Tarte cosmetics was recently called out on Twitter via user @urbandoll with an image of Tarte’s Shape Tape Foundation swatcheson dark brown skin. It was very obvious from that swatch that Tarte’s product offering had nothing to offer the dark brown skin tones and that began the backlash on Twitter that went viral.
Beauty brands that fail to see the wide range of colors and subtle variances of undertones and overtones for women of color will ultimately lose ground to brands that take the needs of this segment seriously. According to Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), African-American women spend $7.5 billion annually on beauty products, but shell out 80% more on cosmetics and twice as much on skin care products than the general market. Women of color spend more because brands targeting black women are not backing up the marketing with the intention of developing products specifically for darker hued complexion. What you find in many beauty cabinets are unused cosmetic products that failed to deliver on promised intent.
On September 7, 2017, the Fenty Beauty brand by Rihanna was launched with asoft-focus primer and a soft matte long-wear foundation in a groundbreaking 40 shades. Fenty Beauty was created for everyone; for women of all shades, personalities, attitudes, cultures and races and Rihanna definitely delivered on that promise with colors that cater to the wide variety of undertones and overtones in brown skin. The moment the product hit the shelves, it sold out.
I waited months to get my shade #410 Pro Filter Soft Matte Longwear Foundation. While I waited for the foundation, I opted to live without coverage for months. I knew this product would be worth the wait because it was developed with my yellow undertones in mind. I knew I wouldn’t have to mix colors or worry about looking gray or ashy. I didn’t even care if it lived up to its promise of providing medium to full coverage and was as light as air. It was absolutely worth the wait and exceeded my expectations. I was just thrilled that my needs were actually the focus of this brand and for that reason alone I was willing to wait weeks facing the world with a naked face.
It will not be enough for beauty brands to make diversity claims just by messaging and using diverse models and spokespersons to attract diverse customers. They have to back it up by actually rolling up their sleeves and making sure the development process is intentional about diversity. This means that if your makeup development lab only consists of white men in lab coats, you are probably not going to intelligently create beauty products that address the needs and the nuances of a diverse market. Diverse products can only come from a diverse development team.
Beauty brands that choose to be color blind or more accurately, color ignorant, will ultimately become culturally irrelevant. Brands that see the need to improve the product offering to all women from the palest of white to the darkest hues will probably have to work a little harder to sway the loyalty of the Fenty brand users.
About the Author
Funlayo Alabi is the co-founder of Shea Radiance, a natural beauty brand dedicated to transforming hair, skin, thinking…and lives into something more beautiful than what it was before. An integral part of Shea Radiance is to empower the 16 million African women who are picking and processing Shea nuts and butter, and connect them with women around the world who benefit from their artisan craftsmanship. She spent nearly a decade working on all-natural product formulations for Shea Radiance, with the objective of perfecting a high-percentage of shea butter formulation. Funlayo is a global business leader who speaks domestically and internationally on matters of international business, market and economic access for African women, Africa’s agricultural sector and Shea butter.
Shea Radiance was founded in 2008 on the premise that women need to care for themselves and each other. The company crafts artisanal skincare and haircare products that are all-natural with the purest, small-batch, women-sourced shea butter from West Africa as a primary ingredient. Shea Radiance promotes the power of community and empowerment for women around the globe.