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Why do beauty brands resist diversifying their shade ranges? (Updated 1/18)

Tarte Shape Tape Foundation
Image Credit: PopSugar

For those who do not deep dive into the beauty community across platforms and channels, Tarte’s upcoming Shape Tape Foundation may not have hit your airwaves yet, so let me fill you in:  Shape Tape foundation is coming and will be available in two versions–Matte and Hydrating–with a 15-shade range accompanying each formula.  PopSugar had the exclusive and revealed swatches yesterday (shown above are swatches of the Hydrating range; the Matte range is almost as dismal), which only reinforced the absurdity of their ranges.

Based on the actual shades available, the swatches look like they’re veering lighter than they actually will be (on the whole), either because they need to dry down (more opaque foundations really do tend to darken as they dry down, especially more matte finishes) or that the lighting itself is washing everything out a bit.  It doesn’t actually matter since the difference between oh, I don’t know, 12-13 of the shades is minor and then boom! here are two dark shades for everyone not fair to medium.  The Shape Tape Concealer has 15 shades, and it’s common for concealer ranges to have less shades than foundation, so it really did come as a shock that Tarte didn’t have at least 20 shades, if not 25 to 30 shades.  Their own Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Full Coverage has 23 shades and their Rainforest of the Sea has 21 shades (and I know this had recent shade additions–it didn’t start that way).

Updates

I think this is an important topic, and I think the response by the community (both from influencers as well as consumers/customers) has been incredible to see, so I wanted to provide a few updates that have occurred since last weekend.

First, PopSugar posted an updated article with a response from Tarte, which was that they already had “10” shades in the works to be added.  I’ll argue that the article was no more than PR fluff and worse, PopSugar had this gem in their write-up (which has since been removed):

A rep from Tarte explained to POPSUGAR that even when Shape Tape Foundation was revealed, the new colors were already in the works. Additional shades are usually added seasonally, which makes sense because your complexion tends to be paler in the Winter and darker in the Summer months (but please wear sunscreen, kids!).

No, additional shades being added seasonally does not make sense because people of color in shades beyond medium exist throughout the year.  I don’t know where that interpretation came from, but it should never have made it into print; it is the height of ignorance and blindness with no understanding about what people were frustrated with to begin with.

On the topic of shade extensions, it’s truly unclear what that means, because PopSugar tried to imply that the 10 new shades would join the “30 hues that already exist,” except it’s not 30 hues at all (and originally, compared to Kylie’s Concealer range, which actually has 30 unique shades!).  There are two formulas and each has 15 shades.  I went through, and the total number of unique shades is actually 20 between the two formulas, though I’m still struck by what a poorly done launch this was from start to finish (I’m still confused why the shades even differ between the two formulas as they do).

So when Tarte said “10,” I really don’t know if that means five new shades for each formula or a full 10 new shades for each formula.  There was also no confirmation that the 10 new shades would address the lack of medium-tan and deeper shades.  For reference, when Tarte expanded Shape Tape in December 2016, they added four shades: Fair Beige, Light Sand, Light-Medium Honey, Rich–that’s three more light shades and one deeper shade.  I recommend checking out Alissa Ashley’s and Jackie Aina’s videos where they both make it obvious why only two to three tan/dark shades fall so short.

Yesterday (1/17), Tarte issued an apology via Instagram stories, which is a short-lived media format (24 hours), and the apology is as follows:

We want to let you know, we hear you… You all know by now that we revealed our much anticipated shape tape foundation… & the final shade range that we launched was definitely not a full representation of all of you[.] It may be too little too late, but we can assure you this was not meant in any kind of malicious way.  We all just got so caught up in #shapetapenation and seeing your tweets asking for it… We wanted to get the product out as fast as possible, & we made the decision to move forward before all the shades were ready to go. We know there is no excuse, & we take full responsibility for launching this way.  We lost sight of what’s really important in this industry, & for those who feel alienated in our community, we want to personally apologize. We’re doing everything in our power to bring those unfinished shades to market as fast as we can, at any cost.  We CAN and WILL DO BETTER.

Prior to the apology, the brand turned off comments on their announcement post on Instagram. There are a lot of reports of comments being deleted and people saying they were blocked after commenting about the shade range of the new foundation.  Tarte cannot go back in time and release a full shade range, so we’ll have to just wait and see what exactly they release in terms of shade extensions and if, next time they launch a new complexion product, they actually do better than they did here.  I’m sure I’m not alone, though, in expressing that the apology was weak, shifts blame for releasing the shades they did due to customer excitement, and then putting that apology on a format that doesn’t even preserve it.

But 2018 has just started, and collectively, we made enough noise to at least get some acknowledgement of the issue, and that has to mean that their launch really did not go as well as they had anticipated.  Maybe Tarte will learn, but more importantly, maybe competing brands will take note and do better with their own future launches.  When we come together, we can truly be a loud, powerful voice for good.

 

Just perusing Sephora’s foundations sorted by bestselling (the default sort, actually), one might argue there is a trend of better, stronger, more extended and inclusive shade ranges.  Only one in the top 10 bestselling foundations on Sephora has less than 24 shades.  Of course, the number of shades is one way to see how inclusive a foundation shade range is but too often the jumps between medium, medium-dark, dark, deep, and deepest can be startling whereas the jumps in fair to light to light-medium are smoother.

  1. Fenty Pro Filt’r (40 shades)
  2. Make Up For Ever Ultra HD (40 shades)
  3. NARS Natural Radiant Longwear (33 shades)
  4. IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Butter CC+ Cream (7 shades)
  5. Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk (24 shades)
  6. Kat Von D Lock-It (30 shades)
  7. Estee Lauder Double Wear (36 shades)
  8. bareMinerals Original (30 shades)
  9. Too Faced Born This Way (24 shades)
  10. Lancome Teint Idole (40 shades)

Fenty was by no means the first brand to roll out a shade- and undertone-rich line of base product, but they’re the brand that made it a focal point, a selling point, and they’re the brand that set fire to a conversation about diversity in beauty–from things like foundation and concealer to marketing campaigns to actual color offerings.  People of color do not come in just one or two shades; they come in a full spectrum of shades and undertones from light and olive to deep and cool.  Fenty didn’t just offer 40 shades but 40 shades that tried to hit on the full spectrum of our community and paid attention to undertones in a way that many brands have not.

Here’s an example of a brand listening to customers, listening to the community, and taking care to respond:  NARS just launched their Natural Radiant Longwear Foundation, which includes 33 shades with several shades on the medium-dark to deep range so the jumps are smoother throughout.  Not only that, but they further extended their Radiant Creamy Concealer range simultaneously, which is up to 22 shades.

THAT’s what Tarte could have done.  They could have offered a solid 25-30 shade range with five shades on the very fair to fair end, five to 10 on the light to medium end, five to 10 on the medium to tan range, and five on the deeper side of the spectrum. This would at least provide some semblance of balance in their offerings without it being glaringly obvious who they are selling to.  Tarte could have then extended their concealer range with new shades, maybe five or so, and really soared on the popularity of their concealer into record-breaking foundation sales. Why would the sales not follow?  Shape Tape is one of the most popular concealers, and the upcoming Shape Tape foundation is no doubt a highly anticipated offering, so the absolutely dismal shade offering when more and more brands have been ramping up their shade offerings and dropping fuller, more fleshed out shade ranges from the get-go, why doesn’t Tarte follow suit?

Some of the questions that floated around my mind last night as I thought about the state of the community and the need for greater and continued diversity in it were:

  1. Do we just call out brands when their shade ranges are disappointing? How can we actually effect real change and not just give lip service to diversity?  Is there a better way to educate brands so that they’ll actually listen?  But maybe we want to know what brands really don’t care and don’t want to listen because after so many launches and so many of the same comments, they have to be actively ignoring the feedback, right?
  2. Do we stop buying from brands that aren’t diverse or don’t seem to care or listen? But then if a brand releases a dismal range and we stop buying, will we buy when they listen? Will it be too late?  Is there a clock of how long a brand has to respond?
  3. Should we let brands get away with rhetoric of “but we’ll be adding more shades in the future”? Is it not reasonable to expect a solid shade range to begin with and then even more shades in the future?  What does “future” mean?  It seems like the go-to answer for brands but does it really mean something? Is it a real promise?
  4. Why is there an argument that brands that don’t make inclusive shade ranges don’t do it because it’s expensive and not profitable?  Why does this argument persist? What is the basis for it?  How many mainstream, popular brands have 20+ shades in their foundations? How many years did brands like MAC, who has long been a leader in celebrating diversity, dominate the market?  How many examples of success do we have to see?  Isn’t it a chicken and an egg problem — nobody’s buying deep shade X because brand A doesn’t have it? I can’t be your customer if you don’t have the shade I need!

Here’s some more food for thought.. here are some of the newest foundation releases and how numerous their shade ranges are (but note, the composition and quality of development in the shades may not be equal).

  1. Bobbi Brown Skin Long-Wear Weightless (30 shades)
  2. NARS Natural Radiant Longwear (33 shades)
  3. Dior Diorskin Forever Undercover (24 shades)
  4. Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish (shade extensions, now up to 32 shades)
  5. Huda #FauxFilter (30 shades)

But Tarte’s really not the only brand to launch a base product in the last year with a dismal shade range–brands like Physicians Formula and Almay continue to cater toward lighter audiences, and the new Maybelline Super Stay only has 16 shades (whereas Fit Me now comes in at 32 shades). And sometimes, I wonder, if retailers couldn’t help make diversity a priority.  For example, Milani’s Conceal + Perfect Foundation has 19 shades on their website but Ulta only carries 9 of them.

There are certain brands that seem dedicated to staying under the bar, but I feel like more brands are offering more shades more often.  I’ve seen brands like Chanel and Dior, which were often painfully limited in shades, have significantly improved their offerings in the last few years (and not just because we’re in a post-Fenty world).  I say that noting improvement but not that there isn’t still room for improvement, of course.

I’ve seen too many examples of thriving brands who have worked toward being more inclusive and embracing the richness of the beauty community that I now struggle to understand how brands can release something like this, where when swatched together, it’s just so obvious to so many of us that something is amiss.  I’d like to see more brands make an open and honest commitment to doing better in the future, not just with foundation or concealer, but with their campaigns, social media marketing, shade names, and product offerings as a whole.

I have hope that the progress we’ve seen will only continue, and I know that it is through the power of our words–influencers and customers alike, as social media enables us to be vocal and makes it impossible for brands to bury their heads in the sand–that we can celebrate the brands that get it and try to educate the brands that don’t.  It’s the community coming together that will effect change; it’s that community not being afraid to criticize and openly question brands that will make beauty brands accountable for their actions.

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I’m just going to sum up my feelings on the matter: People should buy from brands that work for them and not expect every brand to have their exact shade. I can’t wear dark highlighters, but I’m not going to complain about a bronze highlighting palette being released.

There’s just such a huge, huge difference in not being able to find a foundation shade that is even in the realm of “Maybe a Match” as a person of color and a highlighter being too dark for one’s preference.

I think you kind of missed the big picture. There are COUNTLESS options for fair skin and that means options for formula, coverage, finishes etc. There are only so many choices for those with deeper tones meaning even less if they are looking for specifics. Not to be rude but your response sounds like it comes from a place a privilege bc you HAVE options so I don’t think you truly understand what it would be like to only have maybe 3 brands to choose from that carry your shade and just choosing one “that works for you”. What if you like matte? What if you want full coverage? I know I personally have at LEAST 10 different foundations and switch through them depending on the look I’m going for and unfortunately there is a whole demographic of people who probably don’t have the luxury. Just some food for thought.

I disagree that there are “countless” options for fair skin. Light to medium skin with beige or yellow overtones, absolutely. They have loads of options. But medium-dark to deep, truly fair, and cool toned toned foundations across the spectrum are really quite rare. As a fair skinned person, I can only think of a few brands that have a shade light and neutral enough for truly fair complexions like mine. There is still so much work to be done on both ends of the color value spectrum.

Thank you! I too am very fair with cool undertones. Maybelline Fit Me 105 and 110 are my summer shades!
I thint it´s about time that everyone can walk into a makeup store and find the correct shade.
Even though I am willing to spend a lot of money on makeup, there are a lot of expensive brands too, that have a very limitet shade range.
Even for us with fair skin, finding a shade that matches can be difficult.
We can only hope that it´s about to change, and that the companys are going to listen, and bring out shades for everyone. Lightest to darkest and cool to warm.

Do you know what proportion of white women are so fair they can’t find a foundation that matches?

And do you know what proportion of women of colour can’t find a foundation even remotely close to their skin tone?

While it’s shocking that any company would be dumb enough to ignore the massive under-served potential of POC buyers, may I please ask you to reconsider your point. It’s almost making it sound like it’s not wrong to exclude the palest tones, because there are so few of them.

Numbers have nothing to do with treating *everybody* with respect, no matter what skin they were born with. We won’t fix injustice by switching which groups get priority over others.

It’s for us as a diverse population to support each other, from darkest dark to palest pale, every tone, every hue. Isn’t the goal to feel like we’re all part of the same human tribe, and like we care about fair play – not just cold market share calculations?

Given the state of technology and logistics options, the only thing stopping the cosmetics industry from matching foundations to every skintone is the will. The shelf space & inventory problems are solvable. Like, offer 8 basic colors in retail stores, plus 20 in-between shades in sample form which can be shipped to order. Or, have a scanner & questionnaire at Ultas and Sephoras etc to computer-match each customer and ship their factory-blended shade by mail to home or store. It’s 2018, let’s make up our minds to act like it.

No, it is not the same, or even all that similar, and you (at your heart) know this. You are conflating two issues, the claimed scarceness of people who will buy dark colors of foundation (that sold out Fenty counters bely) and the genuine numerical scarceness of people needing super pale foundation colors. Taking your argument at its face: approximately .0059% of the population is albino, do you think it’s a problem that companies don’t carry albino foundation color(s)? No, that would be silly. A corporation shouldn’t be shamed for not catering to a population of one. On the other hand, a corporation should be shamed for not being willing to accommodate an estimated 13% of the US population (and probably a higher portion of the makeup buying public if you take into account how harshly black women are judged for their appearance). A 13% who have been, not coincidentally, historically discriminated against over and over, to sometimes deadly ends. In other words, the fact that super pale people often can’t find a decent foundation match is annoying, while the fact that the vast majority of POC can’t find a decent foundation match is insulting and racist and unacceptable.

Well said! I am a WOC and it is not only about shade, but about texture, coverage, allergies and so on. I’ve seen my white friends having trouble finding foundation just as me. We all should have options.

To Reka’s point, in the US, it’s 13% at the bare minimum if only counting African Americans. How big is the demographic when also counting the South Asian, Hispanic and East Asian American population that fall outside of the lighter-than-NC30 colour spectrum who don’t even have that sorta-could-make-it-work shade!?

Ultra fair skinned people – Sure not every brand has your perrrfect alabaster, but you have options. Your situation is. not. equivalent to what other people have to go through for base products, contour, highlight and blush.

