The public saw the first dramatic manifestation of inclusiveness in 1989 when Vogue magazine first published the black model Naomi Campbell on the cover. This event became a landmark and marked the beginning of an inclusive movement in the fashion and beauty industries. Six shades of foundation and three colors of concealer – this sounds very modest in 2020. In addition, the world is dominated by diversion – “beauty for all” means “for people of any gender and skin color.” However, inclusiveness only gained widespread popularity in 2017, when singer Rihanna launched her own cosmetics brand with 40 shades of Fenty Beauty foundations. The wild success of Fenty Beauty is a pretty compelling example of how important it is to eradicate colorism in the beauty industry.
While several brands, including M.A.C. and Make Up For Ever, positioned themselves as inclusive long before Fenty Beauty, the launch of Rihanna’s cosmetics line was a real milestone of inclusiveness in the beauty industry. In tandem with the largest luxury goods maker, LVMH, Rihanna has been able to draw public attention to the long-standing problem of the non-representativeness of people of color.
At that time in 2017, most brands in the industry did not have products designed for a non-typical North European appearance in their lineup, thus ignoring more than 30% of the U.S. and European population. Opening the eyes of the industry to a huge unsaturated market, Fenty Beauty pioneered the so-called “Fenty effect” – a phenomenon in which dozens of cosmetic brands began to expand their lines. Forty shades have become the new standard in the industry. Early adopters included Kylie Cosmetics, Jecca, Too Faced, Bobbi Brown, Dior, and Lancome.
A big plus of the Kylie Jenner brand is an instant reaction to trends. For example, when everyone started talking about inclusive makeup, 35 shades of concealers appeared in the assortment. While the foundation niche is already occupied by other brands, concealers in such a variety of colors are rare. The lightest shade in the palette is called pearl, and the darkest is cocoa. Philadelphia-based “Pound Cake” brand creator Camille Bell is also fighting for equality in makeup. She pays special attention to lipsticks, which are created individually to match the color of the skin.
Another good example is the M.A.C. cosmetics brand – from the very beginning, M.A.C. cosmetics have been created for people with different skin tones. Studio Fix’s flagship fluid foundation is available in over 40 shades, and in addition, the brand is constantly supplementing and updating the palette. Make Up For Ever can also be considered a brand with a wide range of foundation hues. In 2017, the brand announced an expansion of its Ultra H.D. tonal range. Now it is available in 40 shades with red and yellow undertones. The Blend In, Stand Out advertising campaign, with the participation of models, makeup artists, and influencers with different skin colors, was very indicative of the brand’s willingness to attribute to the issue of colorism.
At first glance, it may seem like the market is already overflowing with new niche-inclusive brands. However, more traditional brands in the industry still have a lot of work to do to adjust their strategies to the new reality. Levy (2020) states that “makeup brands like Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Tarte Cosmetics, I.T. Cosmetics and BeautyBlender have faced swift backlash for limited shade ranges that excluded non-white people” (para. 10).
Another important point is that the big players in the industry are quite clumsy – especially when it comes to sales. There is always a risk of failure in offering something fundamentally new, which really big brands cannot afford. Thus, “atypical” people continue to advertise all the same cosmetics for wealthy white buyers, which points out that the issue of colorism has not been resolved with the introduction of more foundation hues. Brands are ready to change names and slogans, but they are not ready to introduce rare shades and textures into the assortment, which are not necessary for everyone.
Levy, G. (2021). The makeup industry is still failing people with dark skin. Global News. Web.