Before the launch of Fenty Beauty, the beauty industry seemed to be at a stand still. Uninteresting launch followed uninteresting launch and there was very little progression in inclusion. Since its launch in September 2017, Fenty has delivered on their promise of inclusivity for all skin tones and genders, with it even getting named by TIME magazine as one of the best inventions of 2017. But have other brands receptive to calls for diversity in beauty?
Diversity has always been an issue in the beauty industry, but very little attention had been paid to it by large, white-owned brands. There is an odd misconception/excuse that black people don’t wear foundation that has resulted in many brands overlooking darker shades. The success of Fenty’s line and the excitement that still surrounds the brand shows that people of colour do indeed buy makeup, and when they find a range that caters to them, they’re going spend some serious money. It took an industry disruptor and a prominent person of colour like Rihanna to demonstrate this and show that the old norm is no longer acceptable.
Fenty Beauty undoubtedly opened the eyes of the consumer to the total lack of diversity in the industry. For many, it was glaringly obvious already, but for others, they didn’t realise the extent of the issue. Now, whenever a brand releases a complexion product, people of all skin tones are looking at the shades with a critical eye – questioning where the shades are for dark-deep skin tones, where the varying undertones are, where olive undertones are etc. By bringing out a foundation line with 40 shades (now extended to 50), Fenty demonstrated that it could be done and set the bar high for other brands to follow suit. There is now an expectation for foundations to come to the market with an inclusive shade range right off the bat – and one that is totally realistic. While it may not always be possible to launch 50 shades immediately (especially for indie brands) as long as there is an even spread of shades between the skin tones (fair, light, medium, tan, dark, deep), then you can’t say fairer than that.
Some brands have since been quick to expand their shade ranges following Fenty’s success, but now it’s difficult to judge whether brands are placing inclusivity at the forefront of their own accord or because it’s a wise PR move. The major beauty conglomerates are playing catch up, while trying to maintain the fascade that they’re still at the front of the pack. A new game has begun where brands are trying to out-do each other with the number of shades they can come out with. Fenty came out with 40, Morphe came out with 50, now PUR is coming out with 100. Does it seem genuine? Honestly, I don’t think so. Diversity has become a trend that brands are subscribing to just to say that they do, otherwise they would’ve come out with more inclusive products much earlier. Does it matter whether the effort is genuine as long as it’s happening? Supposedly not, but the shades have to be good – the undertones have to be right, there needs to be a wide range and the shades need to go deep enough. We’ve all witnessed the backlash a brand receives when they don’t make the effort with diversity, but now it seem as though brands feel that it’s something they have to do rather than something they are driven organically to do.
This couldn’t be better demonstrated than by the brands that are still missing the mark. When IT Cosmetics were asked why there were only 3 shades out of 12 geared towards darker skin, they claimed that due to the SPF in their CC cream they couldn’t go any deeper. YSL equally came out with a new foundation recently (see above) that included just 2 darker shades. These attitudes are highly disappointing – not only does it clearly flaunt the fact that inclusion is not a priority but it also highlights that there is an element of bias or carelessness that they think it is still acceptable. Such blatant exclusion won’t fly much longer. As demonstrated by Beauty Blender and Tarte, if you get it wrong your product/brand can become ‘cancelled’. Too much focus on one end of the spectrum simply won’t cut it anymore – the consumer is demanding inclusion. Even with the recent relaunch of Tarte’s defunct Shape Tape foundation (now as the Face Tape foundation) where the shade range was expanded, the memory of such an exclusive shade range left people cold. Getting the shade range right has never been more important and yet brands are still slow on the uptake.
Taking failing brands as an example, it is clear that not everyone understands the importance of true diversity. Soon it won’t be the case where it’s optional. Shade ranges will continue to improve, understanding of shades will develop and brands will have a genuine desire to release makeup to fit everyone. We have come a long way in just a few years, so the next few years should be monumental.
What are your thoughts on diversity in the beauty industry?
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