The 13% that you quote includes babies, kids, the elderly and males. 50% of the population is female so that number is closer to 6.5%. From that 6.5% you would also have to exclude baby girls. So maybe the total is closer to 5%. We don’t know what percent of the population is South Asian because the percentage that is allocated for “Asian” race doesn’t specify which part of Asia. For our example, we will pretend that all of those identifying as Asian are south Asian. Asians are 5.7% of the population but only half are women. So the total for now is closer to 8%. Now, let’s throw in all the people that identify as Hispanic or Latino. Hispanic/Latino skin tones are light, medium and dark. The percent of people that identify as Hispanic/Latino is 17.8%. Half of that is about 9%. I will split the 9% evenly between the different skin tones and add 6% to our total, excluding 3% of the light skinned Hispanics/Latinos. The grand total of medium/dark skinned women is roughly 14%. There are statistics that are available for foundation/concealers sales in the US on Statista.com but to access those we have to pay a $500.00 premium, which is hefty but I am curious what numbers they have. It might be the sort of data Cosmetic brands use to determine which shades to produce first. Percentages don’t justify what Tarte did morally but it does justify what they did economically.

I disagree. I have one foundation that matches me because i am so fair. I have to add whitening drops to every foundation I have ever tried. And i own at least 15 or more different foundations looking for one that is perfect for me. Forget concealor. Sometimes the lightest could be a contouring color for me.

We’re talking about the lack of choice for medium/dark/deep skintones, and people pipe up with complaints on there not being choices that are fair enough. Not that this is not a valid frustration for super fair people, but why do you feel you have to point that out in a discussion of POC being able to find foundations that match them? This is the kind of thing that drives POC crazy, frankly. Any discussion of POC issues always seems to get hijacked by white people pointing out their problems. Yes, companies are lacking on both ends of the spectrum, but can’t we just admit it’s far far worse on the darker end of the spectrum and stick to the original point of discussion?

I think some people treat the issue like “there just aren’t enough shades for the deepest OR the fairest,” when actually it’s more like “there aren’t enough deep shades because of an intentional ignorance of POC’s skin tones,” at which point bringing up the lack of very fair options seems insensitive (whether it’s meant like that or not).

Tracy, a big Amen to what you wrote above! As a lighter PoC, I can usually find a foundation to fit me, but how about my darker complected family members? See, that’s the issue that many white people just don’t understand. And that hijacking, as you succinctly and correctly put it, gets on my nerves as well!

Has anyone argued that though Tracy? The criticism of Tarte was for the overall ridiculousness of the release period. It’s painfully clear that the POC got the kiss off – the “dark” shades didn’t even match the model they used and that alone is head smack inducing and a middle finger for POC for not even making the tiniest effort. However, in rereading all of this the original point of all of this is that it is a tone-deaf, cringe-inducing money grab that falls incredibly short period.

I’m not looking to get into a who suffers more with anyone and would never presume to with a WOC because that would be idiotic on my part and make me no better than Tarte. Yes, you get hosed more – but that eliminate the existence of shortcomings elsewhere. I also think the bigger issue is how you stop people like J* from proclaiming to be the one to fix it for you because he’s so diverse! To me that’s more alarming than the overall discussion being supported and empathized with. I’m so put off by his presumption I honestly can’t imagine how it’s being received by WOC.

I am a WOC. Why shouldn’t this be pointed out if any article on lack of options for WOC, which is far from truth nowadays, makes a point to say that whites have options as if ALL whites have options.
The discussion shouldn’t mention their group if we don’t want them discussing the issue. Your argument also invalidates the fact that most of the beauty famous gurus, almost all whites, are calling Tarte out for the bs they pulled with this foundation.

The problem is that you can’t know if a brand works for you if there isn’t a foundation shade that works with your complexion. The Fenty foundation doesn’t work for me because I don’t like how it feels, but I greatly respect the effort they put into the shade range.

Foundation is such a tricky product due to different skin types/preferences. The new Tarte foundation could be a holy grail formula for someone with darker skin, but the lack of diversity across shades takes that away. If they were only going to launch 15 shades to start off, it should be way more balanced than what the arm swatches are showing.

Not the same. There’s a big difference between being able to say, “I’m not going to buy this product that doesn’t work for me,” and not being able to FIND a high quality, basic product that will work for you easily in your area.

Or as from someone who is very pale with cool undertones. I have no yellow in my skin and no pink. I’ve gone from makeup stand to makeup stand trying to find something that sort of worked. I even tried powders as they tend to be lighter. You know how concealer is supposed to be lighter than your foundation? That doesn’t exist because the lightest concealers sometimes are darker than my skin or exactly shade match it. Clinique, Chanel, Givenchy, Dior, Bobbi Brown to name a few to not have a single product that matches me. It’s fristraying, it makes you feel bad, and there’s really no excuse for it.

Hi Sami! I have a friend that shares your problem.. Have you tried The Ordinary and their serum or matte foundations? They have a “very fair” option with several undertones (neutral, warm, cool). She was quite delighted at the shade range in the extremely fair spectrum, I have not heard whether she has already been able to get her hands on the (notoriously sold out) product..

I know Cult Beauty and Beautylish carry them and have an alert option, just in case you are interested..

I have not tried The Ordinary yet, though I’ve heard good things. I sampled Fenty, by it had a weird drying effect and my skin isn’t dry. I used La Met for a while, but it sort of just sat ontop my skin which was very unusual. Also, the price tag can move someone to tears. Right now I’m using By Terry Cover expert in Fair Beige.

I remember going to the Bobbi Brown counter and trying out their foundations. Apparently their foundation is based on the concept that everyone has some yellow tone to their skin…except everyone does not.

When a brand consistently puts out product lines that exclude certain potential audiences, one can tend to get discouraged. Its one thing to have a brand that doesn’t have a product with a shade that is suitable for you from a particular product line. Totally different thing when NONE of that brand’s product lines gives you, or anyone in your immediate shade spectrum……a remote option……ever! Not looking for an “exact shade” but at least give me something to work with. And it doesn’t have to be “every brand” but more brands should offer more shades. Period. It seems to be that someone with fairer skin has more of a chance of finding something that suits them or remotely close, from MOST brands. But some People of Color are limited in the selections available to them in many brands. To me it’s the same concept of saying that a certain clothing line makes and sells clothes for an audience with a particular body shape/size or “socially desirable” image and if you don’t fit that range they are offering then you can’t ever shop that brand…… you’re only allow to shop certain limited brands. In this ever diversifying society we live in, people are fighting for more companies and organizations to be more inclusive. Why not ask the beauty brands to do the same?

Here’s one example to think of: Think of just how popular and insanely hyped up Shape Tape concealer is. Now think about how you’d feel if you were unable to use it because it just flat out doesn’t come in your shade. You’d feel awfully left out every time you see Shape Tape brought up again and again.

Having a few things you can’t wear is one thing. Having maybe 5 options total that you CAN wear is the real issue here. Also, when even Maybelline is kicking your ass in shade range, maybe you should be a bit embarrassed and try to fix that.

Easy to say if you are white. As a woman with a light medium tone, most brands do cater to me and I almost always can find a shade. My close friend has chocolate skin and products rarely work for her. She historically can’t buy a LOT of popular products because they don’t come in deep shades or when they do there is one or two options and neither have the right undertones or right level of depth. I always think of her when i am close to the top of a shade range and not that dark. You are lost in your privilege.

Based on your privileged response, I guess since brands don’t make cosmetics for my skin tone, that must mean people with my skin tone don’t want to wear make up?

*I love make up, btw. But gosh darn it’s hard to ‘find a brand that works for me’ because they don’t make cosmetics that fall within my skin tone range.

I challenge you to it yourself in a POC shoes.

If it were even, then I would agree, but it’s not. A decade ago I literally had one choice in foundations. It gave me no room to choose a foundation based on my skin type, texture, coverage preference or sensitivity. When there are many brands making foundations for people of color, it won’t matter when a few brands specialize in a smaller range, but we’re not there yet.

I am a WOC. You have a point in the move to other brands, it is what I do. We have so many options that we don’t really need Tarte’s foundation. However, Tarte WENT TOO FAR. Or they should state their foundation are not for everyone. If we don’t speak up, these other brands may decide not to offer shades for non-light skinned people.

Coming from one w.o.c. to another Tarte has never been on my radar. They can do them and I can do me. I only choose to spend my beauty dollars with companies that care to offer products for my skin tone and and skin type. There are plenty of other companies that offer a shade for me and recently Fenty has come into collection. Between Estee lauder , Fenty and clinique I am good and satisfied with my options. 20 years ago I had few options and had to end up doing custom blend foundation and powder with Prescritptives cosmetics which was not cheap. People of color are not Tarte’s demographic and that is their choice and fine with me. I am not going to beg and plead with them to spend my money.

You totally miss the point. It’s because of customers like you, who think like brands like Tarte, that there’s a need for a convo like this. When brands historically, continually, categorically, cater to a certain demographic, thereby excluding an entire other ethnic demographic, marginalized communities continue to be marginalized even on the outskirts in the beauty community. I’m guessing you’re fine with this mindset. Glad that so many in the beauty community, gurus, and influencers spoke up and out against the mindset/mentality of folks like you.

Thanks! This post is a very refreshing discussion. Glad to see the issue highlighted. Definitely, more work to be done. I’ve also noticed that foundations and base products (B.B./ cc cream) marketed as skin care infused are especially lacking in diversity. Which seems odd because I think there would be a larger more diverse audience (gender, age, ethnicity etc.) I have stopped buying from brands with limited ranges. I used to “make it work” because of the formulas, but no more!

It’s definitely a huge problem in the BB/CC cream market. I think it’s exacerbated by the fact that a lot of brands making BB/CC creams are Korean, and so didn’t have to deal with as wide of a shade range when they originally launched. But Dr. Jart and others have been selling overseas for long enough that they should have dealt with it by now.

Christine, I really appreciate your willingness to post this. It hurts my brain (and my heart) to see so many people defending Tarte on this, or refusing to say anything at all.

I’m also shocked at the lack of Asian models in the press photos for this range. After their Instagram awfulness last year, I would hope that they would be making deliberate efforts to reach out to Asian American communities and to show that they value diversity as a brand.

I was excited about this launch, but I think I need to skip Tarte purchases for a while until they figure some things out as a brand. It’s the only thing I can think to do to show them that I’m not ok with this.

I agree!! The models they posted for the Shape Tape Foundation shades made me furious. ALL the medium skin tone models are women with blonde hair and blue eyes just like the light shades, except they have a tan!! Being of medium skin tone myself, obviously I know what shade would likely work for me by name, but c’mon. How hard is it to include some Asian or Latina or Middle Eastern women in your chart that are actually born with a light medium or medium skin tone? Looking at those women and trying to choose a shade based on their colouring is rubbish because simply put, I’m half Asian, I half tan skin and dark hair and eyes and I don’t look like ANY of those medium skin tone models. Infuriating.

I work for a mass beauty brand that recently launched a wide variety of foundation shades as diversity is key to our essense. As hard as we pushed with our retailers to get the space, they just would not give the space for the full range as darker shades are less productive which was so destructive to our brand as we only managed to get about 8 shades on shelf. This is such a challenge in drugstores so I can see why brands like Physicians Formula and Milani may struggle. I would imagine the reatailer you speak of sadly decided that only one option of foundation range in Maybelline was enough, and they have more space than smaller brands. Premium brands that do have the luxury of space however have no excuse but I imagine retailers have a big say on ranging here as well. There are definitely brands out there trying to do the right thing, it’s the retailers that need to take a stance and what they deem as a commercial risk to truly support all of their customers.

Did they consider carrying the full range online? I know physical store space is at a premium, so brands fight over it and fight their own product lines for the space, so while I don’t like the argument, I always wonder, “Why not online?”

This is because warehouse space is at a premium too. The warehouse space is finite so to add something they have to take something away. This is why brands personal webistes have the best selection of their products.

Yes we have the full range on both our own .com and retailer .com sites but foundation is such a tricky thing to convert to sales online. I think people have become braver recently but it’s still a big ask to get consumers to purchase a foundation online without testing their shade in store, plus if they don’t see the full range in store, they aren’t necessarily going to check the website or social channels to see if there are more options. We pushed (as a back up) for all shades to be available in-store to test then order as click and collect but still couldn’t get the space, or man power in store to support. Very disappointing!

Hey, at least it’s on both online properties – what I was seeing on Ulta was a total mismatch online, too 🙁

but yes, foundation/concealer is one of those products that is much harder to buy blind so seeing it in person is better. How frustrating that you couldn’t at least get the tester space and keep stock online 🙁

I also remember when Tart launched Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Full Coverage I think they started with 12 shades and a year or two later when they had the sales the doubled its shades range. The Fair shade which is now Fair Sand just had the right undertone for me that adding white worked for my complexion (it almost impossible to find yellow cool undertone foundations in any brand!)

As a woman of no colour (I’ve been called a vampire many times in my life, and I’m not even the palest of the pale out there) that MAC even MAC today don’t go pale enough for the pale people in 90% of there base products.

I still struggle just find base products that don’t turn pink, peach, or orange when I add white to them frustrating. Just adding white is not the answer as the same is just darkening it with a Heat correct (dark pigmented or deep terracotta correctors) is the answer for a woman of colour.

Another option that most brands don’t consider doing is offering foundation sample pack for those that buy online. A lot of indie brands where doing this but Illamaqua and now Jouer are doing this as a way for those that have no access to a store to test for a sample of matching foundations in their range.

A lot of brands are betting on the shades that people are matching in-store to drive their sales for a good reason and Sephora sample policy model makes for a better match system. But if more brands have taken on free foundation samples with purchases this might drive more sale to their actual website. It’s a loss leader for sure, by making sample packs for all the foundation shades, but foundation matching is so important to people that they are willing to gamble on colour products (blush, lip, eyes, etc. ) but not matching your skin tone is considered a makeup sin these days and foundation is not cheap usually.

I totally agree. I didn’t even know the Milani came in more shades if you went to their own website. I just assumed if it wasn’t at Ulta or Target, then it didn’t come in more shades.

I guess it is time to fight for at least the testers to be available in ALL stores. I live in Brazil and we have four problems to buy makeup:

1) international brands are mostly sold by Sephora, which has less stores in the country than the number of states we have, and they are mostly located in the “richest” states. No testers for most of us. Recently, Kiko Milano opened 7 stores in Brazil. ALL of them in São Paulo.

2) international brands don’t bring their whole range of foundation here. For example, Smashbox sells Studio Skin in 12 shades, missing all the shades deeper than 4.0 (except 4.2) and half of the whites as well. Lancome/Dior? Forget about it. Lancome brings 5 shades for light/light medium, which obviously don’t attend even the white people here, let alone the one shade for black people. They bring the darkest as if to say that we should mix it with a lighter one if we want to use their foundations. How rude?!

3) local brands are even worse bc they make 8 shades to attend the whole country, which is incredible diverse, and let’s not talk about the ingredients (parabens are really used here).

4) We can’t import bc of regional/country blockages done by brands/customs and we pay 60% in taxes.

I feel like there are so many options out there that if a brand doesn’t want to invest in a fully inclusive range they don’t have to. For tarte, is foundation really a huge part of their sales? Maybe they’re trying to test the waters and see. I never looked twice at Too Faced before trying their foundation upon it’s release but none of their colors matched me very well. I’m pale and even then they didn’t really fit me. Once they expanded their line I found something that is a spot on match but at $25+ per a bottle I’m not going to invest in any brand’s product unless it actually matches me. I think foundation is a very personal thing and when it comes to new lines and formulas, a few bad reviews can tank it.

I do know that Sephora stores can cater their offerings based on the demographic and clientelle in the area. That’s why the 3rd St Promenade in LA has all the upscale items and the one in Marina has more balance. Know your audience. I suspect Ulta has a bit of flexibility in that too. If there’s a store near you and you want them to carry more shades you should go in and speak to them, as all the managers I’ve known or worked with (former Sephora employee) are incredibly concerned with their customer’s happiness.

