On Diversity In The Beauty Industry (From A White Girl)

Finding the right foundation is hard. I always struggle to get it just right, as I have to make sure I get one that’s not too yellow, but not too pink; it shouldn’t turn me badly-spray-tanned orange or jaundice yellow. On the other hand, I can’t have my complexion products turning me into a ghost, either. It’s difficult, but I’ve always been lucky enough to have a wide range of choices when it comes to foundation. Almost every brand, from the cheapest of drugstore brands to the higher end luxury ones, carry at least four or five shades that could potentially match me. So, while foundation matching is stressful, I’ve always come away with something that works. There are always an abundance of creamy beiges, pale nudes, or light ivories for me to choose from. But something that has recently been called to my attention is that while there is always an excess of light to medium shades, there is a glaring deficit in the amount of darker shades most brands carry.

It always seems to be that companies provide a wide range of complexion products in various undertones for those who fall under the light to medium spectrum, and then feel that they can throw in a one or two token dark shades and tout their “diversity.” But they don’t capture the nuances and utter beauty of deeper skin tones; dark skin can have red undertones, golden undertones, or even an olive tone to it. There’s a richness and pigment that a lot of brands fail to formulate correctly, and often times, they just don’t even bother trying.

I didn’t really notice this issue at first, as lack of shades this was never a problem all that relevant to me; I always had options, so I could easily just buy my products and stay ignorant. But as a beauty junkie, I follow a lot of POC makeup artists on Instagram and Youtube, and a lot of them use these platforms to speak out about this issue. Jackie Aina is one of my favorite makeup artists and activists; she always keeps it real about brands that lack the shade ranges and undertones for her darker skinned sisters, and she’s not afraid to call companies out for it. Her unwillingness to accept these standards have sparked change -- she is currently working with the brand Too Faced to expand their Born This Way line, which boasts foundations, concealers, and powders. The brand’s founder, Jerrod Blandino, reached out to Aina personally to make sure they did the darker shades right.

Thanks to Aina and others who have spoken out, other popular brands have really started examining their shade ranges more closely. Fenty Beauty, founded by singer and philanthropist Rihanna, was created with inclusivity in mind: it’s brand slogan reads,“Beauty for All.” And the brand certainly lives up to this mantra, unveiling 40 shades of foundation in their debut launch. Similarly, Huda Beauty recently launched a line of foundations with upwards of 30 shades, and Kylie Cosmetics just announced a new line of concealers boasting an impressive 30 shades.

However, these launches don’t come without controversy. Kylie Jenner has been called out numerous times for cultural appropriation; a privileged, wealthy white women, Kylie has been criticized for stealing from and fetishizing black culture, but not speaking out for or supporting POC. Many people have also accused her of trying to take away from Rihanna’s success with her new concealer launch. Furthermore, Huda Kattan of Huda Beauty -- who, along with her popular brand, runs a successful Instagram page with over 11 million followers -- has also dealt with her fair share of criticism.  Many POC makeup artists and influencers have pointed out how little she actually reposts videos or pictures of dark-skinned makeup artists.


It seems to be a catch-22; people complain when brands don’t have diversity in their shades, but when they do, people pit brand against brand, woman against woman. Obviously, inclusivity and diversity is important, and should be celebrated. But it’s also important to make sure that the diversity brands are touting don't become a cheap ploy or a token to rake in more cash.

Rihanna, whose campaign for her Fenty foundation included models of all skin tones and ethnicities, was recently asked why she did not including any trans models in her campaign. On Twitter, she responded, "I've had the pleasure of working with many gifted trans women throughout the years, but I don't go around doing trans castings! Just like I don't do straight non trans women castings! I respect all women, and whether they're trans or not is none of my business! I don't think it's fair that a trans woman, or man, be used as a convenient marketing tool! Too often I see companies doing this to trans and black women alike! There's always just that one spot in the campaign for the token 'we look mad diverse' girl/guy! It's sad!" Diversity isn’t a trend, and shouldn’t be treated as such. These foundations are made for real people, not just to check a box or so that brands can call themselves inclusive and pat themselves on the back. Diversity is about people of all shades and colors being able to see themselves represented in a positive way, and have the ability to buy products that make them feel beautiful and confident.


As someone who has the privilege of always being able to find products that work for me, I know that I can use that privilege to hold companies accountable so they can start making products for people of all skin tones. I won’t buy from companies that don’t have products that can work for everyone. Even if you have a shade for me, if you don’t have a shade for my darker friends, I don’t want to support you. The lightest of light and the darkest of dark should all have the ability to find products that work for them. Everyone should be able to see themselves reflected in campaigns and advertisements. The world is not one color, and never will be; it’s time for beauty brands to catch on to that and start making a change.


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