Saturday, May 12, 2012

Makeup Brands: We're not all "Roasted Almond"

NB: 
1) The brands mentioned are not the only offenders.  2) This is a rant/observation/vexation personal to me. 3) There's so much that can be said on this topic, and this post merely scratches the surface, as the implications are far reaching. This is in no way a comprehensive argument/overview. 

Buying and using makeup is something that I've been doing for several years now; I started wearing makeup properly (or what I thought was properly) when I was around 14 years old. However, it's never been a simple or easy task to find makeup appropriate for my skin tone. I remember staring at rows of foundation thinking, where's my colour? My eyes would skim the bottles searching for one dark enough, only to reach the end of the shelf disappointed and confused that they didn't have something that I could buy. Why isn't there one dark enough? Where am I going to get makeup? I remember being annoyed. I hated going into Boots with my friends, (a lot of whom were white), because unlike them, buying foundation wasn't easy for me. It wasn't a straightforward task like it should've been. I also remember being jealous - I wanted to have the same options as every other girl. 

Fast-forward eight years and I still have the same problem. Granted, I'm a lot older (and I'm going to go out on a limb here and say wiser) but it's still the same situation. I mean, yes, now there are some brands that cater only to darker skin tones, but on the high street it doesn't seem like anything has changed. More often than not, the darkest foundation colour available is somewhere between "Roasted Almond" and "Toffee." 

WTF?

A few weeks ago, Stylist magazine published an article titled the "Changing Face of Beauty." The journalist praised beauty brands for finally offering foundation products in a range of shades and tones for darker-skinned women. I agree with some of her sentiments; she mentioned being coerced into buying foundation two shades too light by so-called "knowledgeable experts" at counters - I too have done this - bought makeup that I spent far too much £££ on which inevitably ended up unused and in the garbage, but I am uncomfortable with her overall praise and suggestion that change is upon us.

If you look at the advertising of these products, (and Yves Saint Laurent comes to mind immediately), the launch of the initial product (Touche Éclat in this case) comes in 1-4 shades that will supposedly suit a range of (mainly white) skin tones and shades. Then, some months later, there is a huge PR hoopla and an additional campaign proclaiming that YSL's award-winning Touche Éclat is now available in an additional three shades, and yes, that does include one or two that could be dark enough for ethnic minorities, you lucky people. To me it's unequivocally insulting. To me, an ethnic minority, it seems as though YSL is shouting: we decided we would let you in on the fun. Go on, buy it. We've made one that you can enjoy too. See what you've been missing. Why do the darker/non "roasted almond" shades have to come after the white shades? According to the Stylist article, it's because the technology isn't up to scratch; it takes much more research, time and effort to create makeup for darker skinned women. Because ethnic minorities are so far and few between. 

So, these brands make cosmetics for white/lighter skinned women first because it's easier. Or...or, it's because they create makeup for white skin first because it's their target market. They then develop the darker shades second, once they've discerned that the product sells and will be able to advertise and sell it to a more "niche" market. Regardless of how it's spun, the implications are that lighter skinned women are more important to the durability of the brand, and thus they will create and sell products for them first. My question is this: why not just create a product with a range of tones available from the get-go? There's certainly enough demand for it. 

Maybe then I'll be able to walk into a Boots/Superdrug and know that there'll be at least one brand offering face makeup in shade that suits my skin, and not just in the obligatory "Cocoa" shade that some brands offer, either. I'd like to be able to chose from a selection of shades from "Burnt Toast" to "Black Treacle," thank you very much. Until then, I guess I'll continue to buy my makeup from the Sleeks and Bobbi Browns of the cosmetics industry...but it would be nice to see L'Oreal or Rimmel produce a range that actually had some ethnic variety. And no, a limited edition product endorsed by Beyoncé or Rihanna doesn't count. 

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