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Rihanna’s Victory in the Beauty Industry Changed the Standards for Diversity in Makeup

rihanna bbhmm

Makeup was changed for the better when back in September of 2017 when Rihanna launched her first makeup line, called Fenty Beauty, named after herself (Robin Rihanna Fenty). Since it was brought to the public, Fenty has been setting the gold standard for inclusivity and diversity within makeup and the result had led to Fenty making all of the money.

From the beginning of the makeup industry, there has been a bias and leaning towards catering to white women. Skin lighteners and skin bleach were frequently advertised in African-American magazines and it wasn’t until the 1970s that makeup lines began to actually start embracing different skin tones as being beautiful. This was mostly done by black-owned beauty businesses.

Since the 70s, brands like Make Up For Ever, Cover Girl, Revlon, and L’Orel have been slowly catching up with being more inclusive in not just their advertisements, but in their products. Still, that means little if they are not in the store for people to buy.

As a tan-to-medium-toned girl with olive/warm undertones, it is hard to just go to the drug store and find a foundation that doesn’t completely wash me out or turn me orange. Going into Ulta, I once spent an entire hour swatching every single bronzer in that store to find just one that was dark enough to be a contour shade for me. I couldn’t find a single one that had enough pigment to be dark enough for me contour within either the low-end or high-end brands, that wouldn’t just look way too dark on my skin tone. Considering I am nowhere near as dark as other women of color, I can only imagine what the struggle might have been if I were darker.

Being able to swatch and test out colors before you spend your hard-earned money on it is important. Sephora and Ulta both have pretty liberal return policies, but if you order from Huda Beauty or KKW or Kyle Cosmetics online and someone doesn’t look good on you, you are shit out of luck because your money is now gone. Also, if you haven’t been exposed to makeup for your skin tone, how do you know how to figure out what works best for you? I’ve gotten jerked around by many a hard-working Sephora employee about which shade/color would work best for me and it isn’t their fault color matching isn’t easy, especially when you have too little to work with.

Fenty’s accessibility and 40 shades that can cover pretty much every undertone, truly alone it to be among one of the most inclusive, as well as being one of the biggest black-owned beauty businesses in makeup.

Yet, despite Fenty proving that diversity sells, inclusivity sells, and that people are no longer going to accept ashy or orange tones, companies are not getting the message. I already talked about Tarte’s mess, but IT Cosmetics also got caught up in their own mess when they unveiled their new Bye Bye Foundations which features 12 shades and only 3 for darker skinned POC.

Coming soon… IT’s time to say Bye Bye to foundation! Meet the most clinically advanced innovation: Bye Bye Foundation is the first-ever full coverage moisturizer from IT Cosmetics! It’s a skincare product, infused with 7 key fermented ingredients plus SPF 50 physical-only sunscreen and full coverage pigments. It’s a moisturizer that will transform the look of your skin whether you deal with sensitive skin, dark spots, visible pores, breakouts, redness and more. It’s a moisturizer unlike anything that exists. Typically SPF moisturizers with physical-only sunscreens have only been possible in a few shades — and at IT Cosmetics we’ve spent the past 2 years creating 12 skin-tone adapting shades for this moisturizer (3 Light, 3 Medium, 3 Tan and 3 Rich). And we continue to work hard to challenge this further. Can’t wait for you to try it! 👉🏼SWIPE 👉🏼 right to see IT…

A post shared by IT Cosmetics (@itcosmetics) on

According to Refinery29, IT Cosmetics has reported that while it is owned by L’Oréal, they don’t currently have access to their Multicultural Beauty Lab, “which helps brands under their umbrella better develop inclusive ranges.” However, the rep did say, “We want you to know we hear you. At IT we are working hard to expand our shade range across complexion products.” Yet the issue is that they still put out an entire line of make up that has nine shades meant for lighter skinned people and then three for darker skinned people.

Everyone wants us to wait for them to put out more shades. Why? Fenty launched with 40 within its first year. IT Cosmetics has been around since 2008. Too little too late. IT has already been called out before for being one of the worst brands when it comes to POC so this is nothing new, except now they have to listen because being uninclusive isn’t profitable.

WWD reports that Fenty’s sales in its first month alone were five times that of Kylie’s—and 34 percent higher the following month and that if this trend continues Fenty will be outselling both Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner’s beauty lines. As has been reported on Popsugar, Jenner’s brand and KKW Beauty have caught some criticism on the web from reviewers who don’t think the shades work for them. Not to mention those who feel like both of them heavily appropriate off of the style and looks of black women.

Fenty’s success isn’t just great for Rihanna, it is great for beauty diversity. It shows everyone in the industry that consumers are not to ignore the lack of shade range offered anymore and they are willing to put their money where their mouths are. Teen Vogue reports that “Fenty Beauty fans reportedly spend an average of $471 per year in the makeup category, compared to shoppers of Kat Von D who spend $371, KKW shoppers who spend $278, and Kylie Cosmetics shoppers who spend $181.”

Diversity is a multi-million dollar business and it’s time for everyone to catch up or be left behind.

And I’m sure someone out there is asking: who cares? Makeup isn’t feminist! Waste of money! Well, you can feel free to think that makeup is a waste of your time but for the people out there, men and women, who do wear and buy makeup, the reality is that this is a multi-million dollar industry that is openly and purposely excluding darker skinned people.

All diversity matters from the top to the bottom and with beauty standards that already encourages women to be lighter, brighter and less ethnic, it is important that people of color have access to products that amplify their own beauty in whatever shade it may come.

jackie aina

(via Teen Vogue, image: Screengrab/Youtube)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.