When you walk into an Italian restaurant, you expect to see a menu of Italian dishes. It wouldn’t frustrate you if the restaurant didn’t serve Vietnamese cuisine or Cuban pastries, because you expect Italian food at an Italian restaurant. When it comes to the food industry, specialties are accepted and expected.
But something very different is happening within the beauty industry. Now — more than ever before — there seems to be an expectation for beauty brands to accommodate every taste.
When Rihanna launched Fenty Beauty’s very-inclusive range of 50 Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation shades in 2017, our appetites changed. No longer was it acceptable for a brand to only carry 8 shades of beige. Many influencers and content creators took to social media to call out every beauty brand that failed to formulate, carry and promote a foundation, concealer, bronzer, or (insert product name here) that catered to every skin tone, type, and texture.
I’m not quite sure how I feel about this.
As an African-American woman with dark skin, I remember how hard it once was to find a foundation or concealer that suited my skin tone. Often forced to mix multiple shades to create the perfect match, I know the pain of feeling ignored by the beauty industry. I knew plenty of people who looked like me IRL, but couldn’t understand why we weren’t worth the effort to come up with a shade available in stores.
But that’s no longer my struggle. Several brands now carry beauty products that work for me, and I know exactly where to go — both online and off — to find exactly what I want. I also know which brands to avoid. This has simplified by beauty shopping experience.
With the protests surrounding the death of George Floyd highlighting (once again) the lack of fair treatment for black men and women in all facets of society (with a focus on the judicial system and police brutality), companies within every industry are experiencing increased pressure to diversify their leadership team and product line up.
This — especially as it concerns the beauty industry — to me, is a good thing.
But, I also offer this: while the lack of beauty product offerings for women of color, specifically black women, can point to a racist leader or signs of systemic oppression in the corporate office, it’s also true that product manufacturing is expensive.
I worry that we’re walking a very fine line between inclusivity and entitlement when we force brands to create products that accommodate everyone.
I also worry about the economic and environmental ramifications surrounding the expectation that each brand’s product launch caters to every skin tone. That’s a lot of packaging!
How overwhelming would it be for every makeup brand to carry 50 shades of foundation? I may be alone in this, but I think it would help more than it would hurt for a brand to only carry 12 foundations that address the intricacies of fair skin. Another brand can focus on nailing the formulation for foundation that caters to olive and medium tones. For deeper complexions, yet another brand can limit their range to foundations and concealers that solve various problems that commonly affect dark skin, like hyperpigmentation.
Every brand with an extensive shade range isn’t inclusive behind the scenes, and every brand with a limited line-up isn’t inherently racist. I would hate to see a beauty startup throw in the towel because they couldn’t secure the capital to create an extensive foundation range. I would also hate to see the amount of waste created by a company’s rush to create products solely for the sake of appearing inclusive.
When it comes to the beauty industry, I think everyone should be seen by someone. But is it economically feasible, environmentally responsible, and socially necessary for everyone be seen by everyone? I offer no immediate answers when it comes to this.
What are your thoughts? We aren’t forcing restaurants to diversify their menus or the culinary staff. Why? Because it’s very possible an Italian chef has no idea how to make traditional Spanish paella. Do you agree with the pressure placed on beauty brands to diversity their product line to include products for every skin tone, or is a limited shade range okay with you?
Besides, if you can’t find what you’re looking for, there’s always Fenty Beauty.
Candace Alike Smith is a Las Vegas-based content creator, womb warrior, and matcha enthusiast. Candace founded this site in 2015 to help women of color reclaim their vitality. Follow Candace’s content on holistic beauty, mental wellness, herbs and essential oils, non-toxic products, healthy libations, wellness travel, and self-reflection. Green is her happy color.
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