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Essay: The Lack of Inclusiveness in Makeup: Why Racial Diversity Matters

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  • Published: 1 October 2019*
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  • Words: 824 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 4 (approx)

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I’ll skim the shelves of the cosmetics sections in a drug store, and the first thing I notice is the range of colors. There are many shades. Many shades of light beiges, light tans, and more light. When I hold out my arm to each bottle, trying to find a match to the color of my skin, I do not succeed. Even their deepest shade is too light.

Makeup companies have failed to consider racially diverse consumers in their products. Many brands sell products that only cater to people with fairer skin tones. High end expensive makeup brands like Estee Lauder and Benefit do not include a lot of products that cater to darker skin tones. Their products can include darker tones, but the selection is small and has no range. Even the darkest shades of their makeup are still too light. Companies overall are not inclusive of people of color. There is a lack of representation of people of color with darker skin tones in their products.

Endorsers in makeup advertisements, who are predominantly women, usually are white. In the rare cases that a person of color is featured in these advertisements still hold eurocentric features of light skin tones. It is rare to see someone that looks like me in those kinds of advertisements. Although advertising attempts to include racially diverse consumers, they fail to consider black and brown people who are underrepresented. It is like they are completely left out, or not considered at all in advertisements. It can be a struggle for women to find the shade that matches their complexion when shopping for makeup. This underrepresentation can cause women to feel excluded from the makeup community.

However, the lack of inclusiveness has changed recently in September of 2017. Fenty Beauty, a makeup line released by music artist, Rihanna, is the first truly inclusive makeup line. Her line offers 40 different foundation shades, skin colored makeup used to apply to the face,  and includes wider ranges of shades that are suitable towards any skin complexion. She released a statement regarding her makeup line saying that she wanted to have something for really dark girls, really light girls, and for girls who are in between. She stated that everyone should be able to feel beautiful, and with Fenty there is something for everyone.

After Rihanna’s release of Fenty Beauty was announced a huge success, other major makeup companies had also released their own take on inclusive makeup. Companies were inspired to expand their ranges and create products catering to a more diverse group of consumers. Some companies, although they were lesser known, even claimed to already have had a wide range of products catering to all skin complexions. It was not until very recently that makeup brands have expanded their selection of shades to promote and campaign for diversity.

Another aspect that makeup companies succeed to exclude in their inclusiveness is gender. Society has labeled makeup as a woman’s domain. Advertising targets only women to buy their makeup. It is rare that I see male figures endorsing cosmetics in advertisements, therefore their audience assumes that it is only socially acceptable for women’s use. Although makeup is not only for women, cosmetic companies have failed to include representation of men in the community. However, the use of social media has changed the beauty industry’s marketing for makeup.

Social media has changed people’s perspectives on what is acceptable in the beauty industry regarding gender. In the past couple of years, social media content has been flooded with makeup videos filmed by males. The content of these videos range from tutorials to makeup reviews. Some videos are even sponsored by the companies themselves, meaning they are being paid to promote their products on their channels. This trend has grabbed the attention of makeup companies who realize that the demand of makeup by males are going up, so these companies must change their marketing strategy. Social media platforms such as YouTube and Instagram served as an outlet for males to break gender norms and express themselves using makeup.

James Charles, a highschool student, posted pictures and videos of his makeup on YouTube and eventually went viral. His work was noticed by a well-known makeup company, CoverGirl. James Charles became CoverGirl’s first CoverGuy. He shot commercials promoting a new mascara line that was broadcasted on television. James Charles is not the only male figure in the makeup industry. There are many other male makeup icons on social media that have similar experiences, such as Bretman Rock and Manny Mua. Including men in makeup advertisements add more representation promotes social acceptance of all genders to participate in the beauty industry and shapes makeup into a genderless concept.

The makeup industry, overtime, has evolved to be more inclusive of all races and genders, which is what the industry should look like. The industry should make everyone feel included, and should be easily accessible.

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