Casual Racism in the Beauty Industry

I tidied up my dressing table for this So, I was reading this week's Stylist magazine, after a tip-off from Stephanie that she ...

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I tidied up my dressing table for this

So, I was reading this week's Stylist magazine, after a tip-off from Stephanie that she may well be featured within. The piece that I was most interested in centred around the beauty industry and the
under-representation of people of colour. I've been talking about this for quite some time on Twitter, and my girl LaaLaa Monroe wrote a great post from the heart on the matter (LINK), so I kind of felt myself glowing as I was reading! Anyways, it got me a-thinking, so I thought I'd share with my lovely, conscientious readers! :-)

Casual (or Everyday) Racism Exists

The writer did a great job of highlighting a few of the smaller, more banal issues that add up to form part of the wider issue. In fact, I can't recall ever noticing before that plasters were by default made for white skin tones, I had just accepted that colour without even thinking that it wasn't right, after all 'It's the way things are, right?' And this attitude sums up 'New Era' racism pretty perfectly actually.

Whereas my parents, and other first generation immigrants from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and maybe even 90s will talk about how they had to overcome and endure overt racism, I feel that in 30 or 40 years time, my generation will be talking about how we had to overcome 'Smart Racism'. A form of racism that lies beneath the surface, rarely presenting itself in any kind of blatant form, but it's there, working away in the background. Maybe plaster companies don't deliberately make plasters unsuitable for people of colour, but they make them that way all the same.

The beauty industry certainly has elements to it which smack of racism, whether that's through under-representation, lack of choice for darker skin tones or actual misrepresentation. A fairly high-profile blogger, who shall remain nameless, commented on the appearance of ethnic minority models in a fashion shoot, attempting to twist a derogatory stereotype into an actual compliment. No dear, not everyone above NC30 is a gangster.

Beauty Companies Still Don't Care

More and more, I see statistics about how women of colour are spending four or five times the amount of money on beauty products than white women, more and more I hear how the overall spend by women of colour is increasing, more and more I hear that our split of the population is increasing. Yet still, the beauty companies are painfully slow to catch on to this and reflect these statistics in their product lines. If hard financial numbers like that don't encourage them, you have to wonder what they're doing and whether anything ever will convince them.

The first ever foundation that semi-matched my skin tone was actually from MAC and I bought that when I was 22. That's how long it took me to find something that almost suited me, something that's most likely out of the price range of most teenage girls still at school. You might think that keeping young girls away from things like makeup is a good thing, but when white girls have access to a much wider range of tones and products from a broader selection of companies at affordable prices, you can see that it's patently unfair.

Even now I find myself avoiding high street brands, not out of some kind of moral boycott, but more because their offerings for people of colour are just pathetic. Even where an offering actually exists and isn't too bad, often the training of the staff working the counters is severely lacking, to the point where it actually begins to get offensive. Take Clinique for example, they may be slightly more expensive than the average high street brand, but a few months back they launched a new foundation called 'Beyond Perfecting Foundation & Concealer' boasting of a wider range to cater for a variety of skin tones.

Naively perhaps, I gave them a chance, visited the counter and asked to be matched. The girl at the counter 'matched' me to a shade that made my face look orange. I told her I looked like I'd been Tangoed, but she insisted that 'It makes you like you've got a tan and just come off holiday'. Where do you start? I actually replied: "I'm brown already, why would I want to look tanned?" She was gobsmacked, and kind of floundered around a bit before offering me samples of the same shade to try at home.

DON'T ACCEPT IT

You might think that I perhaps sounded a bit rude or confrontational in my exchange with the Clinique girl, but I think it's important to say it how it is. For too long women have dealt with morally repugnant issues occurring on a daily basis without making a fuss about it, but we can thank Laura Bates and the Everyday Sexism Project for actually giving us the courage to pause and think:

"Hold on a minute, that's not ok!"

