Why is inclusivity still a challenge?
Makeup lovers went crazy when Rihanna released her new “Beauty for All” makeup line, Fenty Beauty, in September of 2017. Not only were her makeup products to die for, but she also made efforts to include a wide range of shades for all skin colors. Rihanna created an iconic forty-shade range foundation, along with other products such as highlighters, lipsticks and contour sticks that cater to a wider demographic.
After the release of Fenty Beauty’s foundation, there were influxes of deeper shades from many brands that were helplessly trying to jump on the bandwagon because appreciating all skin tones was the new hype. It felt like long-awaited progress in the beauty industry was finally coming to pass.
This was until Tarte decided to release the shades for their new Shape Tape Foundation, which had only 12 shades from Fair Sand to Tan Honey and only three “deep” shades supposedly created to cater to every deep skin tone out there. This sparked a global outrage, and many influencers and Youtubers were using their platforms to denounce this foundation and clearly send a message that in the beauty community, exclusion is not welcome.
People of color can’t be relegated to one or two shades; they come in a full spectrum with undertones from light and olive to deep and cool. Fenty didn’t just offer 40 shades, but rather 40 shades that covered the full spectrum of the world community and paid attention to undertones in a way that many brands have not.
The truth is that the beauty industry needs more diversity overall, not just in their representation in the makeup color range itself. More people of color should be involved in chemistry labs and production, marketing, and in representing makeup brands, from spokespersons to ambassadors.
The marketing efforts from a majority white executive board of any makeup brand appealing to an African-American audience has historically not been received well, as proven by the backlash on social media. In order for makeup to be a true fit, as many try to proclaim in their marketing ads, companies need to know what people of color need, and who better to create that than someone of color. It doesn’t help when that same makeup brand only has one or a few deep shades, compared to the vast choices from which lighter-skinned women get to pick.
My only hope is that brands realize this and in the future become more inclusive to minorities and people of color in the beauty industry business. The fact that it took Rihanna stepping in to open brands’ eyes to the millions of people they were excluding is not something that should go unmentioned. Inclusivity should have been a given from the beginning. Beauty experts point out that the major problem is that brands treat people of color as a different consumer group. Karen Chambers, director of Product development at Iman Cosmetics, states that “brands often divide skin tones into two categories: ‘general’ and ‘ethnic.’” Many makeup companies choose not to provide a wider range of shades because they believe that the darker shades will not sell. The truth is that women of color spend twice as much on skincare as any other consumer. Black women spend nearly eight-billion dollars on beauty products every year.
It is important that we continue to address these issues, as no one should have to struggle when it comes to finding the right beauty products. Beauty companies can, and need, to do better to support people of color who buy their products.