Have you ever noticed that makeup within high-end stores tends to be on the lighter end of the shade spectrum? In the past few years, diversity and inclusivity have become a lot more mainstream. As the campaign for accessibility becomes stronger brands are being encouraged, through social pressure, to ensure that they are representative of the world at large.
Unfortunately, white supremacy is deeply embedded and ingrained within every facet of society, culture, and historical infrastructure. It is so deeply embedded within our global civilization that many of us are simply unaware that it exists. You may have never questioned why foundations only come in a range of various different light color shades, even though people come in a variety of light to dark skin tones.
In this article, we have a look at the various ways you can spot racism within the beauty industry and why brands are reluctant to change their shade ranges. If you're interested in supporting inclusive beauty you’ll learn how to support the accessible beauty movement and how we can help to dismantle racism, colorism, and white supremacy within the skincare industry.
Why Do Beauty Brands Have Inadequate Shade Ranges In Foundation And Makeup?
Beauty brands have inadequate shade ranges in facial makeup such as foundation, concealer, blusher, powder, and BB cream because the global beauty industry is based on caucasian and eurocentric racist beauty standards. It is quite a pill to swallow, I know. The term "racism" itself makes us all want to run for the hills, let alone the words "white supremacy".
But the cat’s out the bag and it’s time we dealt with the situation. We are mindlessly funding a white supremacist industry and it needs to stop. We simply must be agents and advocates of change.
The renowned Vogue magazine began in 1892 in America. The beauty and fashion industry’s beloved Vogue started as a high-society lifestyle journal to showcase the privileged it-girls of its time. It wasn't until 1974—almost a century later—did Beverly Ann Johnson, the first African-American woman, grace the cover of Vogue magazine.
In 1975 Beverly Ann Johnson then became the first black woman on the cover of Elle magazine in France, which is yet another well-respected women’s beauty, fashion, and lifestyle bible for the cool girls of the world. And then in May 2017, the beauty and fashion world got its feathers ruffled with excitement when Maria Borges became the first African woman on the cover of Elle magazine.
But let’s take a closer look before we get all gung-ho and overzealous with the anti-racist celebrations... Because is this authentic change? Or is it tokenism? Can we trust that cultural attitudes are changing and that as a society we are becoming more open-minded and anti-racist?
Elle first went to print in 1945 in France. And France is a particularly unique case in terms of anti-racist legislation as they hold a color-blind approach that seeks to avoid creating policy aimed at racial or ethnic groups.
However, a French racial policy in 1972 made racial defamation, hatred, discrimination, and violence a punishable crime (1). Furthermore, it provided the state the permission to ban racist groups. But, it was still a whole 45 years later until Elle published their first African model on their cover, a full 72 years after their first cover in 1945.
The American Vogue first went to print in 1892. And it took them another 83 years to put an African-American woman on their cover (2). When we look at the historical shifts at the time, this coincided with the end of the Jim Crow laws in America. The Jim Crow laws legalized racial segregation and marginalized ethnic minorities and came to an "end" around 1968.
So the subsequent years of black women being places on the front covers of major magazines is understandable. But is it a gesture of tokenism as opposed to authentic equality? In 2018, Tyler Mitchell was the first black photographer to shoot a cover for Vogue, which is pretty shocking considering that’s a whole 126 years. It literally took Vogue over a century to get a black photographer shooting their cover.
And the Guardian found that out of 214 magazine covers published in the UK in one year, only 20 of those covers featured a person of color. Not only are beauty standards based on eurocentric and causcasian ideals, the entire industry runs on a white supremacist standard. Edward Enninful became the first black editor of British Vogue—in 2017.
So it is easy to see how there are so many issues behind the scenes of the beauty industry, that affect diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility. People of color are not in positions of power within the beauty industry, and therefore their voices are not being valued or heard. This reverberates all the way down to product formulations and brand voices.
Easy Ways To Spot Racism In The Beauty Industry
How Do We Improve The Lack Of Makeup For Dark Skin?
Advocating for diversity is a great way to start. Societal pressure matters. Because societal pressure can sway the income of a company—which they care about. Up until now people of color have been used to being marginalized. Marginalization as an ethnic minority has always been a norm to suffer. And those who are caucasian (read white) haven’t noticed the issue - because why would they? The issue of marginalization doesn’t affect them.
The power of solidarity within empowerment needs to be harnessed. Empowerment is transferring power from someone who has it, to someone who needs it. And this is where solidary for those with fairer skin - namely white skin - is really imperative. It doesn’t matter if the foundation shade range of highstreet drug stores affects you or not, you are being asked to stand in solidarity to uplift those who deserve to be seen and valued.
White fragility can get in the way of digging deeper into anti-racism and coming to transformative resolutions. So ensure that you take a humble approach of active listening when discussing anti-racism. Observe when you are being triggered, why you are being triggered, and when you become defensive.
Why Haven’t All Brands Diversified Their Shade Ranges?
How Has Fenty Beauty Changed The Diversity Standard?
Although there were other brands providing a range of shades and colors prior to Fenty Beauty, no one has done it as well as Fenty Beauty. Fenty Beauty makes diverse beauty the epicentre of what they do. It’s not an afterthought, it drives their brand. Which is also why it is valued at a whopping $1.4 billion (well done, Rihanna).
Truly providing a full range of shades that suits medium to darker skin tones effectively is achievable, as Fenty Beauty is proving. But it requires mindful thought, which many brands lack. Medium to dark skin tones come with all sorts of undertones from warm to cool. And many brands just totally miss the mark (or fail to make the effort) to supply the range needed to actually meet the consumer needs of brown skinned beauties.
Fenty Beauty provides a collection that is 40 shades strong. Whereas it’s common to see other brands provide an 80% shade range of warm to cool light to barely medium shades, and then pop a few darker shades in there—almost as a formality. The dark shades thrown into ranges out of pity for women of color usually have such huge shade gaps in between them, that they’re actually useless to most women of color.
No longer can we be told that catering to women of color isn’t profitable, nor can we be told that the shade range simply can’t be formulated. If it's good enough for Riri, it’s good enough for us. Follow suit if you’re smart.
Please note that Fenty Beauty is not regarded a sustainable beauty brand. Sustainable beauty brands take into consideration the ingredients that they source, the packaging that they use, and their overall operations to ensure that they have minimal impact on our planet. This is something we believe is paramount to the future of beauty.
Sustainable Beauty Brands Owned By Women Of Color
If you’re interested in supporting women of color within the sustainable beauty industry, here are some brands that we stock that are women-owned, and women of color-owned.
Carmen Lee is a certified yoga teacher, childbirth doula, and wellness coach. She educates on womb wellness, sacred wisdom, and ancestral-connected living. You’ll find her passionately advocating radical self-care and transformational self-empowerment through sustainable beauty and self-love rituals.
Some of the products promoted in our blog are from our online store. Many others are brands we have researched and found to be great examples of sustainable, ethical, and innovative brands in their field, and we don't make any profit from mentioning them in our blog. #CollaborationOverCompetition