Buying new makeup can often be a tricky, tedious and frustrating process. Many of us are familiar with the struggle of trying to find foundations and concealers that perfectly match our skin tone, don’t look patchy, too shiny, or too matte, don’t feel too thick, and last the perfect amount of time. This is a simple struggle, since for many darker-skinned people of colour, this struggle is unfairly magnified tenfold.
The vast majority of makeup brands, whether that be drugstore or luxury brands, sell products that are targeted towards a large array of lighter skin tones, but have a much smaller range of shades for darker skin tones. Many people of colour are either reduced to having to buy makeup that does not match them, or having to browse through numerous different brands before finally being able to find products that are the correct shade for them. This process is not only physically tedious but there’s also a deeper, emotional effect. By giving white and lighter skinned people far more options for makeup than people of colour, a subliminal message is being conveyed, one which says that they are not as deserving of having access to beauty as white people are, or that their beauty needs aren’t as important as those of white people. While I’m sure that this is not the intention of those brands, one cannot deny that it is the impression that is being given out.
However, in recent years, things have finally started to change thanks to Barbadian singer Rihanna, who launched Fenty Beauty in September of 2017. The brand is renowned for its inclusivity, as it offers makeup for a broad range of skin tones, as well as celebrating makeup as made for different genders. The brand’s products are also widely seen as reasonably priced compared to other high end brands, and are therefore accessible to abroad range of consumers.
Fenty Beauty’s Pro Filt’r foundation has been praised by consumers and critics all over the world, as it has 50 different shades, making it accommodate people of all skin tones and ethnicities. It also comes in two different finishes and is suitable for all skin types. The brand’s slogan is “beauty for all”, and in the mission statement on Fenty Beauty’s official website, Rihanna states that “Fenty Beauty was created for everyone: for women of all shades, personalities, attitudes, cultures, and races. I wanted everyone to feel included. That’s the real reason I made this line.” Fenty Beauty was the first mainstream brand in the beauty industry that promotes inclusivity, diversity and accessibility to all, and was a groundbreaking step in the right direction with regards to increasing inclusivity in the beauty industry.
Fenty Beauty has enjoyed immense success. Within one month of release, the line’s sales were valued at $72 million, and products were selling out everywhere, with darker shades of foundation being particularly in demand. In the UK, the line became Harvey Nichols' biggest beauty launch in history (surpassing MAC Cosmetics): in September 2017 they were selling one Fenty Beauty foundation every minute and one lipstick every three minutes. The brand also boosts almost 10 million Instagram followers, and was listed on Time magazine's list of the 25 best inventions of 2017. The success and critical-acclaim of Fenty Beauty reflects the gap in the market and need for such a brand.
Not long after the line was released, other high end beauty brands such as Bobbi Brown and MAC Cosmetics have launched products aimed at women of colour: Bobbi Brown’s Skin Foundation SPF50 is available in different 30 shades, and MAC Cosmetics’ Studio Fix Fluid SPF 15 foundation is available in 42 shades. Drugstore brands such as L’Oréal and Maybelline have become more inclusive too: L’Oréal’s most popular foundation, True Match, is available in 40 different shades, and Maybelline FitMe Matte + Poreless Foundation comes in 32 shades. Relatively new brand, Revolution Beauty, has also championed diversity in their brand motto, providing darker foundations, concealers and bronzers for extremely affordable prices.
It’s indisputable that there has been a significant amount of progress in regard to inclusivity and diversity in the beauty industry in the past few years. There is still plenty of work that needs to be done before we are at a stage where women of colour have the exact same experience as white women when it comes to purchasing beauty products though. There are also issues surrounding the lack of diversity of models in the beauty industry, which is a whole different topic in itself. But, as a whole, things are on the right track: a track that all beauty brands should aspire to go down.