Best of Beauty 2021: Most Accessible Products for People With Upper-Extremity Disabilities

Mark A. Carlson

Beauty is for everyone, yet many products available today are still not made to be accessible to everyone. It was something I didn’t realize until being involved in an accident that paralyzed my left arm. Many of the beauty products I once used were very difficult to access for someone relying on just one arm. 

After that accident, I was regularly grazing the tops off of lipsticks when uncapping them. And the amount of time I devoted to opening some jarred items would have been better spent doing anything else. But as the frustration of inaccessible products swept over me, it slowly eased as I began to discover the ones that were, in fact, easy for a one-handed individual to use. While taking an interest in one-hand-friendly products, I realized there was a whole world of people with different types of upper-extremity disabilities who encounter an array of challenges when it comes to product accessibility

I can only speak from my personal experience with accessibility based on my individual needs with one arm. So in compiling this list, I also asked other individuals to share some insight into what product accessibility is to them. 

Christina Mallon is an award-winning inclusive designer living with dual-arm paralysis whose accessibility needs include one-step application products (as disabled people sometimes have less energy), easy-open packaging, products that come in various sizes to accommodate differing strength levels, and multiuse products such as a blow-dryer-and-brush hybrid. 

Sarah Kovac, the accessibility editor at Reviewed, has a rare disability (arthrogryposis) that stunted the development of her shoulders, arms, and hands, and her needs include products with smaller handles that fit between her toes, one-hand (and, therefore, one-foot friendly) products since her other foot is used to keep her from falling over, lightweight products, products that don’t require much precision, and products with serious staying power to avoid touch-ups.

Taking a look at what’s working is one of the best ways to set the stage for better industry standards that will one day make accessibility a norm rather than a win. Here you’ll find some accessibility successes among Allure Best of Beauty Award winners. Of course, we know they’re already winners in terms of quality because they made this past year’s list. 

All products featured on Allure are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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