Diversity in Makeup – reaction to Tarte Foundation Launch

Diversity in Make-Up

If we go back to the 1950s, makeup was advertised and promoted based on a very limited shade range. It was also aimed at housewives who had the time to perfect the thick ivory cream foundation base and pink lips. With the austerity of the 1940s on its way out, people had more money to spend and women were wanting to spend it on cosmetics. It was as if the industry was lifting the dreary harshness of war and women were literally painting on a new face.

Avon was launched in the 1950s and companies like Boots the Pharmacy were experimenting with concealer, all be it in one colour, an ivory stick to ‘mimic’ the flesh. As long as that flesh was ivory in colour. The advertising campaigns were predominantly pale skinned women or movie icons of the age, looking chic and coiffed with the look of the day.

Fast forward to 2018. I am a white woman and I love my makeup. I have no problem in creating looks with a vast choice of everything makeup related. But being on makeup brands social media and influencer pages, I recently see so many of my favourite influencers calling out brands, major brands, for their lack of diversity when it comes to shade range for women and men of colour. Rihanna and her Fenty beauty range have challenged the social norm in shade range in 2017, with the launch of 40 colours in foundation. There was a round of applause across the beauty community with this launch, and other brands are following suit. My question would be, why has it taken until now for this to happen?

A quick google search and it reveals hundreds articles written in top magazines about how to find your best shade match for foundation, there are product placement advertisements in magazines focused on top luxury makeup brands pushing their latest product to us. We can get our hands on anything we want in the world of makeup, thanks to international shipping, but still we see the diversity of makeup shades isn’t there.

Now, you may wonder what on earth I’m doing bothering to write this when I have clearly stated that I have no problem grabbing a shade to match my skin tone? The truth of the matter is that it bothers me that in an age where it isn’t acceptable to discriminate, the fact some people can’t access makeup is ludicrous.

Fenty beauty shouldn’t have to lead the way in 2018 and shame other companies into extending their range. The range should be all encompassing. I saw an influencer today say that they wouldn’t be reviewing the new Tarte Shape Tape Foundation due to the limited range, and someone said that she shouldn’t worry as another 10 shades are going to be released. In my mind I’m screaming ‘why do the other 10 shades have to be released later?’ An afterthought. If you haven’t got your entire collection together, don’t release it. It’s not OK to leave people out.

The beauty industry is worth a whopping estimated $445 billion dollars (based on statistics taken from May 2017), with women/men of colour spending more than twice as much than the general market on cosmetics. Yet the diversity in makeup and brand choice for them often leaves a lot to be desired.

At the beginning of this article, I referenced the 1950s and how coming out of a war and austerity meant the beauty industry was starting to flourish. The shade ranges were aimed at pale complexions and housewives with time on their hands. Over time the housewife analogy has faded. We read the ‘Good Housewife Guide’ with a gleeful chuckle at how funny it was to be seen as the pretty little thing your husband came home to at the end of a long day.

“Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.”

Yet the way brands view their target market still seems to be stuck in a time where this was seen as the social norm for women. It’s not OK to be objectified in this way, yet it’s still OK for discrimination to be lavished in other ways? No. No it’s not. Makeup shouldn’t even be in this debate. Makeup is fun, it shouldn’t ever be political.

I work with teenagers of over 60 different nationalities, they are excited by makeup and are enjoying experimenting with it. It’s a right of passage if you like. We grow and we want to be able to wear makeup and high heels. Our expression and freedom of that expression is what makes us who we are. Yet as I sit in my classroom and look around at the students I teach, I listen to their woes for the future and more pressingly, their excitement for the party they are attending this weekend! They are discussing their skin colour, their choice of makeup and they are calling out the brands for the lack of choice. They are telling their friends what to buy and what not to buy. They are watching the beauty influencers on YouTube and Instagram and Snapchat, and they are taking on board what they say. They are scathing in their ridicule for reviews of products that don’t diversify.

They will make their minds up on makeup and the brands that choose to comply with diversity and those that don’t. A makeup revolution is coming, what took it so long?