Why has black remained on the back burner in the beauty industry?
Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) make up the vast majority of the world’s population today. Yet when you walk into a makeup store, you see 50 shades of beige catering to a smaller percentage of makeup users with lighter skin tones, and there are very few to no selections for darker complexions. Although the use of makeup and other cosmetic products for aesthetic and ceremonial purposes is an age-old practice in all cultures, BIPOC still struggles to find a shade of foundation that perfectly matches their skin tone today. today.
What’s in a shadow? It turns out that many—
“Is it that bad?” you ask. Well, here is a list of some problems that BIPOC faces in the world when looking for makeup products:
- The lack of visual representation in beauty campaigns makes it difficult for BIPOC to assess which products are right for them, as they rarely see an accurate visual to compare their skin tone to.
- Most mainstream brands don’t offer or have minimal options when it comes to very dark foundation shades. This makes it difficult for people with darker complexions, such as those of African or South Asian descent, to find a shade that matches them.
- Brands that offer darker shades may not always stock them in stores. This forces many BIPOCs to shop online, where swatching is not possible, and colors may be unreliable due to variations in photo or display quality. For them, choosing makeup products involves a lot of guesswork and the products are unlikely to yield favorable results.
- Some brands may present an “inclusive” product range, such as foundations, but do not reflect this inclusiveness in complementary products, such as concealers, contour palettes, highlighters, bronzers, setting powders, color correctors, etc.
- It’s hard to find shades for products for darker skin that respond to yellow or olive undertones. Meanwhile, products marketed for cool undertones may still be too warm for some dark skin tones.
- Products such as lipsticks, eye shadows, blushers, etc., created for fair skin tones are not suitable for darker skin tones as the lack of proper amounts of pigment can cause the skin to look washed out. ‘application. Nude and pastel shades that are flattering on fair skin can appear chalky and light on darker skin.
- The problem is not limited to makeup products. Skincare products, like sunscreens and moisturizers, tend to leave a white cast when applied to darker skin, creating a very ashy look.
… The list can go on and on. But what is the reason behind all this?
A UNfair Game
Ever since modern ideas about beauty have existed, BIPOC has faced what was essentially an outright erasure of its image from mainstream media. Dark complexions rarely appear in makeup ads, storefronts, or magazine covers. To date, in regions of the world with relatively small white populations, such as India, China, Korea, and the Philippines, the beauty industry is heavily impacted by colorism, where pale skin has been considered as a symbol of status and beauty.
Because of this general preference for fair skin, skin lightening treatments remain prevalent in these areas, and darker makeup shades are rarely seen in stores, despite the fact that a large proportion of makeup users have wheat or darker complexion. This stigma of dark skin is reflected in independent brands and pharmacies in these regions.
BIPOC’s lack of representation also extends to the headquarters of these influential brands. Posted by Umoa Beauty Founder Sharon Chuter in 2020 to support the Black Lives Matter movement, the #PullUpOrShutUp challenge asked stalwarts of the beauty industry to publicly share how many BIPOC employees they have and how many were in executive or management positions.
The answer? Barely enough. As many of these brands have publicly acknowledged, there is a lot of work to be done to bring more voices of color to the table.
How Fenty Beauty changed the game
In recent years, the representation of beauty as a diverse concept has made significant progress. When Barbadian singer, actress and businesswoman Rihanna spear her makeup brand Fenty Beauty in September 2017, it was the first time we’ve seen a cosmetics brand commit to inclusivity and diversity. Stating that its motto is “Beauty for All”, Fenty Beauty successfully delivered on this promise, with Fenty Beauty’s inclusive ad campaign featuring 50 models with skin tones ranging from very light to very dark.
There was a huge stir in the beauty industry when the deep shades of Fenty Filt’r foundation were exhausted in-store and online just days after launch. For the first time, visual proof of the demand for products for dark skin tones had made itself known in a big way. The phenomenon has become widely known as the “Fenty Effect”.
Is inclusiveness expensive?
