Make Up for All : Diversity of Complexion Should Mean Diversity in Foundation


Sriya Reddy

Pictured above is a line of Rimmel BB Cream, which all are in a similar shade and no options for darker skin tones.

Sriya Reddy, Associate Editor

There are 100 shades of “nude.” There always has been. Different people from different parts of the world have different skin tones. This is diversity.

There are skin tones ranging from ivory to ebony. Despite this, make up companies refuse to acknowledge the lack of color representation in their products, due to their Caucasian-dominated industry.

Numerous brands do not have accurate foundation shade ranges. Many are lacking online swatches on darker skin tones. The lighter pigment of the skin shown in samples does not provide an accurate depiction of how the make up would appear on the skin for which it was intended. Additionally, the classic “nude” lip makes deeper skin tones look washed-out and forgotten.

Art is an individual’s interpretation of either the world around them or their inner thoughts and self. Cosmetics are a form of art. Its precision and creativity can bring about beauty and confidence. But if make up is an art, why should it be limited due to race? Art is, and should be nothing less than, universal.

Brands such as Benefit Cosmetics are highly praised as a favorite or must-have for general make up consumers. However, upon closer inspection, this San Francisco-based company caters to a certain look. Their “Fakeup Hydrating Under Eye Concealer” comes in three shades “light,” “medium” and “dark,” all of which are lighter than the average person of color and are an inaccurate representation of the human population. The “Hello Flawless! Powder Foundation” is equipped with six shades of white, two shades of tan and one shade of a light brown. The lightest shade is “ivory,” while the darkest is “nutmeg.” Benefit Cosmetics thrives off of their vintage packaging complete with wingtip sunglasses and pastel pinks, giving consumers the feel of the fifties. The packaging is not the only thing that is outdated with this brand.

Almay, a cosmetic company owned by Revlon, is advertised as “The American Look,” but the lack of diversity in these products is certainly not an accurate representation of the “melting pot.” Ranging from “light” to “medium/deep” the Almay Age Essential Concealer features four shades that unsuccessfully represent the full range of American skin tones.

Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) is a luxury fashion and cosmetic brand whose “Youth Liberator Serum Foundation” receives positive reviews and is often out of stock due to its high demand. Out of six shades, the darkest shade for this product is “Beige 70,” a skin tone resembling Gina Rodriguez’s glow at the 74th Annual Golden Globes. Although she is a beautiful individual, where is the representation for Michelle Obama’s deep radiance or Viola Davis’ rich complexion?

Apart from foundation, another difficulty is the impossibility of finding eye shadows and lip products online that compliment skin with high melanin. This is often due to the fact that swatches available online are typically only on white skin. Brands like Jeffree Star Cosmetics and Benefit Cosmetics provide one sample of the product on one skin color, thereby providing inaccurate color displays for those with deeper skin tones. With growing awareness, brands such as Too Faced and Kat Von D are providing swatches of lip products on multiple skin tones to show the difference in color.

With diversity comes a variety of undertones. Undertones are the underlying colors of skin such as warms, cools, neutrals to yellows, pinks, and blues. For lighter skin, pink undertones are more common. Therefore, many companies have mostly pink undertones no matter what foundation shades. Darker foundations with pink undertones wash out people of color. A variety of undertones is crucial for a proper shade range.

The classic “nude” lip is a trend many want to take part in. To most, this shade would be a light tan with, or without, slight pink shades. This type of shade alone on people of color can easily wash them out and make their skin appear to be ashy. This is why many individuals resort to either using a lip liner or mixing shades for the same nude lip effect.

Because of the shortage of products dedicated to their skin tone, people of color are forced to spend more money compared to their Caucasian counterparts. Adding a lip liner or using multiple lip products is one reason people of color might spend more. Another reason could be because of the necessity to mix foundation shades to find the perfect match due to limited shade range. Rather than consumers spending endless amounts of money on an endless amount of products hoping to create the right shade, make up companies should extend their make up ranges in order to incorporate those with darker complexions.

However, although the majority of cosmetic companies still lack people of color appeal, some firms are addressing the increasingly diverse consumer pool through more melanin friendly products. Colourpop and NYX have cheap and quality lip products that complement a variety of skin tones. L’Oreal and its high end counterpart have foundation and concealers in a variety of shades and undertones. Apart from these, black owned make up companies cater specifically to dark skin.

Despite certain companies acknowledging people of color, the overwhelming majority do not. Fifty percent of the United States population identifies as a minority. It would be a great disappointment if society continued to neglect their representation.