It doesn’t really matter if foundation isn’t a huge part of their sales. It very well could have been if the shade range was more comprehensive. It’s a tired statement “more shades coming” as if PoC are an afterthought. It’s time that everyone gets to experience a launch at the same time. There are pigments for darker skin tones, it’s time to stop pretending that skin tones are 12 shades of white and 2 shades of darker skin tones.

From what I know, the Rainforest of the Sea foundation, or at least concealer, had decent praise. However, whether foundation is a major seller for them or not, they knew Shape Tape was a huge seller. They knew it had cult status. It’s become loved over NARS for a lot of beauty bloggers, even. Why would they not want to take the chance to make it HG for as many people as possible, including foundation? The point being, you can’t expect foundation to sell properly if you exclude a huge portion of people from buying it. They had a chance to make a second cult product and pull the rug out from other cult products, and they didn’t do it. Now it’ll just be remembered as a foundation with a poor shade range, and most people probably won’t care much if it has merits or not.

Let’s say this when all the brands think there are so much options out there that “I don’t need to be inclusive”… and all of them stop producing makeup for this or that group of human beings?

Excellent article Christine, thanks. That swatched-arm image really visualises the disparity in the shade range, it’s a bit of a shocker. At first glance the idea of a Shape Tape foundation is exciting – then I remembered how I just couldn’t wear the concealer, despite the fantastic texture, due to the overwhelmingly strong scent (out of interest, do you happen to know if the foundation will be fragrance free?) But on top of that, seeing those swatches makes me depressed (and I’m speaking as a pale girl). I like to think that the cruelty-free beauty brands which I support hold the same values I do in terms of inclusivity and equality – idealistic I know, but I like to believe it – and this just proves that it’s not always the case 🙁

WOW that looks … not good. Sure, it could be the lighting or still-wet swatches, but then the colors shown differ *dramatically* from Tarte’s own promotional image with bottles + product smears + product on faces — across the board PopSugar’s swatches look way, waaaaay lighter. Which, as a fair/cool person is maybe good for me, but this shade range leaves such a poor impression that I’m not really interested in trying the product. (Though I haven’t seen ingredients, and many of their face products use cyclopentasiloxane which gives me AWFUL cystic breakouts.)

Is an outspoken boycott the only way? We’re seeing so much more of brands on a more personal level now (via social media, mostly) and a lot of them have gotten plenty of flack for their creators’ opinions or behavior. The beauty industry can/should be a positive, creative, and inclusive space — it should be the vanguard of social change, not wallowing in the worst of the [racist, sexist, misogynist, sizeist, homophobic] past.

The latter is what I wonder. It’s why I had more questions than answers or opinions… and there’s no real, one-size-fits-all answer. I’m in the camp where I want brands to do better, and if I said they’re dead to me forever, then do they really have incentive to change? Sure, I’d love to live in a world where everyone changes solely because that’s the right thing to do, but I don’t live in that world. At this point, I’d rather more inclusiveness, even if some of those brands don’t really make a core value, than continued lack of it, you know? I think the only brands that I’ve personally given up on (more or less) on inclusiveness are Physicians Formula and Almay.

Agreed, I’m almost always willing to give a (cruelty free) brand another chance because I want there to be incentive to change. I want to see them do better. I thought Huda Beauty’s FauxFilter launch was great (I found a shade match in it), and Fenty’s was truly impressive (even if I don’t have a match in Fenty).

If these swatches are accurate, Tarte would’ve been better off just stopping at “medium.” This [email protected] business makes them look like they’re either totally inept, or they just don’t care. :\ I don’t know what marketing/sales data they’re looking at to make their choices, but the success of brands who DO have more diverse shade ranges tell me they’re looking at the *wrong* data — because it seems like doing a full shade range well gets you not just kudos for “doing the right thing,” but also MONEY.

Yeah, just looking at the recent foundations that have launched by large, successful mainstream brands leads one to think that the trend is having more shades and making that shade range part of the marketing, and I’m just at the point where I question the origin of the argument at all. I just see brands that have been around for a decade or longer with big shade ranges and that just being part of their offerings – MAC, Cover FX, Bobbi Brown, MUFE, etc.

Tarte needs to stop spending thousands of dollars sending beauty influencers on fancy getaways, and use that money toward improving their shade range! You can’t use the excuse of not having enough money to start right off the bat with an amazing shade range, when you blow it all on those silly trips. I don’t take any company like that seriously.

If drugstore brands can do it, so can you, Tarte! Come on.

This tweet thread from Angela Grigoryan (@DirtyMelodies) sums up this problem with Tarte in a fantastic way.

“I have an inkling feeling tarte will do a shade ext of the shape tape foundations in a few months and make it a PR frenzy to get people excited. Things wrong with that: using POC as a marketing tool. Prioritizing one skin color over another due to timing I’m guessing. Not taking the necessary time* to make a cohesive, strong color library to ensure everyone gets to experience the launch together.”

It genuinely seems like more and more brands are using PoC as marketing tools. Another example is the H&M hoodie controversy. They purposely stir up controversy to get their name in the media, but a very little portion of people are actually going to consciously stop buying from H&M. Protests and outrage usually stop at the social media level. People will forget about all this in a couple of weeks or so. It will be interesting to see how top beauty influencers treat this foundation when they get it in PR, especially because a majority of them are White/White-Passing.

I think that’s something that Fenty really took to heart, and they actually did it with their entire line – they wanted the entire world to experience it together and worked very hard to time it that way globally and not just online but in-stores, too.

I am a WOC. In my book this is happening simply because blacks see racism in everything so they are using it to market their whatever, create awareness and all that.

I AM BLACK. You can call me black all day long to try to insult me and it won’t work. I am black. This is my color. Call me white and I’ll get insulted 😂😂.

However, Tarte went too far with their propaganda. Either don’t release it or release it appropriately.

Wow! Such a well written piece. Thank you for not standing idly by and not being afraid to speak out about issues in the beauty community, especially when it comes to diversity. You lend a much needed voice to women of colour such as myself who so often have to forego many, many brands because of the lack of inclusion. Thank you!

Thank you so much for putting yourself on the record in support of diversity in beauty product offerings and branding. I think the answer to your larger question is that we live in a society built on the fantasy of white colonialism, a philosophy that teaches that people with European facial features and light skin are superior to others. This philosophy is deeply ingrained in our culture. Recognizing its influence can be difficult. Companies that choose to only offer mostly lighter foundation shades do so because they think it aligns them with whiteness, a stand-in for wealth, power, and ultimately superiority. They may not want to put it like this, but that’s exactly what they’re doing. It won’t change simply by calling them out for their lack of diversity in product offerings. We must be willing to put into words the hard truth that a company that offers a lopsided set of foundations favoring white skin means that they prioritize white faces, and white people.

I think companies only want to create light to medium white skin tone foundations. I’m like Courtney, very very pale and very few companies are now offering pale fair foundations. Laura Geller, for example, took several years to add fair and porcelain shades to her line. Too /Faced Born This Way Foundation had a decent shade range when it launched, but not until Snow came out six months later did I have a shade that matched me.

I’m still mad at Covergirl Revivalist Foundation. It’s great! 710 was the lightest, which is beige. They came out with 705. Guess what?? It’s the EXACT SAME color as 710!!

I can’t imagine being a deeper skin tone and trying to find a foundation that works.

A mall near me expanded to include several clothe stores. I didn’t go to any bc they are known for selling up to “L” size and I’m a XL.

It is disheartening. In a way, the beauty industry is not that different from the fashion word.

You said it. Nearly every single way that beauty is typically presented to us glorifies whiteness/ightness and shows that POC don’t matter to the companies. From social media, marketing and swatching photos, to the way shades are lined up with light on the top/left, and darker on the bottom/right, to the fact that our shade ranges are treated like an afterthought. These are the subliminal messages that seem small or slight, but really matter over an entire lifetime of exposure.

My Goodness, Raeanne, thank you for pointing that out. We’ve all seen light to dark shade swatches countless times, but never questioned it. It’s so incredibly insidious.

You do realize that in most languages we read left-right/top-bottom? We also tend to think in terms of light-dark. If you look at the “grey scale”, you’ll notice it goes white-black, left-right. I really don’t believe there was any I’ll intent when artists, centuries ago, came up with the concept… Even when Christine does lip/cheek product swatch previews, she starts with the lightest; is that out of malice…? There is a logical reason why some things are the way they are, but if we continue to dig for things to “call out”, it detracts from the bigger issues; instead of shade inclusion being the heart of this argument, the discussion turns to ancient art scholars intentionally putting white in a position of greater importance…

I should probably just leave this alone, but you’ve actually gone and demonstrated Raeanne’s point for her. People read left to right so they will see the lighter shades first. Why does light come first? The fact that you’re defending this white first order as somehow ’natural’ and not part of unconscious prejudice is also part of her point. We see a lifetime of those tiny individual decisions that almost no one makes on purpose all adding up and reinforcing the lack of respect POC deal with on a daily basis. No one is arguing that the way many people choose colors is consciously racist, just that the fact that you will go and defend this choice as somehow part of the ‘natural order’, or something that is somehow dictated by ‘ancient art scholars’ rather than a choice that gets made by every computer program and every art book separately tells us just how rarely the opposite happens, and when you have a 50/50 coin that’s so heavily weighted in one direction it’s not a coincidence. Part of dealing with the ‘big’ things is also dealing with the way that we are all unconsciously a bit racist.

Wow, that arm swatch says it all: a thousand shades of pale. What the hell was Tarte thinking? I predict they’ll see quite a backlash and then respond with a weak “…more shades are in the works” statement, like clothing retailers who are asked why they decided to start their line by omitting the 67% of American women size 16 and over. Pretty pathetic.

Exactly…. the deepest and palest shades go ignored and they are told “oh…don’t fret! We will have other shades later!” And they don’t. It’s maddening, I’m sure.

A few more comments:

I’m not on Twitter, but if this post is, that should engender a lot of discussion, as I’m sure you have loads of followers. Would love to see it catch the eye of TheCut.com!

Tarte may pout that their bold move of including a guy in the swatch pix is getting no love. Diversity!

And off-topic a bit: with the number, frequency (7 days a week!), length, and depth of your blog posts, Christine, I gotta ask: when (if ever) do you actually sleep??? 😉

Amen to that, Christine! Used to do that quite often myself, writing it ALL OUT, even as, many a night, tears of rage and heartbreak poured from my eyes. Writing is more than just something to inform. It is cathartic and therapeutic. Bravo to you for putting all that kept you up last night into a profound and deeply appreciated article on the covert racism in the industry!

Inexcusable for Tarte and American brands, especially. We are a diverse society, and product should reflect that. I find it a little more excusable for Asian brands, but Koh Gen Do… the darkest “cool” shade in their Aqua is lt med. Not even dark enough for Mac NW20 in summer. That’s pretty absurd. But, if Cos do not cater to a wide shade range, they punish themselves with lack of sales to the people who are left out. I do not see where the Cos do not realize the restricted ranges are self-defeating, as a sales policy. Not to mention the customers who vote their conscience, and choose not to support them.

It’s utterly shocking to me that they don’t have/didn’t come out with more shades, or at least the same number of shades their concealer has. Don’t they want to make money? Don’t they want to make their launch successful? Even if they add shades later, it just leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, because why wouldn’t they just launch it for everyone?!

You ask a good question though: if they add more shades later, will it matter? I guess you could argue that yes, since more people will be able to buy in the end. It just seems such like an afterthought not to do it outright. It really feels like they’re treating people with dark skin like second-class citizens.

Also, it’s infuriating to me how brands that DO have expanded shade ranges aren’t carried by the big retailers (like Milani that you mentioned at Ulta). It doesn’t make sense to me from a business standpoint. It’s been shown that the African-American community spends a lot more on beauty and beauty products, so why is this marginalization still so strong in an industry that has a strong image of self-expression?

I hope brands will read what you wrote here and give serious consideration to these issues. I’m interested in what can be done to pressure them into change. It doesn’t seem like they will without receiving backlash or bad publicity from the (larger) beauty community.

Social media has really given customers (and influencers) power to hold brands more accountable, and it certainly can’t hurt to try to use the social platform for good.

I think that Tarte’s Shape Tape Foundation launched got torpedoed before it fully released because of social media – the response to the shade range was instantaneous with the subsequent PopSugar swatches cementing those opinions. I imagine many will try it so long as there’s a shade that might work for them (and I don’t begrudge or judge anyone for buying), but the wave of social is NOT positive and given how social works, I imagine a lot of people are going to sit on this launch until it dies down, skip it entirely, or say something about the shade range. Compared to how successful this launch could have been, I do think that the response will have an impact overall, at least short-term.

Thanks for the reply Christine. I agree wholeheartedly. I wouldn’t scold anyone from buying or trying out a shade from this foundation, although I do believe it’s important to put money behind brands that are inclusive. I also feel the negative publicity they have received from this launch is well deserved and hopefully they will address these issues going forward. I think constructive criticism, as well as some sort of pushback starting with the makeup community, is the way to go on many of these issues.

This is not some trendy issue that started with Fenty, like some seem to suggest. I do believe Fenty’s ad campaign was such an outstanding example of what brands need to do to succeed. It makes me excited to support a brand like that.

The argument I’ve seen that some brands don’t need to cater to everyone comes from a place of naïveté and reminds of the “separate but equal” argument seen in politics. When you can’t find ANYTHING that matches you, you feel excluded.

I think many people who read your website will have opened their minds to a different perspective and hopefully, will have been able to put themselves in another person’s shoes since it can be hard to see this when you have been brought up being “catered to” your entire life.

You already said things so well, Priscila, but since we’re a few days since I posted… it’s pretty clear the beauty community isn’t forgiving & forgetting on this incident. I very much feel like Tarte’s Shape Tape Foundation’s release just happens to be that perfect storm – a release where excuses of not having the money (or time) to do a fully fleshed out (pun unintended) shade range just don’t hold water – and here’s hoping we can all do our part to hold them and other brands more accountable.

1000% all of this

I also find it interesting that they used a male model. I’m really happy that makeup is crossing gender lines but really, they’re gonna include a (white-presenting) guy before they include a few more women of color? Whatever.

I like their ROTS foundation but I’m not gonna buy from them again until they address this. I don’t care if they fall of my radar. There’s too many alternatives and no good excuses for companies to behave this way anymore.

Cover FX has over 40 shades and they’ve had them for years (in Total Cover Cream, their Natural Finish Liquid Foundation, and their Powder Foundation). I applaud brands that actually have a great shade range. Sadly, tarte’s range has always been lacking. It kills me that in this day and age brands STILL don’t get it.

As a longtime reader, I’m really happy to see you dedicate a post to this issue!

It’s not shocking to me that brands are still oblivious to the need for more expansive shade ranges. It is however very perplexing given the bigger discussion that Fenty created by addressing this lack of inclusivity head on, and how successful they’ve been because of it (along with having solid products.)

At this point it’s hard to not read this as “We’re not that interested in the needs of people of color”, which in my opinion, is beyond shitty and really turns me off from a brand. And let’s be honest, aside from Shape Tape, Tarte could use some help. I don’t know what they’re doing.

Charlotte Tilbury has also been rubbing me the wrong way for some time now for the very same reason.

Hi Christine, I just have a question for you. We have pretty similar skin tones, and I’ve always almost been able to find a foundation in a shade range, so I consider myself pretty privileged. I personally don’t shop brands that carry a complete lack of deeper foundation/concealer products, even if they have my shade (which in their ranges is usually nearer to the end of the selection of colors). I’ve just always agreed with your thoughts on this and can’t find it in myself to support brands that simply refuse to cater to deeper skin tones and be inclusive.

