Dedicated to my Dear Kirthana, a fellow brown skin queen.
The year is 2020, and there is still a huge lack of representation for brown skin foundation shades. It is almost hard to believe that brands are still catering to euro-centric beauty standards in today’s day and age of inclusivity. This is one of the many brown girl struggles we face.
Rihanna did us all a much-needed service when she introduced Fenty Beauty foundation shades. This inclusivity concept sky-rocketed, and when other brands saw that they too could have a shot of that market, they followed suit. Unfortunately, they did not provide exactly what we were looking for.
I spoke to a Sephora MUA currently working in the Middle East to get an insider’s peek. When discussing this foundation matching dilemma, I was disappointed to find that whilst brands tried to incorporate more foundation shades, and they were still failing. They were releasing a disproportionately lower number of dark foundation shades in comparison to lighter ones. Even then, with these few shades, they still did not color match with various deep complexions.
She felt many brown girls, including herself, were still struggling to utilize this makeup, and money was going down the drain buying various shades in a desperate venture to find just one that worked. These were brands such as YSL, Tarte, Bye Bye, Beauty Blender, and more. There were so many ideas that were conceptually fabulous: liquid shades, stick foundations, powder. But they all were not up to par with the quality that brown women expected and thus disappointed many.
Going into further detail with the Sephora MUA, she expressed concern over the lack of brown girl influencers as well, especially in the middle eastern region. It seemed to be the only big influencer Sephora was working with was Huda Beauty. Currently, Sephora Middle East has launched a call for influencer submissions, recognizing a gap in their influencer marketing. Still, so far, it seems that the initiative is not as cohesive or particularly tackling dark skin girl inclusivity needs.
So. why is this seemingly easy to understand concept still a problem today? In simple terms, it is due to the underlying racial connotations behind the makeup. There is a connection between beauty and politics that needs to be unpacked here. In the world of luxury brands and prestige beauty, we see European models on the cover of magazines and as brand influencers for high-end products. These are the same models on television shows/movies, the same ones we came to idolize growing up. This idolization of women that we will never look like is inherently problematic. It has led to skin bleaching, hair straightening, use of colored contacts, and more.
Makeup solutions for the brown-skinned
What we need is to see is women who look like us on the same magazine covers, part of the same brand campaigns that for so long have shed light on a certain beauty ideal. Women with brown skin deserve equal opportunities as a person with lighter skin in the beauty industry. Only then will young, impressionable girls and women feel seen. Beyond feeling simply comfortable, they can be proud of their own skin. When women have feelings of insecurity stemming from their ethnic roots, then only can they truly be confident and ready to take on anything the world throws at them. This is the untapped political power of makeup for marginalized women.
Furthermore, I want to see beyond foundation shades. I want to see Kohl and henna. I want to see South Asian makeup artists and influencers donning classic buns or braids coiling with the gajra flowers. We need to see nose rings, bindis, and lehenga cholis on magazines and other media channels. I want to see brown girls reclaim themselves and cause an uproar. I want to see makeup expansion.
To end, I believe that brands need to be true to their claims of inclusion when evaluating their product. The cultural flaws of the beauty industry need to be acknowledged so that they can be properly tackled. Deeper complexioned women should know that they are valid and beautiful – no more negative, colorist mindsets.
Dark is beautiful, and I want the beauty industry to show it.