The Ugliness of the Beauty Industry

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Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.

From all angles, we are fed one particular image of beauty: Light skin, straight hair, stick-thin physique… you know the story. This societal ‘norm’ has been accepted for far too long, and from a lack of representation in beauty advertising, to a lack of products available for darker skin tones, women of colour have been let down by the entire industry. Are things beginning to change?

According to independent publisher Raconteur, 61% of women in the UK were unable to find their foundation match in 2016, and women with darker skin tones were often forced to pay a staggering 70% more for a foundation from specialist ranges. Unacceptable? Completely. Unbelievable? Not quite. There is still a vast amount of progress to be made, but in the last year, the beauty industry has started to take more steps towards inclusivity, with the beauty standards society has long become used to finally starting to be challenged.

We have the artist Rihanna to thank for this. Of course, she is far from the only person who has impacted the beauty industry in terms of diversity, but the launch of her makeup brand last September set the bar for inclusivity across the cosmetics industry much higher, and sending a message to makeup brands that things need to change. Fenty beauty’s tagline says it all: ‘Beauty For All’. The range has continued to receive enormous amounts of praise since its launch, particularly for its foundation range which comes in 40 different shades. Surprisingly, Fenty Beauty isn’t actually the first brand to boast such a wide range of shades, but for some reason it was the first to cause real change in the industry. Perhaps because it has such an influential woman behind it, or perhaps because it came at a time when black women have simply had enough of being underrepresented, it made an impact which other brands before it had failed to achieve. Either way, the range of shades was hugely praised and the darkest shades sold out the fastest, highlighting how much of a gap in the market there was.

Not only does this range of foundation represent women of darker skin colour, but it also highlights those ranges that don’t. As proof that Rihanna has changed the game, since Fenty Beauty was launched, other makeup ranges that are under-representative have been called out. Earlier this year, IT cosmetics was criticised for the lack of diversity in their foundation range, as they brought out 12 shades of their ‘Bye Bye’ foundation, of which only three were darker shades. Another brand, Tarte cosmetics, faced a huge backlash when they released a new range of foundation a few months ago. A photo of an arm showing swatches of each shade was ridiculed online, with one person describing the range as ’50 shades of eggshell and two shades darker than caramel’. The sheer amount of complaints received caused both brands to work on more inclusive ranges.

Thankfully, many makeup brands have risen to the higher standards set by Rihanna, including Maybelline, NARS and Makeup For Ever which all boast exceptionally vast shade ranges in their products. However, it seems to me that, in 2018, makeup products for all should not be a triumph, but a given.

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Fourth year English Lit and French student. 2018/19 Lifestyle Editor.

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