Okay, onto my question: I know that as a beauty reviewer in charge of a very reputable blog, you are always trying new products. But have you considered if you’ll even try the foundation? Or have you made a decision on that matter? I think sometimes blogs end up creating a diversity post and then end up reviewing the product and giving it a good review (if it’s a decent product), and so then the diversity issue lingers in the background of the good review.

Thanks so much and I honestly love your blog so much!

Antoinette

Hi Antoinette,

If I were to review a foundation, regardless of this one or another, and the shade range was weak, I usually make a note about the limited shade offering. (https://www.temptalia.com/category/reviews/face-product-reviews/foundations-face-product-reviews-reviews/) I don’t write many foundation reviews (though I try many of them), and frankly, I have several I’d write-up before Tarte’s since I’ve already tested them! On the flip side, if someone reviews the foundation and a discussion follows about the shade range (whether by the person or by the openness of the internet and comment sections), does this help or hinder? Does it continue to shed light on the problem or have any value in the end goal?

It has come a point where I need to start asking brands what their shade range is before working with them specifically on anything foundation/concealer offerings, though.

I have seen some of your reviews on ranges that weren’t inclusive, and so I’ve always really appreciated that, because that just gives me pause on whether or not I really want to buy something.

I agree with your flip side, and don’t have an answer myself. I think the best thing is that you’ve actually published a piece on diversity and specifically called out Tarte, so because of how reputable you are this is a post that will absolutely make an impact on those companies. And I really appreciate that.

Now it just comes to a point of if there are enough callouts in the industry, will they actually listen? Which is really sad because I’m sure they know that there are deeper shades to be made, they just don’t think they are profitable enough. 😕

Here’s my take:

The more negative feedback/response a brand receives at launch, the less successful the product is at launch. Given the industry’s currently ridiculous number of releases of products, you can’t have a flop launch – your product will probably not survive and something else will take its place. There are going to be entrenched brands and products with enough hype and love to survive but eventually, I think it will cut more deeply in a meaningful way (money, branding) that more rather than less brands will have to be better.

And at the very least, I don’t think it’ll hurt the end goal, but I hope–or maybe I just have to hold onto the hope–that any constructive feedback helps in some meaningful way.

Thank you so much for posting this! You’re comments are so accurate and well reasoned.

I personally refuse to purchase products from brands that have huge jumps in color for deeper shades. As a POC, I find this to be a moral issue, as refusing to create products for deeper skin tones is akin to refusing to serve POC the food they want at the table.

I also hope that these brands listen to consumer feedback, but I agree with you, if they do finally listen, it may be too late. Maybe a trend will start where it’ll be unprofitable to have horrible shade ranges, that way no one can make the “expense” excuse again.

Hey Gigi,

When you boycott a brand, can they ever earn your business again? Or has there ever been a brand that you weren’t buying from because of their shade range and now buy from because that changed?

I think of Physicians Formula/Almay, two brands that have just been so bad for POC for so long that can they ever come back?

I’m not Gigi, but no. There’s no coming back because it’s pandering at that point. It’s goes hand in hand with “more shades will be released later”. It’s a bullshit, PR friendly response to being called out for the lack of inclusion. If PF or Almay started to produce shades for darker people at this point, it’d be laughable that they’d even pretend it wasn’t for marketing purposes or to make it seem like they’re trying to include POC when they haven’t for so long.

I have bought back from brands like Dior when they expanded their Forever foundation range recently! To me, that seemed like a positive step towards progress.

But with so many brands out there today and more to come, it seems more promising for me to support brands who support inclusivity right now, than hope for brands to do better later.

Thanks for this post Christine. When I saw the picture, I couldn’t believe the swatches were from the same product. Sometimes I find myself trying to come up with every reason or excuse for something I suspect is the problem and at the end of the day they are all just excuses. Tarte could have done better. Did they think people would not notice in this hyper-sensitive time we live in? Shame.

At this point I think it’s willful and they just don’t care. If MAC can do it anyone can do it and there’s no excuse. It’s not “hard.” Even L’Oréal True Match has 33 shades with about a dozen on the dark/deep side.

If a foundation range is limited it inspires zero confidence in me and I probably wouldn’t buy. I am fair white but if the range has only 5-15 shades, why should I assume they really put thought into matching anyone? If they can’t match dark or deep skin tones then why would I think they can match mine? Pigment is pigment and undertones are undertones.

Christine, this is a great article and shows why you are the best out there.

Thank you for posting this piece, Christine. It is thoughtful, timely, and important. You are an influencer in your community with a wide readership. I can’t think of a better platform for these important points and questions.

This article needed to be written. It addresses the ugliest truth in the cosmetics industry; the thinly veiled racism that has existed from it’s commercial inception. Covert? Not quite.

We have noticed it all along. I can distinctly remember being 16 years old and not being able to find a single affordable foundation shade. CG “Rachel” was too pink, “Cream Beige” was too light. There were no golden olive ANYTHING in 1975! Or 1985, either, for that matter. Nevermind the utter lack of shades for those deeper than “Tan”! There was one single brand back then that did have shades for WoC, that I can recall. ONE.

And here we are in 2018. With 13 shades of pale Tarte Shape Tape Foundation. Am I surprised? Should anyone be, considering we’ve got as a “leader” of the US a Racist In Chief calling most of the world populated by PoC, Sh*thole countries? Nothing fazes me anymore.

I love your statement on this issue of a lack of deeper shades, because it sums it all up in a nutshell; ” Isn’t it a chicken and an egg problem — nobody’s buying deep shade X because brand A doesn’t have it? I can’t be your customer if you don’t have the shade I need”

If my comments seem strewn and discombobulated, it’s because I’m sitting here tearing up. Out of deep, deep gratitude for this beautifully heartfelt written article you posted. Out of hurt, because this is still a glaring and painful issue in the beauty industry. Out of rage, on behalf of my granddaughters, who are darker than myself, as well as all WoC who have to deal with this nonsense.

In Brazil, POC don’t buy high priced items. So, the shade range is abismal even for local brands. Mostly, they buy 2 or 3 shades of Chinese foundations to mix because “it’s cheap and have the same efect”. My POC friends get horrified when I say I bought a 50$ foundation 😂😂😂

But you are right for the USA market, which I follow bc I import most of my foundations as due to the above most of the brands (Mufe, MAC and KVD excluded) don’t bring them here (besides lived there once and.loved the country).

I am hoping that Fenty will release a hydrating foundation for dry skin, so I can that put my money in a brand that is inclusive to a diverse range of skin colors.

I think there is ignorance from some of the posters here regarding the history of racism in the beauty industry: from its idea that POC* should just use skin lighteners thus propping up notions that white = beautiful and brown = ugly, its logic that POC are all poor and haven’t the money to spend on cosmetics, and importantly how Jim Crow kept POC from being able to buy the products so brands never bothered to create them.

It is really sad to see privileged white women telling POC that they should just not complain and find a brand that caters to their skin tone. It is easy to brush off the concerns of POC when you have been catered to your entire life.

Makeup has a history that is deeply rooted in culture: from Egypt to the Victorian Era and through to today. As such, sociology effects how cosmetics are perceived and how they are used within society. The West has a damning history of racism and so, too, do the makeup companies which operate within those nations.

* Using “POC” as I want to include men and non-binary folks who enjoy using makeup.

Ha! I literally just sent them an email on this. Nothing is hydrating. I have well moisturized skin and it immediately dries me out. The papaya and pineapple ingredient are great for cell turn over, but there’s nothing hydrating. It’s not great for people who live in very cold environments where skin becoming dry is a big problem. It also poses a problem for people with eczema or psoriasis. It would be nice is shea or something was added. A Fenty moisture foundation would be everything.

I completely agree. Disgusted with people brushing this off with “not a big deal” and “well don’t buy from them”. The makeup industry is basically saying that POC don’t matter when they do stuff like this. That we aren’t It IS a big deal.

I’m so glad you discussed this on Temptalia! As a woman of color, I don’t buy from brands like Tarte. It goes against everything that I stand for. Even if they were to extend the foundation range in the “future”, I would not purchase it. The way Tarte is (not?) adressing this matter (or ignoring the feedback) is hurtful. Excluding POC to only include them when it’s (financially?) beneficial/convenient is something that should never be accepted.

Using FentyBeauty as an example, I often look at it like this: the owner of the company is a black woman herself. Yet, she made it a priority to launch multiple products that would not only suit POC, but people with all different skin tones/demographics etc. She included us, but didn’t exclude people with lighter complexions.

We’re in 2018 now. I honestly don’t believe that Tarte didn’t know about the lack of diversity within the beauty community. This proves to me that they do not cater to people who look like me. I live in Europe and while I cannot purchase a lot of US based brands like Tarte without spending a fortune, it’s really sad to see yet another brand do this. It was just last week when a sales advisor failed to colormatch me for the Estee Lauder DW and walked me over to the counter that “was made for black people because the other one was not”. Beauty industry has to do better!

You’re all going to complain about the shade range and then everyone who fits in the shade range is going to buy a bottle anyway, proving to Tarte that they didn’t really need to bother catering to deeper skinned women after all. I think the beauty community needs to stop whining to brands and start using their economic power. The hypocrisy of someone who calls out Tarte for the shade range and then buys a bottle is a hypocrite of the worst degree and a tacit economic supporter of Tarte’s exclusionary practices.

I wholeheartedly agree with you! I refuse to buy base products from Tarte for this reason, and it’s why I won’t buy from brands that still test on animals. In this industry money talks, and I refuse to put my support behind brands like Tarte.

There is also the frustration of minute shade differences within a product and gaps of shade and/or undertone altogether. For example, several brands I know (Revlon Super Lustrous, Maybelline, Urban Decay) have, say, six nude-tone lipsticks, all basically the same color (and finish!) only varying by a slight gradation from light to dark. Pink lipsticks across the board tend to be hot pink–looking for a rose coral pink, a carnation pink, a deep reddish pink;…Taupe eyeshadows tend to have a uniformly purple or pewter undertone.

Then there’s the palettes this season that all seem to have the same array of colors–oranges, greens–only varying by formula and packaging. It’s very tiring.

I have a very fair but not pink complexion and have a so-so time finding suitable foundation; my hardest time is eyeshadow because most are far too dark for me, including “nude” palettes–I look as if I’ve smeared dirt on my eyelids or worse, and the taupes/cooler tones leave me appearing to have terrible bruising. And “blonde” eyebrow products are either invisible or orange-tan. Lipsticks from drugstore to high-end are too intense–I was telling a friend that it’s almost as though makeup colors are formulated for theatrical wear they are so bright, dark, and glittery much of the time.

It is certainly not the subject, but I would like to indicate some products I found worked for me as I have the same type of complexion (just a different undertone).

As for the lipsticks I find the shiseido Rouge Rouge range to have a few lovely and muted shades (sweet desire, hushed tones). For the eyebrows, if you like powders, UD brow box in bathwater blonde(or a similar name) has a ashy tone I find perfect for eyebrows.

The unfortunate reality it’s a matter of business. There’s a lot of foundations on the market. So if you take all the women who are willing to buy high-end foundation, that’ll like that formula, that will need the lesser used shades, there’s really just not enough market for most businesses to bother with it. Then if you’re the store that has the makeup displays and you don’t sell enough of the less popular shades but they’re taking up space in your displays that could go towards products that would sell more, the stores are likely to phase out those shades to make room for other products that will sell better. It will be interesting to see if Fenty keeps it up since certain shades will be a business loss for them.

This is the standard line, ‘we don’t cary those colors because they just don’t sell’, but did anyone notice that for the first two months they were out, at any one point almost half of the darker shades of Fenty were sold out? It’s perfectly possible (likely even) that the darker colors of foundation weren’t selling not because of lack of demand but because they sucked! I wouldn’t be surprised if for Fenty it would be the lighter colors that are loss leaders.

Unfortunately, most brands don’t bring the full shade range to Brazil and higher brands POC foundation just doesn’t sell. Sephora always does sales like half the price and they will not sell.

I don’t believe it is a matter of money, but culture and education. Brazilians want to buy what is cheap even with bad quality. There is a 5US$ Chinese foundation that was a fever here. Why buy one MAC when you can buy 10 chinese foundations for the same price and mix them if needed? Education pays a part because people don’t understand that the quality of a Vice lipstick with less harmful ingredients justifies the price when compared with a rebranded lipstick imported from China.

My black friend’s with money don’t understand how I can buy a 50-100$ foundation (prices here are the double of USA) or a mascara.

POC is a large and growing segment of the market. If I were in business and didn’t actually give a fig about diversity, I would still add more shade and tone ranges as a way to help my bottom line. Fenty’s deep colors sold out, demonstrating the high demand. Many Latinx and Black communities have a rich history with makeup that manufacturers ignore to their financial loss.

I don’t know if it was just conjecture, but I heard/read that retailers were either holding back stock, or were not sent more product to make it appear as though the deeper shades were flying off shelves. A few people (both online & what I physically heard people say in stores) mentioned that they were looking for certain shades, either calling or visiting stores daily, for *weeks*, and being told every time that the store was getting shipments, but they somehow kept missing out… Any other item at Sephora, as I have been offered, can be held aside if you give your name (at least at the locations I frequent), so why not the Fenty foundation…?

I also wonder if, to some degree, the popularity of Fenty isn’t due, in some part, to the fact Rhianna’s name isn’t attached to the brand. There was a young girl at Sephora while I was in line looking for her shade, and wouldn’t even look at any other options the SA offered. She stated that she didn’t even really wear foundation, but wanted to support Rhianna.

So you’re (or whoever wrote the original) claiming that Fenty never actually sold out of the darker colors, but it was instead some vast conspiracy, all across the country -and online-, to make it look like the deeper colors sold out? All to defend the idea that dark colors of foundation sell? A campaign that ended after a few months? Which is more likely? A huge temporary conspiracy to convince (who?) that dark foundations sell or that dark foundations sell?

Except they’re not really ‘lesser-used shades.’ Self-identified caucasians make up less than two-thirds of the US population, and women of color spend MUCH more per capita on makeup (something like 80% more, iirc!) than their white counterparts. The consumer base is there. The products aren’t.

When Tarte releases fifteen shades — 13 fair-light, 1 medium, 1 dark — DESPITE these market stats, it starts looking less like ‘a matter of business’ and more like intentionally branding itself as exclusionary. Throughout history, whiteness has (unfortunately) been associated with prestige and wealth; it’s not unlikely that brands are ignoring POC to maintain that impression.

First of all, “self-identifying” as Caucasian is irrelevant; with an ever-growing population of bi-racial/mixed-race individuals, that spectrum is really extends on both ends. Second, most brands/products are sold internationally; the irony there is, Europe often gets base shades extended on both ends of the spectrum, which could correlate to demand.

As for PoC spending more on “cosmetics”, those numbers are often misrepresented, as those statistics tend to lump in skincare, hair products, and fragrance in addition to actual makeup.

Europe does not get the best shade extensions “on both ends”. I’ve live in several European countries, the US, and Mexico. The US generally has a wider range of shades available. In fact, I just came back from Europe five days ago and was frustrated by this very problem on my recent trip. So It’s a nice thought, but it’s not true.

Really enjoyed this post! I’m extremely pale and used to have a tough time finding shades for me. Over the years, brands have really done a good job catering to me and other super pale skin tones. Where they haven’t done well is extending shade ranges for deeper skin tones. I worked for Sephora for years and my only options for deeper skin tones were Cover FX and sometimes NARS. It was embarrassing having to send clients to Mac because we didn’t carry anything to suit their skin tone needs. I’m really happy to see Fenty and other brands making it a point to be diverse and we should demand more from the brands we all know and love.