It's not about being confrontational for the sake of it, it's about confronting people who do things which you find to be unacceptable. I found it ironic that as I was reading the Stylist article on the tram, a shabby looking white male kept looking me up and down, blatantly, during rush hour. Before, I'd have probably accepted it as being normal, and maybe even thought that it was my fault for having my legs on show. But no. It's not my f**king fault if some perverted, entitled male thinks it's ok to ogle me like a piece of meat. So I shot him a nasty look, one that made it perfectly clear how disgusting I thought he was.

That's what women of colour need to do with makeup and beauty too. If you're matched to a colour that makes you look ridiculous, and the sales staff are trying to convince you it looks great, don't do that annoying British thing of side-stepping the issue - just say your piece! It isn't being rude, or nasty, just tell them what you think. We can never foster a culture of learning and understanding if we just lie to spare ourselves an awkward conversation.

IRONY

I'm glad that Stylist have decided to take a stand on this issue, and give women of colour a voice. It helps that they've actually brought people on board, like Stephanie, who experience this issue on a daily basis and gives them credibility. It's particularly pertinent for the cause that Stylist are driving this, as it's a free publication so should give the issue plenty of free exposure to the beauty-loving public.

After reading it though, and feeling a bit elated that such a large-scale publication has taken the issue seriously, my heart sank when I saw on the very next page there was a full page ad for Clarins, featuring all white women. Whilst I may have sniggered a little at such irony, it also re-ingnited my cynicism. Like I said, I'm glad that Stylist have taken this on, but part of me feels that this could just be another 'Hot Topic' that they're jumping on board for now, only to drop later on when the next topic comes along.

I guess only time will tell on that one.

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31 comments

  1. Wow!! Really great post!! I had only noticed recently there aren't many budget foundation shades!!! Let's hope this changes. X

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  2. Much like the "We own them" JCrew ad featuring striped shorts, fashion's racism has become subliminal. Why is the word "stripes" in a small font and offset? So that individuals don't have grounds for offense yet mentally accept the subtle nod to slavery, racism and oppression.

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    1. Hi Nikki, I hadn't heard of this until you mentioned it. I watched a YouTube video about it though, and you're right. It's hidden right in front of our faces.

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  3. this was a brilliant post to read! i didnt think you sounded rude whatsoever. you know your skin more than them

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  4. This is a very well written post. It makes me so angry when great brands don't acknowledge that deeper skin tones are a viable market. It drives me mad that this is such an issue that people don't even understand or know is going on. I am Salvadorian, Spanish and Welsh, so my skin tone is unique, but I can usually find something that works for me. However I also do freelance makeup and I refuse to put brands in my kit that don't have shades for all skin tones because if I'm doing a wedding party and one girl is fair and the other dark, it isn't right that they shouldn't get the same product used on them. Hopefully as more and more people stand up to this, shade divercity will be forced upon brands or they will open their eyes to diversity.
    http://www.lipstickisalife.com/

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    1. Hi Amanda, thanks for the comment! Not enough people are aware of, or care about, this issue. Everybody should have equal opportunities, and when a makeup brand caters fully for one section of society, and only partially (at best) for another section, it just isn't fair. Also, if brands don't get shade diverse quickly, they'll evenutally lose out on some big business to brands that fully embrace it x

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  5. I cant believe how naive I was (am) to this issue. But you've highlighted everything so well, a really interesting read!

    Annabel ♥
    Mascara & Maltesers

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  6. GIRL. Thank you so much for posting this. It's not right at all that brands refuse to sell darker shades of foundation that are suitable for darker skin women. The first time I ever found my perfect shade of foundation and concealer was from mac and I've noticed many other brands who only carry limited shades of foundation and concealer but they're always very fair shades.
    Another issue that I've heard many times is that makeup brands tend to ignore a lot of women of color bloggers- they tend to grt less samples and opportunities than non-woc bloggers.

    themakeupleague.blogspot.com

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    1. Hey Liz, thank for reading and commenting. MAC seem to do a decent job of it actually, but I cant' understand why other brands don't follow suit. Even if their previous offerings in the darker shade ranges flopped, but if so, maybe they ought to look at the quality of the products instead of just writing us off!

