Considering the current racial regression – or call it stagnation – occurring around the world, it is perhaps unsurprising that black and Asian women are still struggling to find makeup products that suit their skin. How is it that, in 2016, some of the biggest international beauty brands still haven't formulated foundations for the varying skin tones of the women who make up a significant proportion of their customer base?
I say this as a half West African, half West Indian, 27-year-old makeup enthusiast who mixes three different foundations each morning in order to create a suitable base. In fact, after a recent holiday resulting in me being a little darker, I'm now boycotting foundation entirely as I'm yet to find the correct colour match (bear in mind how big my makeup bag is as a beauty editor.) And judging by the results from a new survey, it is simultaneously a relief and incredibly disheartening to find that a lot of other women in the UK share my daily struggle.
Last week, Superdrug released findings from a survey of 559 women of black and Asian ethnic backgrounds which revealed that over two thirds (70%) of black and Asian women feel the high street does not cater for their beauty needs. Over a third (36%) feel there isn’t enough guidance and advice available in high street beauty stores, and research also revealed that black and Asian women spend on average £137.52 more on beauty products per year than anyone else, including over £25 on their foundation, due to lack of choice.
Sarah Gardner, Head of Beauty at Superdrug stated: “As a leading health and beauty retailer, we feel it is our duty to listen to our customers which is why we’ve launched the Shades of Beauty
campaign. This research just goes to show the lack of products and advice available on the high street for black and Asian women, so we have made it our mission to offer women of colour the latest in beauty products at an affordable price. Since launching the Shades of Beauty campaign, we’ve already seen an increase in foundation shades from Maybelline, L’Oreal and Revlon and will be launching an additional 23 shades for darker skin tones by the end of July."
This campaign comes as a welcome development following a chain of events which culminated in British model Leomie Anderson
taking to Twitter in February, during New York Fashion Week, to comment on how uneducated and ill-prepared many makeup artists are to sufficiently work with darker skin. "Why is it that the black makeup artists are busy with blonde, white girls and slaying their makeup and I have to supply my own foundation?" she tweeted
. "Why are there more white makeup artists backstage than black when black ones can do all races' makeup?... "We shouldn't have to feel worried sitting in the chair of a professional that we may not look our best when doing our jobs, unlike our white counterparts."
Similarly, model Nykhor Paul garnered global attention in July last year when she shared her experiences via Instagram
, asking: "Why do I have to bring my own makeup to a professional show when all the other white girls don't have to do anything but show up?"
While a number of female black public figures have spoken up about their difficulties and lack of representation, the struggle for Asian women to find beauty products suited to their skin tone is even less documented. Few Asian faces front makeup campaigns and Maybelline hit the headlines
in May of this year by signing their first Asian global ambassador, Taiwanese model I-Hua Wu who joins the likes of Gigi Hadid, Jourdan Dunn, and Tanzanian model Herieth Paul. Though Wu isn't the first Asian beauty to represent the brand, she is the first to do so on a global scale. While progress is
happening slowly but surely, there is still a long way to go.
Below, we asked three women who work in the beauty industry if they feel let down by makeup brands. Then, if you're still at a loss as to where to begin if you have black or Asian skin, we've rounded up some of the best beauty brands which offer makeup for a broad spectrum of skin tones. So click on to find your perfect foundation...
Natasha Ndlovu – Model and Blogger
"It's frustrating not having foundations for darker skin tones on the high street because it means spending double on the makeup product that's used the most. I am surprised that major high street brands still don't have a lot of shades available as they are meant to be introductory brands for teens and young women in the UK who are getting into makeup. The brands I rely on are higher end such as Lancôme Teint Idole 24H, Laura Mercier, Bobbi Brown and Tom Ford. They have shades in my skin tone and are great quality products.”
Taylor Bryant – Refinery29.com Beauty News Editor
"From my research and the experience of my family and friends, the lack of colour ranges has been and remains a major issue to this day (there wouldn't be a need for me to write stories like this
if there wasn't.) As far as my favourite brands, I tend to gravitate toward black-owned companies more so than others (because I feel like they "get it" more than others), like SheaMoisture, Camille Naturals, and I've recently become a fan of Taliah Waajid's hair care products. In terms of makeup, Black Up has been killing it for a while as well as Black Opal and Iman Cosmetics. More widely-known beauty brands like Nars and MAC do a good job of catering to women whose skin tone is deeper than a caramel shade."
Kay Montano - International Makeup artist and co-founder of ThandieKay
"It's improved dramatically, though not at a value price point. The high end brands like YSL, Lancôme and Chanel all have darker foundation. Sadly it’s a catch 22 situation. Women of colour aren’t going to Boots because Boots haven’t been stocking for them so they go to Superdrug or Global Beauty Supply stores who do. So Boots don’t stock for them in case it’s sat on the shelf. It’s supply and demand, it’s just a business. Hopefully it will all start to find a flow.
"I see brown girls advertising fashion and beauty in the mainstream now, especially in the last three years. If this continues, it will actually start representing the population as a whole and that’s what I hope for."