Tarte has had over 18 months to expand the Shape Tape concealer range and has been called out for that long to do so—and has actively ignored those calls. There is simply no reason for that line to have only 3 darker shades in a range of 14. None. Their foundation should’ve launched with minimum 20 shades, and if they needed to make the shade range work, not two versions of the foundation. This “the darker shades don’t sell as well” argument is literal bullshit: you don’t give them a chance to sell. You don’t make them in tones that work for darker skin tones and you don’t make enough options in depth. The same argument applies for the fairest of skins as well. Not every fair skin tone is fucking pink. Some are super yellow or super olive. Finding those on the fair end are damn near impossible.

I get that development of tones is not easy but that’s what you signed up for. Make it work, and make your line inclusive or don’t have a damn brand. Focus your efforts on this stuff and not on the disposable bullshit palettes you crank out every week.

Everything she said!! Why crank out the same palette shades when they could have saved time and money by developing more shades for their new foundation launch?

MAC and MUFE have offered great shade ranges for years and it must generate a profit since they still offer a large shade range.

I did notice that Fenty’s launch, other companies started expanding their foundation shades including Estée Lauder to KKW. I would have thought Tarte would been more inclusive.

Agreed 100%. I’m aghast reading some of the comments on here that give the “darker shades don’t sell” and “this is just business” excuse. You said it best; that argument is literal bullshit.

Even if companies cannot offer every shade in every possible undertone, they need to offer a full range of shades, from very fair, through the many deep shades that are ignored or condensed into one option that doesn’t actually suit anyone, to the deep dark.

I have dry skin, so the Fenty foundation is not for me (though I am curious to see which of the extra fair shades would suit me because they offer so many undertones), but I love the brand because every time I would go into Sephora in the weeks and months after it launched, I would see people so excited to try it and find a foundation that matches them. People were beaming with excitement looking at the shades. And I shouldn’t have to say this, but I saw those same customers in line with me at checkout, so the shades are selling well. It was heartwarming for a minute, but then I looked around the store and remembered that there were not many or any other foundation options for these customers from other brands.

Yes! This is literally your job! Don’t pull that bullshit “we’ll release more shades in the future” excuse. That’s like saying POC don’t need/want makeup so we don’t need to make it available. POC exist right now, we’re not going to disappear and then magically reappear in 12-18 months when you finally get around to releasing more shades. I think especially since Fenty’s release, there is absolutely no excuse for other brands to drop the ball on their shade ranges. Especially larger brands that have the time, money, and resources, to develop shades for everyone.
To second a few other comments, I don’t think people realize how deeply racism is embedded in beauty. The fact that we are just now in the last few years getting around to having products in really deep shades made available is a reflection of this. I’m of Pakistani descent and one of the most popular beauty products in Pakistan is Fair and Lovely, a skin lightening product. A few years ago, when a woman of Indian descent won the Ms. America crown (I think that’s the one) a lot of Indian-Americans commented on how she would have never won the Ms. India crown because they would consider her too dark. To compare an eyeshadow/highlighter palette that doesn’t suit your skin tone to the total lack of options in base products for dark skin tones is really insulting. There is such a massive range of options in colored products, but it’s kind of hard to do your makeup when you literally have no base products that you can use.
Lastly, Tarte’s response is beyond disappointing, but not really surprising. What I’d love to see is some of the “beauty gurus” and “beauty influencers” they so heavily invest in to call them out on their bullshit. Unfortunately, when a brand sends you on exotic trips, lavish parties, and floods you with free products, it’s hard to remain objective. I wouldn’t be surprised if none of them raise this issue in any of their review videos of this foundation.

I feel like, if brands can’t (for whatever reason) produce an extensive shade range, then they should hit the major points on the spectrum (from lightest to darkest) and provide affordable (smaller sized) mixing shades.. I know most people want a ready to wear shade, but I think it could be a cool idea to sell a base shade with mixers (in a decent price bundle).. that way if people find a holy grail foundation, they could adjust accordingly for winter/summer/self tanning/whatever! I mix foundations all the time as I struggle to find the right undertones, I’d welcome the idea!

Agreed! And if you sell smaller bottles of all shades instead of larger ones of fewer you give options. ESP the mixers. I hate mixing bec I find that it messes with formulas but if they develop it from the start as the same base and just one pigment color (blue or yellow or white or black) it would be so much better. Nars did the PR sets of the new foundation with all the shades in a mini. THAT would be perfect for so many people. If nothing else people can try the stuff out, find a shade and then decide if that works for them. Then buy the larger size. First off they would make money hand over fist bec minis sell. But in the long run your return rate would be down from bad shades.

If you build it, they will come!

There was a time when DS brands actually did “minis” that they sold for less than $2 apiece, and they were 1/3 oz., which was quite a bit of product. I personally preferred them to full-size, not only because of cost, but because they fit into my makeup bag. Later on, brands switched to “blister packs” that contained 3-5 shades in a range, which was great to either mix within the packaged shades, or play around with what I already had at home.

What a great post Christine.
Something the really struck me when looking at the swatches was the disproportionate amount of light white shades. Now I am a very fair person with very golden undertones- not a particularly common combination, but plenty of brands, including what seems to be in this Tarte launch, would cater for my skin. An uncommon skin. There are millions more PoC than people with my skin tone. So if Tarte can have a shade for me in time for a product launch, why can they not do it for the millions of PoC? It must be a conscious choice. Which is appalling. Tarte are a hugely influential, leading brand, they should be at the front, creating as inclusive a shade range as possible. If they had release this product in 9 months time with a 30 shade range, it would have been amazing. Instead, they have said ‘ooh look at this amazing new product, not only is it based on a cult favourite concealer, but it’s something that you’ve all been calling for from us for the last 12 months! But it’s only for white people. But don’t worry, everyone else can buy it in another 12 months, when we release more shades and pretend that we cool and diverse.’ It’s a shocking attitude, and they should be ashamed.

However, I do think, with the market being as crowded and saturated as it is, no matter how much of a stink we kick up about this, these brands will continue to deflect and ignore. If all of us in agreement now boycott Tarte, will that really affect their sales so much? It’s not going to dramatically stop everyone who buys from Tarte in Sephora and Ulta going their. I would buy from them maybe 3 times a year, online, and I then import into the UK. Now I’ll probably just buy Fenty from beautybay, but is that really going change anything for Tarte? They’re so big, and so successful that they’ll ignore us, just like they’re already doing all over IG comments. I don’t have a solution, and I hope that if we keep shouting loud enough, at least some will hear us.

“Now I am a very fair person with very golden undertones- not a particularly common combination, but plenty of brands, including what seems to be in this Tarte launch, would cater for my skin. An uncommon skin. There are millions more PoC than people with my skin tone. So if Tarte can have a shade for me in time for a product launch, why can they not do it for the millions of PoC? It must be a conscious choice. Which is appalling. Tarte are a hugely influential, leading brand, they should be at the front, creating as inclusive a shade range as possible. If they had release this product in 9 months time with a 30 shade range, it would have been amazing. Instead, they have said ‘ooh look at this amazing new product, not only is it based on a cult favourite concealer, but it’s something that you’ve all been calling for from us for the last 12 months! But it’s only for white people.”

—> The line about it being a conscious choice? YES. They had a YEAR to prepare this, they have had 18 months to build the shade range (not even including the time before launch!) for the concealer where they launched only 6 goddamn shades! There really is no excuse for that, and it is obvious it was deliberate. When I read that I literally clapped in line at ShakeShack. My husband and everyone around us thought i was nuts. And to be fair we were standing behind 4 teenagers who clearly smoked so much pot today I had a contact high just smelling them.

I appreciate that you’ve put a lot of thought into this, Christine. I love that you took time to point out existing brands that have a more comprehensive shade range, especially considering the deeper end of the spectrum. I’m medium/tan in terms of skin tone depending on the season, and I was amazed at how nuanced the shades were in the Pro Filt’r line by Fenty. I’ve never had more than one choice per line that matched my skin tone extremely well, and I was a little overwhelmed at how it felt to be seen and acknowledged by a major beauty brand. This feeling should be available to every shade of the spectrum, and I hope more brands respond to this need to help abolish colorism in the beauty community.

Thank you so much for writing this, Christine!
As a pale girl, I understand what it’s like to struggle with finding a good match. What I cannot even begin to imagine, is how it must feel to look at a lot of brands and not see something even remotely similar to my skintone. So sad!

I’m going to try and be rational here, even though I feel like raging. This coming right on the heels of POTUS calling countries with brown and black people “shitholes” makes it difficult. Let’s bullet point it shall we?

*Racism is and has been rampant, in our country and our beauty community.

*I am light medium and have never had an issue finding a color match.

*I have always known POC have the opposite experience.

*I’m done with supporting foundations that have dismal color offerings.

*If lines do expand in the future I will absolutely give them another opportunity to get my money. Since going cruelty free, that line of thinking has worked for me.

*I “vote” with my wallet. Ultimately, that support speaks louder to me than anything else I could do.

I could go on and on, this is so nuanced and something I’m passionate about, but I think I’ve hit the key points I wanted to make.

Just a reminder to companies and people that try and use finances to determine what’s offered–check out the changing demographics. We are only going to get darker. This isnt going to change bc some find it distasteful. We live in a global society and with every passing year we become less “white”. I suggest adapting sooner rather than later.

Thank you so much for using your platform to have such a positive and necessary conversation. I also have more questions than answers as I’m not sure what the right thing to do as a consumer is– I would say I’m not going to buy Tarte until they make changes, but I don’t really own anything from them to start out with so I guess I need to look for more broader solutions than that.

Whenever I discuss the shade range problem with anyone from the beauty industry, I most often get some version of the shelf space argument– i.e. “space is at a premium in our stores and we only carry what we know will make money.” I also get “such and such brand is just catering to their demographic.” But it all seems to result in brands deliberately shutting out POC, and stores not giving their shades any space if they do come out. I guess it seems kind of chicken-and-egg ish like you said above– how can they know “what will make money” when they are creating their market by leaving out potential customers? I don’t get why some of these brands are so afraid of change. It’s wearying, tiring, saddening, and frustrating.

Hi Christine. I haven’t commented before though I’ve read your blog for many years. I have to say, what a brilliant post. Thoughtful, fair and a really good read too. I love many tarte products and I know you do too. That doesn’t mean they should get a free pass when they do something like this. I support everything you’ve said.

White people (myself included) need to recognize their privilege and stop buying from brands that may provide THEIR shade, but not enough shades for POC. I don’t care if this foundation might be a HG product, it could make me look photoshopped and I still don’t want it if it’s not going to accommodate deeper skin tones. Influencers need to stop recommending and reviewing foundations that don’t offer inclusive shade ranges that all their subscribers can enjoy. It’s time to stop being apathetic to this issue just because it doesn’t affect us.

I really appreciate this post, Christine.The last purchase I ever made from Tarte was years a flesh tone eyeliner that kept breaking years ago. I’m so glad more brands have come out with flesh tone liners (that don’t break off – might I add). Their lack of diversity in their shade range is why I won’t waste my money on that “amazing” concealer that is only available on their online website and Ulta. Not worth the money. I will continue to support brands like Nars and MAC who actually carries my shade – maybe start using Lancome. (Mac’s studio fix fluid line has 42 shades, the studio fix powder plus foundation has 49 for instance.) Tarte really has no excuse;If a drugstore brand can deliver more shades (however, I hate that the stores don’t carry the whole range), so can they. There’s just a lot of brands I don’t bother with that clearly do not care to do something as simple as expanding their shade range (Physician’s formula and Almay). I’m just really tired of brands carrying a bunch of lighter shades and then just in sprinkling a couple of darker ones and calling it a day.

Bravo for this post, it was a great read Christine!
I won’t be buying the shape tape foundation.
Personally I swore off not testing foundations ahead of time after years of being burned- but the Too Faced Born This Way shade extension “online only!” (initially) was it for me. I bought Snow from their brand website, excitedly, only for it to be far too yellow/dark for my complexion.
I don’t know what will have to change for this to stop, but not buying foundation shades that don’t match at all is all I can think to do, at this time.

Great post, and I would like to add that even when companies come up with a big shade range, they do not sell them in all countries. I mean, in Brazil all foundations sold in Sephora (many of which you mentioned) are very limited in shades, we get 10 maybe 15 shades!! Brazil is such a racially diverse country! We do not get the lighter shades or the deep ones! For me it is hard to find a Dior, Lancôme or even MUFE Foundation that suits my fair skin. In fact, I am checking the Sephora website right now and there are 6 shade options of Lancôme Teint Idole. That is it! Not mention drugstore foundations. 🤔😔

This is a great post – thank you for writing it and opening up another space for discussion.

I can understand that there are various reasons why a brand might want or need to start out with fewer shades with a plan to later expand the range if the formula sells well. What I don’t understand is why brands like Tarte here don’t evenly spread out those shades from light to dark. Not everyone would have a perfect match, but everyone would have something more-or-less appropriate in depth if not in undertone.

Personally, I think I’m not going to purchase base products from companies that don’t have an acceptable range of color options, even if they happen to have a shade that works for me.

Thanks for this, Christine. The simple answer is that brands like Tarte don’t care about women like me. The feeling is mutual. I am gorgeous and perfect the way God made me, and I will only spend my money on brands that know and respect black women. I’m patiently waiting for Fenty to take the industry over on all fronts so that this will be a non issue.

I think what I would like to see is a little different scenario. I am pale….and I have good friends who are quite dark complected. I don’t think that all brands need to be all inclusive. I really love some of the brands that cater to my friends with dark skin tones. They have beautiful products and are successful owned by and designed for people of color. They don’t work for me though. Since I can’t use those products I have other brands that are more suitable for me. Then there are the brands that we can all use and share. I think companies need to choose what they want to do and do it well. We can have companies that want to serve a smaller segment of the population…. and those that want to serve all. We should support both as long as they provide a good range of quality products within their selected demographic and don’t claim to be something that they are not.

I knew someone would say something negative. My comment is not political at all. Please don’t make it that way. No company should specialize? I like buying certain food items at a local Latin market instead of Walmart. Because they are specialized they have better quality and a better selection. I like a few specific clothing brands because I’m short and they do a really good job at fit for my body type. Much better than companies that have a wider range. All I’m saying is that there is room for companies that specialize in certain things and companies that have a very broad range of products. As long as they do what they do well. Support smaller business that are trying to fill a void in what is currently underserved instead of larger companies who aren’t.

You’re seriously over there promoting separate drinking fountains? The fact that these companies need to exist in the first place, and your desire to make sure they thrive and stay separate, is the entire reason this shit is still a problem.

Read it the same as you, Chloe.

As for Dawn’s saying it’s not political, I beg to differ. Politics is personal – politics includes where you can sit in a bus, drink clean water, whether you can afford health care, are able to get a job, and yes! find a shade of foundation suitable for you.

I totally understand specializations as a teacher. I specialize in the subject that I teach and my colleagues specialize in different subjects. That being said: I have to work with a wide range of different cognitive abilities even if they are different from mine. Can I take every student without assistance? No, but the resources for me to get the assistance that I need to serve a wide population exist and I use them. To your point, no one can do everything for everyone, but I cannot just say “I will only specialize in students with a high GPA and leave other teachers to specialize in students who may need extra help”. Same thing for a makeup company: it’s fine to specialize in an area with a broad application across a population (e.g. lipstick, blush, skin care, etc). Specializing in not serving a population is an entirely different matter.