      Also you're right on that second point, women of colour generally receive far less opportunities in the blogging world. I find it sad that brands and their PRs tend to forget about non-white people.

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  7. It's sad that the white beauty myth is still prevalent in the beauty industry. 20 years ago makeup artists were asking to see diversity in models and makeup. Very few brands have embraced all the global shades of beauty. So many brands have 20 shades of beige but none for dark skin. And (as a pale white girl), I've had to delicately explain to people that me being unable to find a foundation match, while a pain, isn't the same as a woman of color being unable to find a foundation match. So many ads and company do not show women of color or acknowledge that they exist. I can still flip through a magazine and see someone who roughly looks like me.

    This is why I like to support brands who are putting forth an effort. Cover FX embraces the global shades of beauty. Urban Decay has done a pretty good job. NARS is fantastic. But they're a small handful in a very large market.

    Loved your post!

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    1. Hey you! I love it when a blog post generates this much discussion - though I wish I didn't feel the need to write about subjects such as this. I think the modern generation have this 'Well, what about me?!' attitude, which basically looks at the struggles of one person and either dismisses them or genuinely thinks their own struggles are somehow worse. It's unfortunate that you can't get the right shade, as I guess you are outside what makeup brands deem to be 'normal' but you're right, you can look at most models and see some similarities, whereas women of colour mostly cannot.

      I've not really come across Cover FX before, and it's good that they do embrace it, but they're out of reach of most everyday women - NARS and Urban Decay are the same. Good, but not cheap and that's the issue.

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    2. Is Illamasqua an easier option where you are? They're not as easy to find here in the USA, but I think they might be for you? They have global shades of foundation.

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  8. I didn't think about the bandage thing either! I just always figured they were that shade and that was it. Great article lovely lady!

    Hope you're well. x

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  9. Such a fantastic post. I am constantly learning when I'm reading your blog and I want to thank you for opening my eyes to things that I (ashamedly) previously would never had noticed. That fact about the plasters is crazy too, I'd never even realised that before and can imagine so many people similarly thinking ' but that's just how they are'. Thanks again for sharing your experiences with us gal, love your blog and you! x

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    1. Thankyou! I'm glad you feel like you're learning stuff from my humble little blog, and I wouldn't be too ashamed either. Most people don't notice things until they're affected by it. Now that you are aware of some of these issues, you can make a difference, and you know where to look to see some of other the injustices that affect so many. xo

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  10. Great post topic. I've had something similar on my "to blog" list.
    The "subtle" racism is even clear by the free foundation samples that come in many magazines. Although I am a light skinned Latina and usually the color of the "beige" in the magazines, I am many times even lighter than many White women, so I wonder what % of the market do they really care to target. One of my male friends recently commented on how he did not think Black women wore foundation because he had never seen it in their shade. Although his comment seemed so silly, it reflects the truth.

    And you were right to reignite your cynicism when you saw the Clarins ad in the following page. Because that shows more of the truth: even when a person or publication takes on a stand against the racist practices, they may even quickly continue them. Smh

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    1. Thankyou, and I hope you get around to writing your post! The more that write about these topics with passion, the more people will awaken to it. It does seem like a really offensive thing to say at first, but then if you never see foundations for black women, it's an easy presumption to make - this is definitely the fault of makeup brands failing to provide a wide enough range.

      I'll remain cynical yet slightly optimistic for the time being, let's see what happens! xo

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  11. Thank you.

    www.lookwhatigot.co.uk

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  12. Great post! I really hope this starts to change, as in 2015 it really shouldn't be happening.

