Zu Magazine is a publication of Zu Media. Below is an article from Issue 1: Skins.
Staff Writer | Ashley Lawrence
“Makeup is there for you to play. It’s there for you to have fun with. It should never feel like pressure, and it should never feel like a uniform.” -Rihanna
Fifteen years ago, the beauty industry in the United States was tailored towards one type of consumer, that type being primarily white. If you walk through a beauty store today, you will see more shades of color represented by household cosmetic companies. The progress is admirable for sure, but a question still remains: Why are some brands still resistant to offering products for all shades?
In the last two decades, cosmetics giants such as Estée Lauder and Lancôme have attempted to include all shades of melanin: from featuring Lupita Nyong’o and Sofia Vergara throughout their campaigns to adding new shades in their color palettes and collections. But even with products like Maybelline’s Fit Me Foundation offering 16 shades, Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation in 30 shades and Kat Von D Lock-It Foundation with 32 shades, women of color have still struggled to find a shade that matched them.
Bobbi Brown, founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, sparked a conversation within the beauty industry about the lack of shade representation in 1991.
“Most of the foundation back then didn’t work. It was paint. It was artificial, and so for the models who were black or any kind of mixed race, it was impossible. When I launched the brand, I knew that I wanted any woman who needed foundation to be able to find it at my counter,” Brown said in an interview with The HuffPost in 2016.
Fenty Beauty revived the topic on September 8, 2017, when Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty launched the most inclusive makeup line yet.
Before the world knew her as Rihanna, she was a young girl in Barbados transfixed by her mother’s lipstick. The first time she experienced makeup for herself, she was hooked. Makeup became her choice for self-expression — a way to radiate her mood — and it motivated her to become the trend-setting icon she is today.
Rihanna was inspired to create Fenty Beauty after years of interacting with powerhouse brands and seeing a significant market ignored. According to the brand’s website, Rihanna launched the makeup line “so that women everywhere would be included.” The goal was to work toward a wide range of skin tones and create formulas that work for all skin types and shades. Fenty Beauty products are designed to ultimately “make skin look like skin.”
“In every product I was like, ‘There needs to be something for a dark-skinned girl; there needs to be something for a really pale girl; there needs to be something in-between,’” Rihanna told Refinery 29 in a video gone viral.
“There’s red undertones, green undertones, blue undertones, pink undertones, yellow undertones — you never know, so you want people to appreciate the product and not feel like: ‘Oh that’s cute, but it only looks good on her,’” she said. “BadGalRiRi” is producing for all shades on the spectrum.
Krystal Robertson, a nurse with albinism, which means her skin produces little to no melanin, found her perfect shade for the first time. In an Instagram post, she said, “…rethinking all the times I ended up orange … it’s a new world great job @badgalriri #AlbinoMatch.”
Her shade is 110 and that’s not the lightest shade either in Rihanna’s new line. On the other hand, the darkest shade available seemed even too dark for beauty blogger Nyma Tang, who is known for her YouTube series “#thedarkestshade.”
“I saw other dark skinned girls in Sephora getting matched in this [Fenty] foundation, and it literally melted by heart because it was so awesome to see such a huge launch, and there were girls that looked like me that were able to get matched for it; it was amazing,” Tang said.
When Fenty Beauty expanded the cosmetic industry, other brands were encouraged to promote their own spectrum of products.
“We extended the range to an incredible 29 shades celebrating diversity,” L’Oreal said. Hourglass Cosmetics reminded Instagram followers of their 26 shades that “perfectly match every skin tone.” Cover FX pushed their 40 shades, emphasizing undertone-specifics and #NudeIsNotBeige.
It may have taken a long time and quite a big push from a competitor like Fenty Beauty, but it seems many brands are getting on board the inclusivity train.
Other companies, however, have defended themselves by claiming that darker shades won’t sell.
Dominique Jackson, creator of Joues de Sable Swim, explained her own experience as an African American searching for a foundation.
“I looked for Tarte Cosmetics Amazonian Clay Foundation at three different Ulta locations. I’m not even a dark skin tone and they said they didn’t carry it because it’s not a popular color … I can’t imagine what girls who are darker than me have to go through,” Jackson said.
According to Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), African American women spend $7.5 billion on beauty products yearly. If companies ignore the calls for expansion, consumers will find other beauty brands that listen to them, like Fenty Beauty.
Women everywhere are demanding quality products that don’t compromise the natural color of their melanin. Whether you’re a woman of color or not, the beauty industry now gives more of us the ability to express ourselves through the medium of makeup. Let’s keep encouraging our favorite brands to continue their efforts to champion the beauty of inclusion.