What a timely thoughtful piece, Christine. I actually read a piece this morning from The Globe and Mail, a Canadian publication regarding, ‘those we do not speak of” ( to borrow from M. Night Shyamalan and because I do not want to give name and lip service to their hate) and one particular quote in the article stood out for me.

“by 2020 non-whites will be the majority of America’s children”.

Enough said.

Christine, add my thanks to all the others – this is an important issue for everyone to ask themselves, especially given the current political climate: do you stand up for all people, for diversity and equal treatment – or let the powers that be, in whatever realm, act as if they can decide who counts as fully human and who doesn’t?
A suggestion for taking a stand, if you choose to : Email/call customer service department. Make your specific complaint about limited color selection and what it means to you about the company. Tell them you won’t be buying anything from them until you see a broad shade selection and a serious commitment to truly serve a diverse population. If you happen to be Caucasian, I’d mention that, since clearly they’re assuming you’re their demographic – show them you’re loyalty/boycott is based on your ideals not your skin color. I bet that even 100 calls like that would jolt them out of complacency, as they’ll know (as politicians do) that the sentiment represents thousands more who haven’t contacted them but feel & will act the same.

Christine, thank you for this post. People of color shouldn’t have to settle. I shouldn’t have to buy two foundations or go without it in the summer when I get a smidgen darker and can no longer find a shade to match me. I shouldn’t have to buy more full coverage foundations and sheer them down because companies don’t make tinted moisturizers or bb creams that match my skin tone.

But as you point out Christine, the issue goes far beyond foundation ranges. It’s brands creating “universal” palettes when half of the colors look ashy or don’t show up on brown skin. It’s models that get featured in ads. It’s black owned brands being hard to find. It’s brands using derogatory names for brown-hued products. It’s salespeople ignoring or giving subpar customer service to minorities. It’s being told to contour your nose. It’s beauty gurus who get tapped for collaborations with big brands and those who don’t. Representation matters – from the person who is in charge of a company to who is working in the store.

I’m not sure what the next steps should be, but I do know that I value and appreciate you using your platform to talk about this issue.

You ask, “How can we actually effect real change and not just give lip service to diversity?” As an individual consumer, I try to vote with my dollars. (Brands with few medium–dark shades of base products and larger jumps on the deeper shades just don’t get my business anymore, in any product category.) But as a beauty influencer/company….

Christine, have you thought about adding a rating category to your foundation/concealer reviews? Right now you have: PRODUCT, PIGMENTATION, TEXTURE, LONGEVITY, and APPLICATION. But base products are unique in the makeup world in that color choice is based on necessity, not preference. What do you think about adding “SHADE RANGE” as a rating category? If only six people can wear a foundation range, I think that should hurt the review; if everyone can wear it, i think that should boost the review.

Have you also thought about mentioning smoothness and skew in shade range in the text of a base product review? I think these two small changes would be easy to implement, but represent your values in a real way, that is also very informative for your readers!

Hi Beth,

I appreciate the sentiment – I try to keep the ratings based on objective criteria, and then if I have subjective commentary or opinions that don’t fit, I try to include those things in the written review. By adding a subjective measure (we are never going to agree on what makes a 10/10 shade range), it really goes against what I built the rating system on and would need to do some soul-searching on that. I imagine it would be hard for me to assess a shade range without actually seeing all shades (and as I’m lighter, I also wouldn’t be able to judge as well as others whether the depth and undertone are truly suitable for those skin tones they’re attempting to match!).

Right now, I think it would be better to make it a must-have to write about a formula’s shade range in any future foundation/concealer reviews and can always direct readers to this post! (I believe I already started to include this in my more recent reviews, but it can definitely be a must-include going forward in a stricter sense.) I could definitely improve in making the section more prominent/speaking at greater length (when warranted–like a 10-shade range vs. a 30-shade range!).

That’s a really great point, that assessing things like the true wearability of shades far from your own skintone isn’t really feasible. I think we can all point to ranges that would earn a low score, but I can’t think how one would really distinguish a 7/10 versus an 8.5/10 range — and could there ever be a 10/10 range? I can really see the subjectivity involved after thinking about your comment!

Thanks for considering my point, Christine! Good luck in continuing to think about the questions you ask in the piece, and as always, I appreciate all the hard work and dedication you put in to your site 🙂

No problem – thank you for understanding! I’m thinking that I could at least summarize shorter shade ranges (“they’re all described as warm” or “there are five cool tones, five warm tones, and only two seem to be beyond medium”), but I’m definitely going to think about how I want to approach it going forward.

I think those type of comments would be extremely useful! I can usually find out dewy vs. matte, and sheer vs. medium vs. full coverage from ad copy, but even a cursory overview of what depths and undertones are present in range is something I turn to swatches and reviews to discover. (Personally I’m especially interested when shades are described as neutral or olive in undertone.) Thanks again for the thoughtful discussion!

Especially when “neutral” (in ad copy) can mean anything from beige to olive to peach, LOL! As someone who literally lacks any pink or yellow undertones, and am not peach, “neutral” is not at all helpful!

UGH this is so disappointing!!! I was so excited when they teased this the other day because I LOVE my shape tape with a burning passion too. I only buy from cruelty-free brands and not to be a pale princess ™ but it can be difficult for me to find foundations that fit my weird undertones so not buying anything from brands with cruddy shade lineups would limit me even more (especially when you consider brands with less than savory CEOs who I’m also not super keen on supporting). So my personal rule of thumb is to not buy foundation products from lines with a lack of shade diversity and to call brands on it on social media and their customer service pages. Aside from being racist as heck it also doesn’t make financial sense because WoC are the largest portion of the cosmetics market and like so many others have pointed out, they can’t buy your merch if you don’t have a thing for them!! Literally my local Sephora was out of the deepest shades of Fenty for MONTHS because this was one of the only lines that cater to that market; it’s not like this stuff doesn’t sell and there’s literally no excuse for this in 2018. Brands that are especially egregious with lack of diversity probably aren’t going to win my coins any day soon as I’d be side-eyeing future releases as just a PR move and not a reflection of the company’s values.

In my country the dark shades are usually not available even for a brand that does have darker shades. This is despite the fact that there is a sizable population of dark skinned women.

It’s pretty infuriating. And far too overdue, every brand should be making 25 to 30 shades at a minimum. People who say “oh marketing data says this skin tone doesn’t buy from us!” cause you don’t ever rep them you dumb ass. It’s tantamount to racism.

An informative article Christine and very timely. Most, if not all, of the Australian made makeup brands have a very dismal showing of foundation range, yet we are a very diverse nation of many nationalities.
I think it’s fair to pull them up on their woeful lack of shade range. The brands can’t just talk the talk, they have to walk the walk too. Australian brands such as Nude by Nature and Natio really need to push the boundarious on their shade range to make it accessible and affordable for all beauty lovers.
Those whose undertones and colour preferences are continually excluded must feel really betrayed by the beauty community when they really have little or no choices open to them
In this age of global communities, for a makeup brand to say that it is unproductive or too expensive is a cover for short sightedness and downright laziness.

Not only do we have to keep calling out brands that ignore WoC, we need to be looking into brands that are created by PoC, such as black owned makeup brands (BOMB). Do your research and make sure the brand is actually owned by a POC, (Black Up isn’t), and support them when they take risks. I promise that you can find products, even as a white woman, that will work for you within these companies.

Thank you for this article, Christine. I’ve been frustrated by this issue since I was designated the Fashion Fair counter rep back in the 80s even though I’m white. I asked for training on the products and they said I really didn’t need it because black women didn’t have the money to spend on nice makeup. That was BS then and it is now. I’m so glad WoC are finally having their voices heard.

Totally agree with your sentiment here about brands needing to do more about inclusiveness, but there is another point I want to touch on.

I am not the biggest supporter of the Kardashian/Jenner family and their beauty brands. I have never purchased anything from them, and never intend to. But when Kylie was rolling out her concealers not too long ago, i was shocked and disappointed in what I was seeing.

I expected to see positive comments about the wide variety of shade ranges, but instead, she was getting bashed for her. There were endless comments saying she was just trying to capitalize on what fenty has done. In my eyes, it was a huge step back for inclusiveness. We can’t beg companies to expand their shade range and then bash companies who listen.

If a focus on shade range inclusion is what we want from makeup companies, we have need to end the criticism of companies who do just that.
(for reference, here is a buzzfeed article about it: https://www.buzzfeed.com/danielacadena/people-are-accusing-kylie-jenner-of-copying-rihannas-makeup?utm_term=.qi414bG0z#.ie2J6GWoA)

I noticed that, too! Instead of embracing the fact Kylie Cosmetics, a brand that is aware of the broad demographic, and more than likely had been working on the product prior to the Fenty release, was being accused of pandering. If nothing else, this is a family that knows how to make money, and if they thought teal or magenta concealer would sell, they’d add those to the range, too, LOL!

Thank you so much for putting the time and energy into writing this piece. As a white person, I’ve only recently started thinking about these issues and this work provides some great food for thought and actionable next steps. I really enjoy the convenience of every range of fountain, concealer, etc having a shade I can use and that they almost always have it in stock to try in person. This is an experience I would like everyone to have, and it’s time I started working towards that.

What is also missing is a pink/blue undertone. I know a lot of people think the current offerings are too pink already but for someone who truly is a blue undertone, there is almost nothing out there. I can find only one foundation that matches me, Boots No.7 Lift and Luminate in Cool Vanilla. Everything else is too light, too dark or too yellow. Other shade matches have been discontinued. I have my fingers crossed that this shade isn’t discontinued.

I live in India where we have every skin tone on the planet- from deepest olive to fairest ivory-for that reason MAC and Estee Lauder with their incredible shade ranges are the few prestige brands popular here. If a brand intends to be international they might want to increase their shade range accordingly.

Thank you for tackling this issue, Temptalia. Your are uniquely situated to both call out this issue and inform beauty consumers who may not otherwise hear about it. Please keep doing what you’re doing!!! We support you 🙂

I’m very fair and neutral, and I often have a hard time finding foundation that works for me. I can only imagine the difficulty that deeper skin tones have finding the right shade without going online. Foundation is something you definitely want to buy in person if it’s a formula you haven’t purchased before, and a lot of stores tend to carry stock that caters to the lack of diversity in the area they’re in (like New Hampshire, where I live). Even though I’ll never need a shade any darker than fair-light, I love seeing the whole spectrum of colors when I’m out shopping because it tells me that the brand and the store is paying attention to everyone.

Thank you for writing about this Christine. It is pathetic that Tarte took the time in development (and not only that, how many people have been involved in this development process?) and still this is the range they came up with. I have made it more and more a point to vote with my wallet, especially as it has become more and more apparent that diversity is an issue that we sadly still have to reckon with in many areas of our society.

It really irks me when one brand has many different foundations, yet the shade ranges do not match up in quantity or actual shades. After seeing the swatches, I’m pretty turned off. I think the release of a “Shape Tape” foundation is pretty gimmicky, as well. So many people love the concealer, so the foundation will be a sure-seller. I wasn’t even sold on this one reading the early descriptions of it (especially when it includes Amazonian Clay when the original Amazonian Clay foundation is already excellent). I then looked at the shade range, only to see my shade missing from the range. Why should I have to start over finding a shade when I already know it in another foundation of theirs? I do appreciate this post, I think when a brand puts out a foundation, they should think of everyone and include more shades (even though my head sometimes swims when there’s so many choices and I’m second-guessing myself).

I can’t find a fdtn shade bc not many brands carry my undertone- like a yellow golden olive. I have to mix glossier medium/dark with some matte L’Oréal fdtn and a bit of milk makeup concealer in medium to get something close to my skin tone.

Most brands have something slightly lighter or darker but not my depth. It’s so frustrating.

So for people that say just buy from brands that carry your shaaaadee… guess what for me there isn’t any.

People’s privilege is real 🙄

And so is for the light end of shades usually, undertones are like pink, orange and beige, here where I live. They just look wrong on most of people, especially pink undertoned light. Makes you look like a milky piglet lol. My skin is light, with green undertone. I buy asian foundations, but have also meow cosmetics mineral powder, which has green undertone.

On this swatch, most of shades will look much lighter because of contrast. It’s like when I dyed my hair black, my roots looked almost blonde, and when I was bleaching my hair – roots looked dark brunette in contrast to the rest. And I have light golden brown naturally.

To me it’s very weird, that in US, companies don’t sell darker shades, like wth, there’s a lot of people missed out.

Completely agree with this. However, not sure if anyone has mentioned this, but I don’t think the two pictures you posted match. It seems the one on the left is swatches of their Shape Tape hydrating formula, and the right one is promo images of the Shape Tape matte formula.
The matte formula seemingly has three dark-ish shades, while the hydrating one only has two. The swatches for their matte range look more reasonable, with more even jumps.
It’s still confusing that they have more dark shades in the matte formula than in the hydrating one if they are catering to the same demographic. Maybe they think that POC have oilier skin.

I noticed the discrepancy, as well… I wonder if Pop Sugar deliberately posted the two images intentionally, in order to gain traffic…

I don’t understand why all brands make one formula with certain shades, but another formula will be *completely* different! As someone who prefers a dewy finish, it seems I can find a better match in a matte formula!

Christine im really dissapointed with this swatches by tarte, with the release on the side it looks bery different!
im very confused, it seems by them that there are only shades for very fair to light medium color, and thoose 2 darker shades at the end. I can’t even see the medium colors there, wtf happening?!?!

Im from brazil, here its even more complicated, the national brand with more variety has up to 15 colors, and its really a big thing and rare. The majority has something like 3 to 5 colors, of course they often dont have dark colors, and of course a lot of people dont have the money to pay for a imported foundation, in their shade, that has more variety like mac, nars, makeup forever etc..(or may not even like the formula too!)
its very sad see this on the country that has the second biggest black population and so miscigenated (i dont know if the word in english is correct rs) like here! We know some brands here, they think like this “release only the 3 shades, fair-medium-dark, that people will buy them anyway, we dont have to spend more money creating more colors!” Its a very sad thing! Especially for the people of color that are ignored.
I love that someone that is so big, with your voice on the beauty blog community talks about it and make other people think about it, sometimes its not their problem because someone has fair complexion, but we need to make our problem no matter how fair or dark is our skin, only like this we can stay together and make the brands change!

I think about the correlation between various cultures that do skin bleaching or whitening and limited foundation options. In South Korean beauty it’s not unusual to see TWO fair shades while there are many South Koreans who don’t fit that. Just one other example. The lack of very deep foundations is also important to me when I’m not a POC. The situation is ridiculous from a consumer and business perspective. The conversation is vital. If the company doesn’t listen/produce, don’t support them and keep it factual, “I don’t agree that they all not supply the demand for deep skin tones and I will not support them.”

Standing ovation, Christine! I hope reps from cosmetics companies are reading this. With so many women complaining, it’s hard to believe that expanding shades wouldn’t be “profitable.” Obviously, the market is there! I have a terrible time finding very fair shades, and I know the other end of the spectrum has an even worse time finding dark shades. It’s ridiculous and seems racist in this day and age. Hopefully Fenty gave the industry a good shaking up.

I’m a lighter skinned AA woman and when it comes to brands that don’t have a good range for deeper and paler shades, I just choose not to buy from them. I don’t acknowledge/accept the “we will have more shades in the future” mess because that usually means they are adding another beige or tan shade and not adding to where they lack most.