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  13. I love this post and it's so annoying how hard it is to find good products when you're not white. Hopefully our generation WILL be able to say that we came over this kind of covert racism.

    www.girlcandress.co.za

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    1. And hopefully nothing comes along to replace covert racism once we are rid of it. xx

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  14. this is such a great post! I've been feeling so frustrated for ages! recently maybelline stopped producing their fit me concealer in their only black shade and revlon got rid of their black shades for their nearly naked foundation. I only just recently became employed so for a long time buying designer makeup was out of the question for me and i had to make do. It makes me angry that girls of colour are have to break the bank just to find a suitable shade of foundation or concealer.

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    1. Hi Natalie, thanks for reading and commenting. Now that you're in work, you'll have quite a lot to choose from! I never realised Maybelline discontinued their darker shades, that's so unfair! If it wasn't selling well, there must have been a reason for it - why just cut it off altogether instead of finding out and improving it? xo

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  15. Good post! 💕

    Check my blog out?
    Wildvagabondss.blogspot.com

    xo,
    Jess

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  16. I definitely think there should be more color options out there for women of color. I'm quite pale, but I have so many friends who struggle finding colors that look pretty and don't make them look orange or ashy which I definitely think sucks. At the same time, I don't think that most companies do this maliciously. I wouldn't consider it any kind of racism unless they're blatantly racist like Abercrombie or something which is just heinous. I don't support that nor will I ever. Under-representation, absolutely. Racism? Not really. I do think times are changing and everyone deserves to have a wide variety of color options from any and all brands. I would not ever compare the lack of color options for people to segregation or racial hate crimes and violence. That's just ridiculous and not the same thing at all. At the same time, trying to rule a race out by not offering the same options is fucked up and needs to change. I don't think all companies are fueled by racial hate, but they might just be ignorant and sometimes that's almost just as bad.

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    1. This is what I was talking about above. Us pale girls not being able to find a foundation shade? We're outliers. We still see people who roughly look like us in advertisements. Women of color being unable to find a foundation? Beauty companies not even acknowledging that women beyond tan exist. It's called the White Beauty Myth. Makeup Artist James Vincent has spoken about it many times.

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    2. Hi, I have to say that I disagree with you entirely on racism. Racism isn't defined by how malicious an act is, it's defined by different treatment and/or rights for a person on the basis of their skin colour. Racism most certainly does not have to be blatant or 'in your face', it comes in many forms, and by under-representing people of colour and not catering for people of colour, we are immediately treated differently. Whether that is deliberate or otherwise is completely irrelevant.

      Nobody's comparing lack of foundation options to segregation or racial hatred, quite the opposite. What I'm saying is this is a new form of subtle racism, that boils under the surface. Some may even call it 'Institutionalised' racism, where it's become so normal, most people don't even recognise it as being racist, yet it is. It's very easy for pale-skinned people to say something isn't racist, but until you live it and breathe it, you couldn't possibly understand what racism really is. It isn't just the obvious, it's so, so much more than that.

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    3. Agreed Phyrra, I think I'll have to look up James Vincent and see what he says about it.

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  17. Thanks for the shout-out babe. Much appreciated.

    This is a topic we've constantly spoken about because it's one that's blantely evident in the industry. It is smart racism because they do not consider us to be a majority but look around - we really are now but they get more money out of us due to this fact, it's more money over morals.

    *sniggers at the ad* it's funny where they do place their ads, convenient. I think though it has given food for thought for people reading the magazine and I really don't hope it's just a hot topic for them but I'm always side eyeing companies cos these days we never know but great post and it's always good to have these posts out there and open for more people to read and be exposed too!

    LimaMonroe xo

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  18. Thank you so much for this post!
    This is the reason I started blogging in the first place and recently covered this issue over on my own blog and youtube channel. We just gotta keep going and letting the world know that it's not okay.
    Danniella
    https://daneyellasayss.wordpress.com/
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRHAuntMb8nv4QcJzDn1GTA

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  19. Well said. When I can I like to spend my money with people who cater to darker skin tones - like Sleek and Illamasqua. Companies who sell like 5 shades of foundation are c*nts. xx

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