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Shade Or No Shade: Are Classic Makeup Brands Genuinely Catering to Black Women's Beauty Needs?

By: Chanté White

Many of us played in our mother's vanity or older sister's makeup drawer when we were younger. Painting our faces with pretty colors turned into a love of makeup and beauty for many. Early on in our makeup journeys, the lack of range in colors, shades, and palettes hadn't yet occurred to us.

For decades, women of color didn't have the luxury of a wide variety of makeup shades to choose from. Beauty brands dismissed deeper skin tones and didn't consider the cool, neutral, and warm undertones of their skin, so walking into a retailer and seeing your perfect match was not something many were able to experience. After years of being neglected, women of color are finally being represented in the beauty industry. The efforts made by larger, and older brands like deciding to expand their product line or collaborating with a diverse team, are not going unnoticed however, they are making consumers question whether the timing and efforts are genuine or simply a way to save face.

Photo via Fenty Beauty

We have been fortunate to experience the inclusivitely of brands such as Juvia’s Place, and Fenty Beauty. Both of these black-owned beauty brands have made it their mission to cater to everyone, but especially to women of color. Chichi Eburu, founder and CEO of Juvia’s Place, created the melanin-friendly brand inspired by Africa. Eburu created a foundation line-up highlighting deeper shades at the forefront. That gesture could have easily be missed, but was significant because deeper shades were typically listed last. We all remember when Pop singer and Beauty mogul, Rihanna, launched her very own cosmetic brand, Fenty Beauty, in 2017. With 50 shades that cover each shade and undertone, the launch was one of the boldest approaches to beauty the makeup industry needed to see, making it possible for makeup lovers to see every skin tone, range, and type be represented. This type of inclusion and representation was not common for makeup campaigns.

Chichi Eburu, founder & CEO of Juvia’s Place

In 2018, well-known beauty brand, Too Faced Cosmetics, partnered with YouTube beauty guru, Jackie Aina to expand their foundation and concealer shades. Aina is no stranger when it comes to discussing the diversity or lack thereof in the beauty industry. Aina uses her platform to not only celebrate brands that make proper efforts to cater to everyone but to also address the brands that do not. Additionally, IT Cosmetics, which was purchased by L'Oreal in 2016, has foundations that have been formulated to fit the different skin types - dry, oily, and combination - but have also received backlash for their lack of shade range and recently expanded their foundation range to satisfy their customers.

Jackie Aina for Too Faced Cosmetics; photo via @Jackieaina

With the huge success of melanin-friendly brands, consumers continue to notice the efforts of other existing brands to expand and be more inclusive. The gestures don't go unnoticed, but many feel it may be a little too late to truly feel genuine. Brands that have been out for decades and should have been viewed as the blueprint, missed the mark in regards to diversity and inclusion from products to employees. This leaves us wondering about the future of those classic makeup brands we saw on our mom's vanity. There is so much work to be done to normalize living in a more diverse and melanin-friendly beauty world. However, the efforts are a generous step in the right direction.

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