While I agree with your post Christine and the shade issues, i do see some positives with the above photo. The models look like “real people” to me, some older, some younger, more imperfections and a male with facial hair. There are definitely shade range issues that are more than simple economics of business (supply demand arguments are not end all be all) and, rather, the whole actual problem of systemic racism. However, I wanted to point out that the models have more of an everyday look vs. brands that stick to high glam/conventionally attractive models (nars, Becca spring to my mind as examples). Not a consolation but an observation.

This is a very interesting post Christine. I have yet to finish to read the comments but here are my thoughts on the matter.

I am very fair and very pink skintoned. Nars concealer vanilla is my summer shade and it looks neutral on me, not even pink. In the winter I mix with other formulas which also aren’t pink enough so I always have to find a balance between coverage and colormatch…

That being said, I do have more options to try from… Even thought the undertone is often really off (Nars is notorious for its really yellow toned foundations, for example). That is why I cannot start to fathom how frustrating it can be for people with Asian or deep/rich skintone.

What infuriates me is that when the brand does “make an effort” to expend their colour range and that… Half or a third of the range is available at the retailers…. Of course only the light-medium one with yellowed undertones… I don’t even refer to shelf place. Many big retailers don’t sell them online either.

Which means… You have to get through the brand’s website, no trial, no return in Europe, no discount. What is it, if not discrimination? Let’s call it what it is.

I applaud products developed with deeper skintones in minds, especially if said products are meant to be added to the permanent range. I don’t need to buy every palette, blush or highlighter. I just wish brands would stop selling us “universal” products.

I don’t think every brand needs to cater to everyone but the situation is so unbalanced at the moment… That yes, some trees need to be shaken.

If someone has already mentioned lightening drops and darkening drops, then sorry for the repetition. These products do exist and it’s well worth your time hunting for some. If you can find the right TONE, but it’s too dark or not dark enough, lightening and darkening drops are miracle workers. I use the lightening drops from The Body Shop, and I don’t know what I’d do without them: I’m fair a w/slight pink undertone.

What I really don’t understand is why more companies don’t come out with these products. I don’t expect every line to carry dozens and dozens of shades for each formula it offers, but why can’t some lines formulate their own lightening drops and darkening drops. It’s a simple concept and I think it’s past time for this to happen.

Christine,
I want to echo my thanks for writing about this topic. I’m close to Mac NC42ish (lighter and darker at different times of the year) and am always shocked when I’m either too dark for many luxury brands or there is only 1 shade and the undertone is very bad. I’ve stopped buying from these brands as well.

I’m going to echo other posts who point out the issue is beyond foundation and I have a similar issue with eyeshadow palettes where half of the colors turn ashy/white on me. MAC. Estee Lauder and MUFE are great brands for me but it is completely disappointing to see so many other brands not follow them.

On a last note, it is disappointing and saddening to see some responses (thankfully not many!) who not only don’t have an issue with lack of POC representation but who are actively telling us that there isn’t an issue. I am pleasantly surprised to see so many people (including yourself) stand up in support of diversity. It is easy these days to feel alone.

THANK YOU!

This lack of incluvisity in base products is something I think about often, and it goes back to when I was younger looking for my shade. I have very pale, neutral toned skin, so foundations labeled “porcelain” (the lightest shade) were still several shades too dark, but I would also see many of my dark skinned friends struggle, only they couldn’t find one dark enough. Urban Decay’s range was the first range I found a color that went vampire (well, more like lupus “going out in the sun gives me rashes”) pale, but UD doesn’t go as dark as it does uber pale and this always bothers me. Why do we not love on our darker sisters in the base color range?! Companies tend to forget those tones in the middle too (forget about those beautiful colors that remind me of spices. Nope, milky white or chocolate. Come on cosmetic companies.)

I think everyone deserves having a foundation and concealer that works for them.

I had a lengthy response to this post, but then I realized – the hell with it. There’s only one real answer.

Racism.

Dark skin tones are not as valued customers as lighter skin tones. We can argue all we want about demographic numbers, but at the end of the day, the market is there. The market is only going to get bigger, particularly in the States where non-white ethnic populations are on the rise. They will buy it if you provide it. There are brands that have fuller ranges, and they sell.

It’s one thing not to have the extremes commonly available. I’m a fair skinned women – enough so that not all brands cater to me, but I can find it with some searching. Women who are even fairer than I am? I expect them to have some trouble. It isn’t super common to be ivory fair. Same on the other side of the spectrum – very intense, blue-black skin tones aren’t extremely common here. But for the in between? People are dark brown? Medium brown? Red tone, yellow tones, olive tones, blue tones, etc. They’re all here. They have money. They’ll buy the product. You just have to stop pretending they’re part of the spectrum of “other.”

Was it “racism” when Revlon, Maybelline, & CoverGirl developed lines for PoC? While the CG line is still around, the shelves in my area (which is predominantly AA/Latinx) stays stocked, while the Revlon & Maybelline are long gone, along with Iman, and the Fashion Fair counter is always empty at the mall I’ve regularly shopped at for the last 12 years. Believe it or not, both Almay & Physician’s Formula, as well as the now gone Sally Hansen/Carmindy line, went pretty deep. The aforementioned lines/brands were around prior to the concept of “influencers”, but I think if, instead of just “calling out” brands for “exclusion”, more influencers amped up the hype for the current market offerings that are inclusive of PoC, it would probably raise sales, and because many of the top brands share parent companies, they could see tangible sales/numbers pertaining to their bottom lines, which would encourage not only other brands under their umbrella to branch out, but other, less inclusive brands to compete.

The funniest/ironic thing is they will cater/market to MEN first before marketing or catering to WOC. Men don’t need a special foundation and what is that market compared to the WOC market in terms of sales?! or is that to suck up to the popular male YTers? Like I said men don’t need a special foundation they don’t have some different skin type to women (just as absurd as PENS being marketed to women and men as if we write differently!) What unifies men and women (if they want to go that route) is more shades ha! They fail to see this!

Actually, men do have different skin than women, but since this isn’t a product specific to either gender, those differences (texture & tone) don’t apply. If you want to get even more specific, there are also significant differences in skin, aside from color, among different ethnic groups.

Just had a random thought that may be helpful? What if people who match lighter shades, when purchasing a drugstore foundation also picked up the darkest shade in that range? Like a solidified economic symbol? Call it #buythedarkestshade haha. I see so many people willing to by a $40-50 foundation, so if a drugstore foundation averages $10 then buying one more would put you out $20. If the darkest shade doesn’t fit you at all, there are ways to give it to someone who needs it so it won’t go to waste. I can imagine choosing to do this to brands who are putting out some effort but their darker shades still have big skips in shade and tone, to show that the darker shades warrant shelf space. I haven’t thought out more the logistics and implementing this, thought it could be an impactful idea. If money’s the incentive, seeing that those of us whose shades fit want to support more inclusiveness are ready to show up with our wallets (again, maybe a hashtag selfie movement?) just thoughts from a mixed race NC35 girl trying to have a solution 🙂

Rereading my post: 2 things:
1) *buy lol
2) To clarify, it could be anyone and everyone doing this, from pale to dark, not just those who have shades match. I just hope that those of us who have shades that match don’t sit out but show solidarity! It’s not about us, it’s about those excluded from these obtuse and mystifying practices

Thanks Christine, important post! I’m pale as hell and that’s a privilege in the makeup world. I can always walk in somewhere and have plenty of options for my shade and tone, as well as people to advise me on how to do my makeup well. Let’s not pretend we all have equal access to good quality beauty products in flattering shades and formulas in the same amounts. We don’t. I always comment when I see something like this, they need to know their white customers aren’t okay with the status quo!

I think it’s also a vicious cycle. For example, a brand tries to expand into deeper shades, but they don’t get the undertones right. The end result doesn’t match as many people, and it doesn’t sell. They might interpret this as there not being a consumer base and discontinue deeper shades, assuming that they don’t have a market in deeper complexions. Just a conjecture, but it doesn’t escape my notice that a lot of times when foundations go on sale, it’s usually the deeper shades that are being discontinued out of mainstay ranges.

I’ve been busy and missed this post until now. Well done.

Sadly, I’m not surprised. This is typical. Ten shades for pale skin, 3 for brown. No consideration for the many shades that POC come in nor the undertone. I also find this in eyeshadow palettes where half of the shades are pale and pointless and would only be good as a highlighter. It’s going to take a while for brands to realize the changing demographics and accept POC spend a lot of money on makeup. The problem is there aren’t POC in senior positions at these companies making these decisions.

I of course think people of every skin tone should be able to find makeup that suits them. I imagine it must feel bad not being able to. I am not saying I agree with this at all, just trying to understand the reasons. I always assumed it was a business thing. Around 70% of the US population is Caucasian, 13% is African American. These numbers may be off. I did not check, but I think this is close enough for the point. If such a small number is African American, then the number of people who have very dark skin will be tiny, then cut out even more because the majority of makeup customers are women. So that leaves a very small market for darker foundation shades. The overwhelming majority of customers will be pale, light, fair, medium & lighter brown shades. Again, not saying I agree, I have just always been curious if this is the reason. I always see people saying that everyone should be represented, but in many cases that is impossible to do & not an accurate representation of race in our country. I hope that every company makes an effort to include all colors though. It is the right thing to do!

Just food for thought but demographic surveys that include “white” are often bucketed in such a way that it isn’t just “white” but includes a greater variety of skin tones than one might believe. There are those who are Middle Eastern included in “white,” and there are multiple skin tones/depths within that – far more than justified by so many fair and light shades.

Here are some demographics by the Kaiser Family Foundation that actually pulls out Hispanic from White: https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/distribution-by-raceethnicity/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D

Here’s a write-up from the Pew Research Center about the changing makeup of the US: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/03/31/10-demographic-trends-that-are-shaping-the-u-s-and-the-world/ and only reinforces why companies should be quicker to change than not.

Tarte and Sephora aren’t only in US countries either, though. Tarte ships internationally. On the Tarte website you can choose from:

Angola (AOA)
Benin (XOF)
Botswana (BWP)
Burkina Faso (XOF)
Burundi (BIF)
Cameroon (XAF)
Cape Verde (CVE)
Chad (XAF)
Comoros (KMF)
Congo (Kinshasa) (XAF)
Djibouti (DJF)
Egypt (EGP)
Equatorial Guinea (XAF)
Ethiopia (ETB)
Gabon (XAF)
Gambia (GMD)
Guinea (GNF)
Guinea-Bissau (XOF)
Kenya (KES)
Lesotho (LSL)
Madagascar (MGA)
Malawi (MWK)
Mali (XOF)
Mauritania (MRO)
Mauritius (MUR)
Mayotte (EUR)
Morocco (MAD)
Mozambique (MZN)
Namibia (NAD)
Niger (XOF)
Reunion (EUR)
Rwanda (RWF)
Saint Helena (SHP)
Sao Tome and Principe (EUR)
Senegal (XOF)
Seychelles (SCR)
Sierra Leone (SLL)
South Africa (ZAR)
Swaziland (SZL)
Tanzania (TZS)
Togo (XOF)
Uganda (UGX)
Zambia (ZMW)

and that does not even include India, Asia, South America, Europe, Australia, etc. So if Tarte has put the business into offering shipping to these countries, why not offer foundation shades.

Also, for some perspective: I live in Finland. My friend went to Stockholm on a trip last week. The Stockholm Sephora had a full Fenty display. It was CLEARED OUT with only a few things left, foundation shades included. I’m pretty sure Sweden has less of a non-white population than the US, Sweden’s population itself is only around 9 million. People always think Sweden and Europe are so “white”, but if even we have decent amounts of women buying up dark foundations, think what that means for the US. 13% of the US is an incredible number. If I did my math right, it’s around 41 million people. That’s like, at least 4 Swedens.

This reply isn’t directed at you in general, mind you, but in general the idea that 13% is “small”, because it looks small on paper, but when you really put it into perspective of how big the US itself is, it becomes large. The amount of potential darker-skinned customers out there is bigger than we probably even realize.

Anything I might say at this point has already been said quite eloquently so I will only add my thanks to Christine and express my appreciation to the others here for giving me so much to think about. I will not be buying from Tarte anymore until there is a true change in its corporate culture.

We (black women) are a small percentage of the population, but on average, we spend more on beauty supplies (including but not limited to makeup) than other groups. This has even been true as far back as the 1960s. The exact issue which has been brought up in this post was happening back then and it is why my parents and grandparents boycotted beauty brands that refused to acknowledge in advertising and product production that we were a target audience.

It’s not very smart for Tarte to use dark skin to swatch mostly very pale shades…what were they thinking? None of the dark shades matched the skin being swatched on either. Epic fail.

I have also always wondered why makeup companies offer limited shade ranges in their foundation formulas. I understand that all companies have to define who their “customer/consumer” is before they can begin work on creating products and marketing campaigns. I am sure a few of the things that they take into consideration is gender, age and race of their consumer. Who is most likely going to be buying the product?

Here are some stats (census from 2016) on who their potential customers are for the US:

Population size: 323,127,513 (males and females are a 50/50 split)

Race:
White: 76.9%
Black or African-American, alone: 13.3%
American Indian and Alaskan Native, alone: 1.3%
Hispanic or Latino: 17.8%
White alone, not Hispanic or Latino: 61.3%

According to the population statistics, overwhelming majority of the customer base is white and product created for that customer is most likely to sell and not sit on the shelf.

Any company that is required by the manufacturer to purchase foundation colors in batches will likely incur a loss for batches of colors designed for deep/dark skin tones. This might be one the reason why some companies stray from producing large shade ranges. This of course would not be an issue for companies that can determine their own batch sizes so the batch size vs customer demand can’t be taken into consideration.

I just wanted to provide another angle for the debate and hopefully we can all talk about current issues in the beauty industry by employing logic versus feelings in our argument points.

That is what I thought too. It seems like a business decision mostly, but on the other hand it contributes maybe without meaning to to racism. It seems like the could easily make smaller batches of darker colors to match the number of consumers for each shade. It reminds me of many times I have heard people say that “POC are not represented in many areas”, fashion for example). They say on a runway you see 1 or 2 POC models for every 8-10 white models (in America). This is just an accurate representation of race & population. That would be exactly how many POC models would even apply for the job. To make it even they’d have to go out searching for people specifically because they’re not white. There are literally way less black people, it seems absurd to me that people think every situation should have as many POC as white people.

Just want to make it clear that “POC” doesn’t just mean black people – POC is a giant spectrum of skin tones that range from fair to deep, and your comment seems to erase a lot of people. “White” as a demographic in many statistics (like US Census) is not a representative statistic of “white” meaning only those who are very fair skinned but encompasses far more skin tone and undertone diversity than comments like yours and the previous thread consider.

I typically don’t use the term POC since almost everyone is a person of color except for those with albinism (complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes). I agree that the US Census stats on race are not comprehensive and i can see issues that can arise from trying to classify skin tone. People from the Middle Eastern regions, South America and Asia come in all skin tones and often times I think we confuse race and nationality when we talk about skin color. These rudimentary census forms don’t help either. African American, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian and so fort are not skin colors. Sure, they can help us make generalizations about what the most common skin color is in these regions/continents but at the end of the day we are just left with generalizations.

I genuinely believe that brands need to be inclusive and I also understand that there are production costs and demand which cause some to not be inclusive.

It seems that everyone wants to run away from the topic of supply and demand but it needs to be addressed. It would be awesome to organize a series of talks (kind of like TEDx Talks) where cosmetic industry professionals from different departments (marketing, creative) talks about what shades(foundation) are sold the most (someone from MAC would be awesome as they have a shade range that caters to many skin tones and they have been around long enough to have some fantastic data) and what the creative process is like during shade development. If we had something like this then we can all make more informed decisions and come to better conclusions.

