Bringing Shade Diversity to the Beauty Industry
Guest Post By Nisha Dave
Edited by Aanchal Khurana
2018 has been a tumultuous year in culture to say the least, and it would be irresponsible to say the beauty industry has been spared from the turbulence. The year has, though, birthed some innovative releases in the space, and we now have a brow pencil with five clickable shades and temporary lip tattoos available at our fingertips. Despite the launches of unique and quirky products like these, there’s one area where the beauty industry still falls short: inclusivity.
Both drugstore and high-end makeup brands have released a breadth of new foundation collections over the past year or so, and there are more products on the market now than ever before. Unfortunately, 13 options of matte foundation don’t make up for the simple fact that large and influential companies continue to fail in accounting for the needs and desires of men and women of color; Beauty Blender's Bounce Foundation and the highly awaited Tarte Shape Tape Foundation are only two of the numerous beauty lines that are culpable. It takes no more than a quick glance at the shade ranges to recognize these products weren’t actually made for use by women darker than a MAC NC42. Creating 15+ perfectly curated shades for light-to-medium skin tones, and haphazardly throwing in four darker shades (tops) at the end of a line, translates a very clear message to WOC (women of color) and fair consumers on the opposite end of the spectrum: our products aren’t made for you.
To see a revolutionary -- and Latina-owned -- brand like BeautyBlender release a collection with such limited diversity is nothing less than disappointing. When asked about the, er, unique shade range of foundations, founder Rea Ann Silva reiterated her focus on creating the perfect shades for her “multicultural family”. Unfortunately, it looks like she forgot about her Afro-Latina, African, South Asian, and really all of her darker brothers and sisters of color. On the bright side, at least our president can probably find a perfect match (I’m looking at you, Bounce Foundation Shade 3.75 ).
Brand representatives are quick to claim the reasoning behind the uneven distribution of shades is because the light and medium shade demographics are more likely to purchase their products. But then I have to ask, how can WOC purchase products that simply don't exist?
Though it’s necessary to call out the brands that have been failing us, it is just as imperative to applaud those which do it right. POC have shopped at MAC, NARS, and Make Up For Ever for years, knowing we are welcome at these brands, and we all saw Fenty Beauty shake up the industry within hours of its wide shade range. Most impressively, Too Faced relaunched its renowned Born This Way foundation with 11 new shades in collaboration with Youtuber Jackie Aina, who was vocal in her criticism of its previously inadequate collection. Dozens of companies have popped up over the past few years exhibiting the same diversity that too many companies only preach. Brands like Stellar Beauty and Beauty Bakerie were created by women who look just like us and have felt the inevitable marginalization we have too often experienced.
If brands continue neglecting POC, then the responsibility of reforming the beauty industry falls on us. As informed consumers, we should be using our purchasing power to support brands that represent us and also continue to speak out against brands that make empty claims about diversity and inclusivity in the beauty industry. In practice, this can be incredibly difficult, especially for those of us who stand by our tried-and-true favorites, but frankly, we should channel our money toward brands that clearly show us they want our money.
By no means should we overlook the progress the industry has made over the past decade, but the fact of the matter is, there is still plenty of room for growth. The cosmetics industry, and our society in a greater sense, has reached an unprecedented point: POC are standing up for what we believe in and the world is listening. So, let’s keep it moving, beauty aficionados. We have more daunting issues to tackle in 2019, and I want to rest assured that my makeup matches my undertones while doing so.