Makeup companies shelve diversity

A makeup display at a Shoppers store in Oshawa showcases shades catered to only a fair-skinned audience. Photo credit: Soyra Mokashi

A display of Maybelline foundation at a store in Oshawa, Ont. featured a poster of racially diverse models of four different skin tones and foundation bottles of contrasting shades, suggesting that Maybelline’s Fit Me foundation line offers shades ranging from very light to very dark.

Fit Me foundation is advertised as having 40 different shades. However, the actual makeup display underneath the ad only showcased shades suited for a very fair complexion to a light tan, at best.

There is a disconnect between what the masses are shown in ads and what is actually available.

In 2017, Rihanna launched Fenty Beauty, a brand known for its inclusivity across all skin tones. This introduced the makeup industry to ‘The Fenty Effect’ which had multiple well-known brands rushing to release a wider selection of shades in order to match Fenty.

Prior to Fenty, lesser known brands did offer a range just as wide but the brand’s ever-increasing sales, which made 72-million in its first month, served as a wake-up call to the industry.

Brands started to launch new shades for economic gain. Some brands added only a few shades but advertised differently.

Something that should ideally be the norm was only set into course after the threat of economic competition. This goes to show that brands, or rather the individuals calling the shots, only care enough to make changes to the norm if the move is monetarily profitable.

The products are only going to be profitable if they are displayed in stores and sold on shelves where consumers are able to buy them.

According to a report titled ‘The Future of Beauty’ published by Nielsen Global Connect, an information, data and measurement firm based in New York, the number of facial cosmetic colours available in the market has grown 22 per cent in the last five years, surpassing the general pace of new product development in facial cosmetics by 7 times.

The proven demand seems to be met by a seemingly sufficient supply by popular names like MAC, Sephora, NARS and, of course, Fenty to name a few.

In January 2018, Tarte released their Shape Tape foundation in 15 shades, out of which only three catered to darker skin tones. Not even the model used for the ad, arguably used to represent diversity, would have been able to find a true match.

Some time later, a few more dark shades were added but only available online, making it difficult to find a true match because one cannot accurately swatch and compare a shade over a screen.

A diverse ad campaign put together by a handful of select people means nothing if those products are not reaching the market.

The whole point of expanding the range of products is so people of colour are able to shop items suited to their skin easily. If the products are still not available in all stores, it defeats the purpose.

True diversity will happen when variety is considered a norm and not news, when no matter the brand or the store, makeup displays make room for all the skin tones the world has to offer.