But what is the WHY of it? Is it a money thing they think extremely light and extremely dark shades won’t sell as much as everything in between so they don’t make them because they don’t think they’ll be profitable? Really that is the only reason I can see a company would do this which makes it all that much worse. Even if it’s a matter of it being hard to create those shades, most of these companies have extensive resources to create them so that is probably not it. It’s so frustrating.

This is the most political post I’ve seen you do. You go girl!
With Trump’s blatantly racist comments all companies and individuals in America as well as the rest of the world need to do whatever we can to say “NO MORE!”
No step is too small to make a difference.
I’ll email and call Tarte to voice my dismay. Tip: For companies not listing phone nos., google a headquarter address and you’ll find a number.

Completely agree, but I still think they leave out very fair cool tone/ pink under tone shades. I have a very hard time finding foundation shades to match me. Example: I can’t use nars, I have yet to find one that has no yellow in it. But I do agree tarte really messed up this launch…. I mean at the very least they could of came out with a coordinating shade for each concealer in both formulas. However, if you go and look they don’t even have the same shade range in both formula…. the shade I would need only comes in the hydrating foundation and I have oily skin… So now they’re making me skin type assumptions as well lol.

Just a note: the lightest shade in the new NARS foundation is very fair and has a pink undertone. I’m very fair and neutral, and Siberia always looked like a mask of a jaundiced cast on me, so I’m glad they are offering a new color (but are disappointed that they are eliminating the yellow toned very fair shade, which I know is also hard to find).

That being said, while it is good for brands to be inclusive on all ends of the color spectrum, erasing the existence of women of color from their offerings (like Tarte did here) is completely unacceptable.

I appreciate you SO MUCH for this, Christine. We need voices out there to let Tarte know this is not ok.

Yes, Tarte didn’t say anything racist. But they didn’t have to. This launch is a clear enough snub to customers of colour. They’ve shown that we are not their priority, and they are not interested in meeting our needs.

I hope more big names with influence will come out in support of serving customers of ALL skin tones, and vote with their wallets.

Much of what I was going to say has been covered by other posters, but BRAVO to you Christine for speaking out about this! I am a WOC (my family is from India) and though I would say I was medium-tan with a neutral undertone (my current foundation is Bobbi Brown skinfinish foundation stick in Cool Honey) it’s difficult to find a foundation that is the right shade, not too yellow and not too beige. I couldn’t believe it when I saw those swatches, and especially when Fenty is killing it with all their foundation shades. I like Tarte because they have a lot of vegan products, but I’m not going to buy anything from them for a while now.

Not only did Tarte leave out the darker shades, but it seems to me that they also left out shades with a pink or cooler undertone. I see this happening in many new foundation launches of other brands and it’s very frustrating to say the least. Not all cooler or pink undertoned skin wants a yellow undertone to “cancel out the pink.” It doesn’t work that way for all of us.

That PopSugar article was absolutely horrific. Thank you for continuing to draw attention to this on your platform. Tarte’s response to this was so horrible in every respect. First, ignoring the problem. Then, blocking users who asked. Then, trying to drown out feedback with palm tree emojis. Finally, issuing an inadequate apology via Instastories as opposed to an expansive one on all platforms which made clear why they were in the wrong and how they were addressing it. One of the things I loved about Alissa’s video (and your article here) was that she drew attention to brands who are diverse and worthy of my money. I am planning to purchase from those brands in future, and not from Tarte.
One final thing… the sheer amount of people saying to POC “not everyone should be expected to have everything” or some version of that made my heart break. I hope everyone watches Jackie’s and Alissa’s videos and takes your words to heart.

Tarte’s response was not a bad apology. It was simply not an apology at all. It was a justification. They are sorry that our feelings are hurt, but they take no ownership of the fact that they peddle whiteness. They dance around this and justify the fact that they peddle whiteness by explaining that we were “excited.” (?!) They sound like a frat boy justifying why he had intercourse with an intoxicated girl. We were not excited, and we were not asking for it. They don’t need to do “better.” They need to wholly and unequivocally repudiate white supremacy.

I am encouraged by the backlash to this lame release. Treating POC like an afterthought is so insulting, and Tarte’s “apology” was mere rationalization and throwing crumbs.

Imagine you had three children and on Christmas you gave two of them presents, telling the third, “I wanted to get the first two presents out as fast as possible. I’m working on yours.” You could add a bunch of lame emojis to soften the blow, right?

Thanks so much for the updates, Christine. Tarte’s behavior in blocking people was very unprofessional and shows that they really don’t care about concerns. PopSugar’s comment about winter and summer shades was ignorant and laughable.

Great post Christine and thank you for taking the time to write it. I know that you put much thought and consideration into it. This was a great thread and I enjoyed reading all of the comments. The reality is that in this day and age many people still just don’t have a clue neither are they trying to find one. I hope that change will happen in the beauty industry because it is long overdue. To those companies that have been on their game for a long time (you know who you are), those that are trying to do better (you know who you are too) and have taken positive steps to make EVERYONE feel welcome, I applaud you. I have heard some say and have even read comments on this blog that they are over Fenty Beauty already. However, I will say that Rhianna and company got it right (and yes, at my Sephora almost every shade sold out from the lightest to the darkest) and the enthusiasm from customers was wonderful to witness. The development/launch was THOUGHTFULLY planned out with all skin tones in mind not just a few. So no, I am not over Fenty Beauty and I hope other companies step up with the same attitude and mind set.

“we made the decision to move forward before all the shades were ready to go”

See, this by Tarte implies they had the intention of making this many shades to begin with, which we should (and I’m sure many like myself do) doubt. This does not make marketing sense, and launching without shades and without even mentioning shades being still in progress is further proof, as is “we heard you”. So, you heard us and added shades, but you also launched before all the shades were ready? They also refer to it as the “final shade range” but then try to say it wasn’t by saying “before all shades were ready”. It doesn’t help right after this they say there’s no excuse and they’re taking responsibility…but I fail to see how they can do that when their story isn’t even consistent between instagram story updates. Take real responsibility Tarte, for real.

Popsugar’s shade to Riri and Fenty wasn’t cute either: “Bless Rihanna’s heart, but from what we understand, launching a foundation range with 40 shades (hi, Fenty Beauty!) is easier said than done. That’s why many brands, including Tarte Shape Tape Foundation, debut with a smaller set and then increase the colour range over time.”

Maybe the author of this is unaware “bless your heart” is a phrase that can and often does come off as sarcastic or sassy? But it sounds here like it’s meant to be sassy, like how dare Rihanna and Fenty make it look easy to make a full range of foundation shades that are diverse? And then regardless of that meaning Popsugar just proceeds to make more excuses for Tarte, implying like this was their plan (it wasn’t), that this is somehow a boon/benefit (it isn’t) and that Tarte was somehow incapable of launching with a proper range. The whole Popsugar article is a mess, honestly.

This whole everything is a mess.

I’ve wasted hours and fortunes on foundations that never looked good, because it’s rare for me to find matches on the palest end of the scale. (E.g., IT Cosmetics, Chanel Vitalumiere,…) And if I find a decent color match, it’s usually not in a formula that suits my skin well. Lots of money for mediocre results, in an era when wall paint companies can copy any hue on demand.

So, I get the color-match disappointment just on a practical level. But if I had to also feel insulted, not just frustrated, as makeup wearers with caramel and darker tones feel at the Tarte foundation launch….it would be much worse. Time’s up.

I get that it costs the brand and retailer more to stock 30 shades instead of 3. But at $40+/oz, it shouldn’t be asking too much. Shame on any brand that makes lame explanations. They sound phony because they are.

Blogs are a great way to share brand recommendations with people with the same skin/color issue as our own. But public outcry and voting with our dollars is how things truly change. New brands are free to swoop in and grab market share from entrenched ones that get too comfy resting on outdated laurels. I say, go, Fenty.

They need to pull all of it until it’s correct. The shades they released (especially in the dark colors) have such strong yellow, orange, and red undertones they look unwearable. Watching Jackie try to make any mixture of those shades work for her was cringe inducing. As she said, they looked more like correctors than actual foundations. I watched Nikki Tutorials (before she pulled it) and Manny’s videos, too, and the colors weren’t right for them, either. Just a disappointing launch all around. Honestly, I’m glad it something that’s an easy skip all around. I will stick with Nars and MAC, who have had great shade ranges forever.

An excellent and insightful article Christine. I think it is time to call out brands that offer only a limited number of shades in their foundation range, after all they are the ones raking in the hard earnt money of their loyal customers. This is why brands generally (even in fashion) lose big time because they don’t respond to their customers needs and ignore whole sections of the market, as if they don’t exist.
The DS brands need to really lift their game in the foundation range situation too as many can only afford their products.

I emailed Tarte to let them know that I won’t be buying anymore from them because of this. Their response made it clear that adding 10 new shades = 5 shades for matte and 5 shades for hydrating (so not 10 new shades at all). They also bragged to me about selling 48 different shades – because they count every shade across every formula. And even if they did actually have 48 shades, it wouldn’t matter because 43 of them would be for white people.

Christine, you are my hero. So powerfully written. And all the more meaningful because you have likely been a significant driver of sales on Tarte’s foundation. It’s a great foundation, but that series of responses is truly regrettable.

It’s very painfully obvious to anyone of color that only a white person could have written both of those, and that it was likely written by someone with limited deep interaction with people who have a significantly different skin tone from their own.

Yeah, I honestly don’t think they intended this, I think it was just ignorance and not knowing better (there’s always more to be learned, on everybody’s part!). The apology seems to define the issue as being mean to people of color, as they say it was not meant to be “malicious,” or mean. They do not get the problem. The problem was having a total blindspot for people of color, and literally just seeing the world in terms of race rather than having a deeper understanding of humanity and the diversity of human experience (instead of an army of light eyed blonds, a couple black women, and a man with a beard). Then thoughtlessly, in this white-black binary, choosing white as the more important target market. The use of fake apologies as a general matter, by sweeping issues of race under the rug as not important, or too controversial to face head on — disappointing.

Thanks for writing this really insightful and courageous piece! Beauty is a staple in so many people’s lives, and an actually profitable move like you’ve outlined could make a real statement — that a brand has imagined that non-white people exist, and have the money to buy their products.

I should give the new Nars one a try, even if it is the “ginger” shade 😉

After reading all the comments and the so called apology (“cough” excuse “cough”
deflection) can no longer purchase from Tarte. Unfortunately, it will take us uniting as a community and refusing to support/purchase from non-inclusive brands to drive real change in the industry. Capitalism responds to impacts to their profits.

Tarte”s lack of diversity regarding darker skin tones is probably the result of an homogenous staff that includes few if any people of color. It feels so good that so many different people called out Tarte about this issue to let them know that not including shades for people of color is not acceptable and will not be profitable. It’s great that Christine highlighted such an important issue, thanks for covering this!

Research usually show that women who are POC spend more money on cosmetics than white woman do. Why not just have wider range of foundations to expand their business? Why are they missing the opportunity to get more customers? Why don’t they invest and put money to get more returns even though there are thousands of potential customers? Because they don’t care about POC. Period. There are various types of foundations and white drops for people with extremely fair skin, but there’s no such thing like brown or black drops for POC. I have tan skin, and there are many products that too fair for my skin tone. I can’t even imagine how POC suffer from this problem. It hurts my heart so bad.

This! How do companies not understand this!?!? Do none of them do market research?! It just goes to show what companies care about all of the base and what companies aren’t going to last in a global economy.

Here is my cynical theory, and Jackie offhandedly implied something similar in her video (though I do not want to put conspiracy theory words in her mouth, lol). I don’t think there is any possibility of flat-out ignorance anymore, not in brands as large as Tarte. I think it’s safe to assume that the pushback was larger than they expected, but that they made a calculated decision knowing that there would be some kind of risk or backlash. I think that Tarte knew that, regardless, their customer base is white. My shady conspiracist brain says maybe the shade expansion was planned from the beginning, such that if and when their potential customers (largely but not exclusively people already represented by the shade range) were outraged, they could show “improvement” very quickly and actually benefit from the controversy-buzz, especially since “showing pathetic minor improvement in representation” seems to earn people so much credit these days…

What do we think?

This is the best article I’ve ever read on this site. And that’s setting the barextremely high because article I read on this site is awesome. Well-crafted, thought provoking, articulate, passionately written article for those of us who still can’t believe that this is happening on 2018. Then again, we can. Thank you for this!

I have been following this situation since the swatches were put up. I have watched Makeupshayla, Jackie Aina and Alissa Ashley’s video, Alissa Ashley’s video on her own channel, Jasmine Brown’s, Luvs Reviews, Babsbeauty, Jeffree Star, Manny MUA, Kelly Strack, Shanni Grimmond and Nikkitutorials before she deleted it. The way Tarte handled this is disgraceful. I highly recommend MakeupShayla’s YouTube video she swatches the 3 darkest shades on her face and it really drives the horrible lack of diversity in this range home. She created a contour palette for darker skin tones with Tarte and she was obviously hurt and disappointed with the brand and did an extremely honest review of the product. There are a lot of mid to high end luxury brands that have notoriously limited shade ranges. I purchased a Givenchy Cushion hybrid foundation last year from Sephora and there were 7 shades total I wore shade 6 and I’m a light medium skin tone. That is unacceptable. A lot of brands including Tarte of course need to do better.

I agree with all of what you summarized above, plus the fact that they used models to represent medium to tan skin with a fake tan is insulting. A hint of orange is not a naturally occurring skin color. It is not like there aren’t millions of models of all races/ethnicities they could have used to accurately represent the shades. Pass on this whole brand until they get it together.

I am a WOC. Beyond Fenty, Huda and Nars released a shade range to cover a wide range of skintones. Tarte WENT TOO FAR!

They released a foundation mostly for white people. Literally! I don’t believe that even medium skinned people will find anything in that foundation. If there was any “missing shades”, why release it missing when any sane person would know/predict this backlash? In what world this was a sound decision unless they didn’t want non-white people as consummers from the beginning?

I don’t like Jackie Aina. That woman loves to talk diversity… while keeping her natural black hair non existent in favor of wigs… blonde straight/wavy wigs. All while going against other people who use black dos. In the other hand, Alissa is a treasure as a voice for WOC and as a makeup artist. If she speaks we have to hear. Beyond this, I am just happy that most of the beauty community is calling Tarte out for this BS they pulled.

To me it is as simple as they don’t want their amazing-spetacular-mega-ultra-blast-power foundation sullied by being used by non-white people. At least, the fashion industry blantantly states they make fashion for size 2.

Hadn’t heard anything about this until Jackie Aina & Alissa Ashley’s videos on the subject. My thoughts: a shame and sadly, I think a few someones need to be reassigned from there positions on the decisions that lead up to Tarte making such a poor decision on the colors to release. Anyone here (non MUA even) would have known that after Fenty and a few others coming out with so many colors in their foundations, you just can’t come out with foundations without some competitive advantage (and ignoring an entire color range..medium tan to deepest dark with less than 6-7 choices) is a big mistake. Even if you couldn’t focus there, I would have at the very least gone in a range that even Fenty or others missed a little bit, the very ivory and ebony ranges. That alone would have made it seem like they were reaching out to groups who have the hardest times finding matches.

YES! Thank you for writing a post about the issue especially since many beauty bloggers and promoters chose not to speak up about it despite the uproar. While I understand that many reviewers want to keep their content drama-free and politically neutral, not taking a stance sends a message that they dont care about those who are hurt. Temptalia never disappoints.

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