It’s the 21st century. Creating products that are inclusive and welcoming to all races is something that shouldn’t be revolutionary. But that’s exactly what Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty was to a lot of people: revolutionary. Launched in September 2017, the brand was meant to be a place where all makeup users could finally find shades that fit them, regardless of their skin tone. One of the first products released was the “Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation”, which came in 40 shades and encompassed a wide range of skin tones.

The makeup’s tagline, “Foundation for all”, was no doubt a dig at the abysmal shade ranges that many large makeup brands carry, as well as a promise to makeup lovers that the hunt for the perfect shade was over. Before Fenty, makeup lovers of color were forced to mix different shades to get the correct undertone, or chance ordering darker shades of foundation that weren’t carried in store. Beauty YouTubers have been calling out brands for years, questioning why they couldn’t offer palettes that truly reflect the vast diversity of skin tones that exist.

In the two years since its initial launch, Fenty has continued to keep women of color in mind when creating products and advertising. Ads mostly feature models of color and Rihanna herself has even posed for promotional material. Stories of women being able to find their true match for the first time have surfaced on social media, and beauty companies soon began carrying at least 40 shades of makeup – and some even carry more than that.

Not everyone is following the trend…

Unfortunately, the Fenty fever didn’t infect everyone. This became especially apparent when Tarte Cosmetics launched their “Shape Tape Foundation” after audiences went crazy for their concealer of the same name. The foundation came in two different formulas with 15 shades each—a shockingly low number—and once Tarte teased swatches on their social media pages, consumers began speaking out about the lack of diversity in their shade range, as there were about thirteen ‘fair’ shades released and only two shades suitable for darker skin tones.  Big-name beauty YouTubers of color called the brand out for their apparent whitewashing. Jackie Aina and Alissa Ashley, two prominent beauty influencers, even teamed up to create a reaction video to the foundation.

Tarte then revealed that ten more shades were in the works, and stated that this was always the plan and not a reaction to the backlash they’d received. Still, many consumers berated Tarte for even releasing such an exclusive shade range, and Tarte eventually pulled all “Shape Tape Foundation” from stores. In February of 2019, they released their “Face Tape Foundation” in 50 shades to replace their disgraced foundation. CEO Maureen Kelly has since said, “It’s really everything we should’ve launched in the first place.”

It’s important to note that a large number of shades does not a diverse range make. Beautyblender, a company known for just one product—a makeup sponge—released their own line of foundations in July of 2018. While the initial foundation launch included 32 shades, many consumers were still unhappy with the shades released, as it appeared that the distribution between light, medium, and dark shades was extremely uneven. Beautyblender released a statement explaining that there were many medium shades, which were intended for women of mixed races, but the brand still faced backlash about the lack of deep/dark shades. In December of the same year, Beautyblender released eight more shades to accompany the existing 32, but again, a launch that is inclusive from the very beginning is much better than having to add product afterward to save face.

Another aspect of creating and advertising makeup is choosing models of diverse skin tones to promote products. Stila Cosmetics recently faced repercussions for a lack of diversity in their advertising for their “Glitter & Glow Liquid Eyeshadows”, which launched in December of 2016. Since then, the brand has released shade additions and new collections, and in November of 2018, Stila launched the “Little White Lies Collection”. They released eye swatches for the products, and people quickly began pointing out that the same model had been used for all eye swatches and had been photoshopped to represent a model of color. Stila eventually apologized, saying that it was a creative mistake and that the final campaign did include two different models, but there’s no getting around the fact that photoshopping a model to appear darker is very intentional…and entirely inappropriate.  

More brands need to do better

It’s clear that makeup brands need to start creating more diverse lines of products so that people of all skin tones can happily use them. There’s a lot to consider when creating makeup that is suitable for darker skin tones, and a lot of companies either don’t put the time into creating appropriate undertones and shades, while other brands just avoid it altogether. Fenty changed the game, and now there’s no excuse for creating inclusive products and featuring models of color in ad campaigns. Thanks, Rhianna. You’re awesome.

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