attract a lot of makeup lovers because of its colorful palettes and shade ranges. Plus with the collaboration of the influencers, people felt like they could trust the brand even if it wasn’t quite perfect.
Since Morphe has not announced the reason for the mass closures and layoffs rumors and speculations are flying. Some believe that one of the reasons Morphe was in some hot water was due to a few lawsuits they are currently in.
- Inherently Dangerous Ingredients
Similar to what I personally experienced with Morphe eyeshadows the lawsuit out of California states that Morphe is utilizing unsafe ingredients in their eyeshadows without properly informing consumers. The Fashion Law explained that within the lawsuit the plantiffs “Specifically, they claim that these products contain an array of color additives, such as FD&C Red No. 4, D&C Red No. 6, and D&C Violet No. 2, among many others, which have been designated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as “unsuitable and unapproved for cosmetic use in the eye area.” Keep in mind that with the rise in demand for cosmetics and beauty products also comes a younger demographic. We are seeing children getting interested in playing with makeup and even I remember playing with it as a little girl.
These days it’s a bit more serious than smearing your mom’s lipstick all over your face. Nonetheless, this can pose a safety risk for children who are utilizing products and are unaware they aren’t safe. As I previously said, you really have to do your research when it comes to finding safe makeup. The United States falls short of regulating safe makeup products and it is really up to the consumer to make sure it is safe. Unless you are really into health and wellness though, you might just assume that if some huge makeup brand is selling something, it is safe to use. This should be the assumption, and unfortunately, it is not.
The second lawsuit is much more rooted in speculation. Founder of hair care line Playa, Shelby Wild allegedly sued General Atlantic, Morphe’s new majority owner. Wild claims that once Morphe acquired her brand that they did not properly support it and therefore she nor the brand made the anticipated revenue. Wild also claims that she was not appropriately compensated for the time that Morphe had her brand and is suing for that compensation.
With the amount of controversy and criticism Morphe is now facing, we cannot forget that many people’s lives were severely impacted by its downfalls. Mass layoffs are extremely hard to cope with when done correctly. Morphe couldn’t have executed their mass layoffs any worse. Morphe has left dedicated employees without a job and in 2023 many cannot afford to have a pay gap or any type of lost wages. Morphe employees should have been told that morphe stores were closing so they could prepare. Many speculate the brand kept them out of the loop to ensure that they would have those final employees to close the stores down.
Not only is this a selfish and mean move for Morphe to do but I’m sure enough employees would have stayed because Morphe employees from the consensus I see on social media, loved their jobs. For many working at Morphe was fulfilling their passion as makeup lovers. And even though Morphe had some major issues and downfalls there was a time when it was extremely exciting and fun to be a part of the Morphe brand. A lot of people have suffered from the downfall of Morphe and we have to remember them as we discuss the brand and its future or lack thereof.
There is plenty of good, plant-based makeup brands you can buy from that would be better for you and your wallet than Morphe. ELF is an extremely popular vegan makeup brand that is super affordable. Many drugstore brands are finding their stride recently with some solid formulas and affordable pricing. Morphe is known for more artistry style makeup, filled with lots of colors and packed with pigment. Don’t forget the influencers that once boosted Morphe, not only still exist but many of them have a brand of their own you can purchase from that have a similar payoff. Nikkitutorials has launched not only her makeup line but her skincare line. Nikki is known for her stunning colorful looks and she created a line that reflects that passion. She is an example of someone you can purchase from if you will miss the colorful Morphe palettes.
The future for Morphe is currently unknown. Some are speculating that this will be the brand’s downfall and we can expect to see less and less of Morphe until it is gone. Morphe might have a re-brand in the works but no one knows at this time what direction is that Morphe will take. After how the brand dealt with the mass layoffs it’s safe to say that they have lost most consumer support. Is this the final fall of the infamous Morphe Brand? Only time will tell.