As brands have released statements over the last week, along with follow-up statements about where they’re positioned today and what steps they’re taking to commit to more equality and inclusivity as brands, I thought I’d share some ways I feel the beauty brands, and to some degrees, the community itself. I’m really looking forward to seeing if and how brands implement the changes they’re committing to in the next six-, 12-, and 18-months.
I previously shared how the language of the beauty needs to change, and I also detailed areas where complexion products could use further improvement or “next steps” to go beyond just offering 40 shades in a single formula.
First, here are some changes to look out for (and hold brands and retailers accountable for) based on commitments made this week:
L’Oreal has finally issued an apology to Munroe Bergdorf, and now, we will see her take a seat on L’Oreal UK’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board to advocate for Black, trans, and queer voices in the beauty industry. They also donated €50,000 to Mermaids Gender and UK Black Pride.
Glossier issued one of the strongest responses with an initial $500,000 donation across organizations fighting against racial injustice, but they will also allocate $500,000 available as grants to Black-owned beauty businesses (which they’ll provide more details on this month). The latter will go a long way to long-term, ongoing change.
Anastasia is also committing $1 million with an initial $100,000 donation and is working on specific initiatives to “support Black-owned businesses and artists in the beauty industry” going forward. ColourPop has donated $50,000 and will donate an additional $250,000 going forward. There are many beauty brands who have made unspecified donations and donations from $5,000 to $50,000, so I’ve only called out some of the higher donation amounts.
Violet Grey has committed to stocking all shades in the complexion products they stock on their website, rather than a curated shade range (sometimes as ridiculous as 5 of 15 shades available). This morning, SpaceNK said they’ll only provide testers for brands that have all shades displayed, and those who have a more edited display will have samples upon request for all shades. What I like about SpaceNK’s decision is that it acknowledges how important accessibility is, especially in-store, to be able to see and try your shades.
Sharon Chuter, founder of UOMA Beauty, started #pulluporshutup (documented for easy access @pullupforchange) to push brands to share where they are today so that the community can hold them accountable going forward in a more transparent way. #pulluporshutup is less of a “gotcha” moment as it is a more measurable way to hold brands accountable, despite percentages only telling a partial story–how brands treat their BIPOC employees, the types of policies they have, whether there are glass ceilings for BIPOC, etc. are all more important than having “good” numbers.
Here’s why Sharon created this campaign, from an interview with Essence:
“I want to make it clear that this isn’t about bullying brands, it’s not an exercise in naming and shaming. This is a wake-up call. It’s saying, there is a problem,” she continues. “Thank you for your monetary donations, but we have to go back to the root cause, we have to go back and look at the overall system of oppression that has lasted for 400 years. We have to be cognizant of that. For the first time the world is listening, people are partnering with us at mass—we have the opportunity to make a long term change for future generations.”
A lot of the brands that “pulled up” shared their plans to create a more diverse workforce. This has ranged from putting together diversity councils/boards, consulting with diversity experts on corporate policies (like recruitment, training, etc.), investing in internships and mentorships. Brands that already wanted a diverse workforce but have not yet achieved it, they’ll need to dive into why and look into the hiring process, where they’re recruiting from, and if there are biases within corporate culture that they need to address.
Here’s how Sharon sees phase two of Pull Up or Shut Up, from an interview with Cosmopolitan:
“My push for phase two is that we need to set up independent diversity boards made of all people of marginalized groups,” says Chuter. “They will be charged with implementing true policies for change, documenting this, working with the companies to ensure their staffs are diverse and that those people are protected.”
Suggestions for Change
Here are four ways brands could do better going forward that would be effective with what I’d expect is “little” effort compared to implementing long-term policies that address the system beauty operates in. These are on top of my suggestions for how complexion still needs to change.
Improve product diversity at all levels.
