Like most women of color, I grew up not seeing myself represented in the beauty industry. All of the advertisements I saw growing up used white women to show their latest products. This held true in countries like India and the UAE, places where I partially grew up. In these places, if it wasn’t a white woman, it was a very fair person from the region. People of color weren’t even shown in countries where the majority of the population is of color.
There is an inherent institutional racism in the world of beauty and makeup. Not only in the advertising, but also in the product creation. If companies were only using fair-skinned people in their adverting but still had products that catered to the dark complexions, then an argument could be made that they are still making those products even if they aren’t shown in the advertising. But the thing is that companies aren’t making those products. And it is important to note that I use the word products instead of just foundation or concealer. Everything from blush to lipstick needs to be fitted for dark complexions. A bright pink blush will not look the same on every skin tone, a blush that works on fair skin risks looking ashy on dark skin. Lipsticks need to make more pigment in them for darker complexions because we have more pigmented and darker lips, to begin with. Contour products are not a one shade fits all. We need more pigmented products because we start with a darker base, so something that shows up well on fair skin won’t show up on our skin with the same amount of product.
Beauty brands have this obsession with only catering to white people’s needs. Catering to darker complexions has never been a brands priority.
That was until Fenty Beauty launched.
With Fenty’s first launch, they had 40 shades of foundation. Not 40 shades of beige, but 40 shades that included everyone. From the fairest skin to the darkest skin could find their shade. With this, Fenty launched their Match Stix with a wide verity of contour and highlight shades. As well as their iconic highlighter, “Trophy Wife,” which looks amazing on darker skin tones.
Now few brands have had an inclusive range before Fenty, such as Makeup Forever and Cover FX, but these brands have always been viewed more as professional makeup brands and not everyday consumer brands. Fenty was the first brand that in their opening launch had 40 shades and made themselves very clear that they were a brand for an everyday person and not just for professionals.
Now, how did Fenty change the game? Today, brands get called out for not being inclusive. Just a few years ago, very few people in the beauty community would even talk about shade range when reviewing a base product. Now it’s one of the first things people mention. In the beauty community, it is now completely unacceptable for a launch not to have at least 30 shades and for those shades to be catering to darker complexions as much as it does to fair complexions. Take the example of BeautyBlender with their recent foundation launch. Sure they had 32 shades, but it was 32 shades of beige and at most 4 of those shades being dark. See, that is completely unacceptable and people have called BeautyBlender out for it. Another famous case of this was with Tarte’s Shape Tape Foundation. They launched with a pathetic range of just 15 shades. After enough people had commented on the range the company went back and added more shades.
All of this calling brands out only started after Fenty launched with 40 inclusive shades. Women of color saw, for one of the first times, that it is totally possible to cater to darker complexions. And now we want every brand to do it every time. Before Fenty, as a woman of color, I had very few options on where to buy base products from. But now with the hard push of having brands be inclusive to all people I’m not as limited. We still have a long way to go, I haven’t even touched on drugstore brands. But the more we as a community call out the pathetic shade range the more they and other brands will understand that we are just as important as fair complexions and deserve to always be included.