According to the owner and president of Cosmetic Science Innovations, LLC, Al-Nisa Ward, all foundation shades are created from a combination of the the same four pigments, namely titanium dioxide, iron oxide red, iron oxide yellow and iron oxide black. The variation in foundation shades is created by adjusting the ratio of each pigment – it doesn’t really cost brands more to produce deeper shades.
So why is such a large part of the market overlooked? Well, part of the problem stems from the under-representation mentioned above and, in part, from ingrained prejudices and lack of confidence among mainstream brands around BIPOC consumers’ ability and willingness to spend money on high-end makeup products. It just wasn’t considered profitable to make products for darker skin tones until Fenty proved otherwise.
One’s loss is another’s gain. Independent companies, many of them BIPOC-owned, stepped in to fill the market void that had been overlooked by most major consumer brands and tapped into the ever-growing buying power of BIPOC communities. In 2021, only black Americans spent $6.6 billion for beautywhich accounted for approximately 11.1% of the total US beauty market.
Level the playing field
Brands like Uoma Beauty, The Lip Bar, Mented Cosmetics, Juvias Place and Patrick Ta have taken it upon themselves to create cosmetics that flatter a wide range of skin tones. Hence, they are gradually gaining popularity in the industry. The Beauty Bakerie brand even hit the headlines in 2018 by numbering its products from darkest to lightest, with the darkest shade being #1 instead of the industry standard to start with the lightest shade.
In an otherwise underserved market, community-centric brands supported by influencers who are accountable to their audiences are likely to quickly gain popularity and customer loyalty. These individual brands differ significantly from traditional consumer brands by emphasizing social media and influencer marketing, as opposed to more traditional marketing formats, such as ad campaigns, billboards, and magazines. When viewers see influencers with similar features and skin tones recommending a product, they will get a rough idea of what it may look like on them and are therefore more likely to make a purchase.
Dark-skinned content creators, like MissDarci and Golloria on YouTube and MakeupbyMonicaa on TikTok, have been a major contributor to the growing popularity of inclusive brands. They raise awareness of how products from different brands in different shades can look on darker skin tones.
Golloria’s “Darkest Shade” segment involved trying on the darkest shade of products, such as foundations, concealers, blushes and lipsticks, to show how they would look on skin. dark cool or neutral. MissDarci posts various forms of K-beauty related content, like product reviews and demos, for darker skin tones. MakeupbyMonicaa recently went viral for her informative videos on color theory and how it affects how different shades of makeup look on different skin tones.
Availability and accessibility
“The big brands are predominantly Caucasian. They are quite pale. Thus brands manufacture the majority of their products according to them. Darker skin tones have yellow, neutral or olive tones. We also commonly have melasma, which means we have a lot of color. All of these factors make it difficult to achieve the perfect shades of foundation, concealer and lipstick,” says Saniya Chugh (@sanyachughmakeup on Instagram), a makeup artist practicing in Delhi, the capital of India and home to a very diverse multi-ethnic population. .
Asked which inclusive brands she recommends, Saniya listed Mac, Juvias Place, Fenty Beauty, Rare Beauty, Huda Beauty, Patrick Ta and ONE SIZE. The products of these brands, although inclusive, cost on average between 25 and 50 USD. While these prices may be reasonable for seasoned makeup enthusiasts or makeup artists catering to a wide range of clients, they can seem somewhat daunting for those just starting their makeup journey or on a budget.
Therefore, accessibility to affordable products is key to leveling the playing field for people with darker skin tones. For fair-skinned people, it has always been relatively easy to buy inexpensive makeup products in flattering shades. Consumers with darker skin tones would have had very limited drugstore options in the past. However, the range of budget products with inclusive shades has increased in recent years. Drugstore brands, such as Elf, Maybelline, Lakme and Cover Girl, now cater to darker skin tones with their makeup ranges. These drugstore products average between US$5 and US$20 and are much more affordable for the average consumer.
For many around the world, makeup is a form of expression. It is a tool that can give immense confidence to the wearer. As such, it shouldn’t be a daunting task or a luxury for people to find the products they need. The goal of entrepreneurship in the beauty industry should remain to treat inclusivity as the norm but not the exception.
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