This means going beyond more inclusive shade ranges in foundation and concealer. It means that offering one highlighter or one bronzer shade is not enough. Too Much Mouth has a recent follow-up video on the latest bronzer releases and how they appear on deeper skin, which comes a few months after a prior update on the state of “bronzers for dark skin.” Nyma Tang also has an excellent video on products from 2019 that failed POC.
- Benefit Box o’ Blushes — very light-leaning range, but that’s been Benefit’s MO for a long time
- Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow — needs more than two variations
- Clinique Flower Pop Bronzer/Highlighter — one light shade for each formula
- Hourglass Ambient Lighting Bronzer — four shades that are light to medium in depth
- ILIA Nightlite Bronzing Powder — two shades, neither are deeper
- L’Oreal True Match Lumi Bronze It — three shades, all in the light to mid-tone depth (“Deep” is not very deep)
- Lilah B. Bronzed Beauty — one shade
- MAC Next to Nothing Bronzing Powders — limited edition formula but a pattern where MAC launches a light and more medium bronzer shades but rarely anything deep (their regular range is lacking in depth as well)
- Marc Jacobs Glow Stick Illuminator — a lot of readers love it, but it only comes in one shade
- Marc Jacobs O!Mega Bronzer — three shades but all are on the lighter side
- Natasha Denona Mini Bronze & Glow — one shade of bronzer for all (plus, brand’s swatches are so off)
- Tarte Amazonian Clay Bronzer — two shades, neither are deeper
- Tom Ford Soleil Glow Bronzer — more golden and more redder light-medium options but lacking in depths (same for the regular line)
- Urban Decay Beached Bronzer — two shades, neither are deep
There are some brands who have better than average ranges, and categories like bronzer have seen definite improvements in the last two years but many brands have not seen fit to expand there. “Better” is really relative to how short most ranges are, though, in most cases below.
- Anastasia Bronzer — six shades (I haven’t seen them in person)
- Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Highlighters — 12? or more permanent shades
- Becca Sunlit Bronzer — five shades; room for deeper depths
- Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter — 7 shades, and it is the type of product I really wouldn’t have expected to have that many shades (but it could go cooler and deeper as a whole)
- Fenty Beauty Freestyle Cream Bronzer — 7 shades but a mix of bronzer + contour shades, could use more shades for both
- Fenty Beauty Killawatt Highlighters — several duos + singles
- Fenty Beauty Sun Stalk’r Instant Warmth Bronzer — 7 shades, but I heard several Black YouTubers mention that it didn’t go as deep or as inclusive as they had hoped (see Nyma Tang try it here)
- Kosas Color & Light Palettes — offering a low and high intensity version of each duo so the “story” works on more skin tones
- Kosas Sun Show Baked Bronzer — has one of the deeper bronzers available at Sephora (but only three shades in total)
- MAC Powder Blush — a range that has had shades that work across skin tones and undertones for as long as I can remember
- Make Up For Ever Artist Face Color — extensive range of blushes (could be expanded for highlighter/bronzer/contour)
- NARS Blush Powder — like MAC, it’s also a range with a variety of depths and undertones that serve a variety of complexions
- NARS Bronzing Powder / NARS Matte Bronzing Powder — four shades but has room for improvement
More Inclusive Color Stories
Brands can still release shades that work better on lighter complexions, but it’s about pushing brands to ensure that they’re creating products that fit a color story that works on darker complexions. If you take a critical eye to a lot of the limited edition color collections that launch, they tend to hover around more of a light to light-medium skin tone depth–that’s often who they’re “most” for so those with medium and deeper skin tones are more often “making them work” rather than having the collection work for them.
This is seen readily through cheek colors launched–like launching a single blush or highlighter–along with eyeshadow palettes where several shades are nearly unusable for deeper complexions. There are several brands that will launch two cheek colors in a collection but often they’ll be very similar in depth, where it would be more useful to offer two shades with differing depths.
- Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk extensions — Charlotte Tilbury released “deeper” versions of cult favorite Pillow Talk, but the eyeshadow palette was released as just one variety (which skewed lighter)
- Clinique Cheek Pop Palettes — lack of depth
- ColourPop x Mulan / Making Mauves — two cheek colors but neither providing an option for deeper complexions
- MAC Bronze Collection — two bronzers, lacking depth (remainder of collection had good variety!)
- NARS Cool Crush — one-size-fits all cheek palette, eye palette that has a lot of light/mid-tone shades
- Natasha Denona Tan Bronze & Glow Palette — one size-fits-all highlighter/bronzer palette; something that could benefit from having at least a lighter and deeper option (in a dream world, I’d say three or four would be quite lovely)
Here are some products that have done well with readers, period, but have seemed to work well for medium and deeper complexions with less work…
- Anastasia x Jackie Aina Palette — Jackie designed this specifically for deeper complexions
- ColourPop 9-Pan Palettes — a lot of the 9-pan monochromatic palettes tend to skip obvious, light beige highlighter shades, though there are pastels included (which YMMV for deeper complexions)
- Coloured Raine Palettes
- Huda Beauty Nude Obsessions Palettes — released in three depths (light, medium, rich)
- Melt Eyeshadow Palettes — a lot of them have no typical “brow bone” shade in some form of light beige and yet get hyped up every launch (quality is inconsistent, unfortunately)
- NARS Blush Extensions — 10 shades from lighter to deeper, more muted to vivid
- Natasha Denona 15-Pan Palettes — several palettes have more mid-depth and richer tones with less emphasis than average on very light shades
- Natasha Denona I Need a Nude Lipstick — 18 shades designed to offer a “nude” for a variety of skin tones (nude as a concept in action!)
- Natasha Denona Metropolis Palette
- Pat McGrath Mothership Palettes
Do Better with Themes & Names
From cultural appropriation to exoticization and/or fetishizing of people and places to racial slurs as names (g*psy still in use, though greatly reduced in the last five years) to the microaggressions like “nude” (when it means light beige) and gendered language. If brands really create more diverse workforces and enact policies that support anti-racist policies in the workplace, I hope that we’ll see less brands make poor choices in collection themes and names. But here are a few things that retailers and brands could do right now with little effort:
- Brands + retailers defining nude as a concept, not a color. Rename shades that are “Nude” when they really mean beige–particularly in complexion ranges. Renaming should also occur for other commonly used choices for beige shades: Natural, Flesh, Skin.
- Brands + retailers using gender-neutral language in product copy, marketing emails, etc. These are often automated but pervasive yet greetings and copy can easily be edited to reflect gender-neutral language like they/them and people/person.
- Brands + retailers stop using and stocking products that use racist slurs, like g*psy. We’re so close to this one. Sephora has one product that shows up, and Ulta has five (two from NYX!). Nordstrom has 11 (most being Byredo’s G*psy Water). Beautylish has six.
Provide More Accurate Swatches on Real People
Look, I get that brands are going to edit and manipulate their promotional photos–including swatches–to show their products in the best light (literally and figuratively), but if you’re going to show swatches on multiple skin tones, then those should be real people getting photographed, not digitally darkened (or lightened) skin.
Many brands have taken editing so far that swatches from brands have are often as useless as hex-code base square “swatches” were 10 years ago. What is the point of showing swatches on three skin tones if the brand has manipulated them to look the same on everyone (when they’re not)? (I appreciate Clinique showing how un-bronzer-like their bronzer is on deeper skin tones, though how marketing saw that and didn’t go, “Whoa, whoa, wait a minute!”)
Viseart provides more realistic swatches that are still neater, like they did for Spritz Edit, which clearly showed a difference in how colors appeared on lighter and deeper skin tones. On other hand, you have a more “indie” brand like Melt Cosmetics that releases promotional swatches that look painted on and appear the same on all three skin tones… what’s the point? Natasha Denona has been criticized for similar behavior, especially with respect to the mini Bronze & Glow released (but you can see here how the Love Glow palette is quite different on deep skin).