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The problems of finding the right foundation

by ZANZI Beauty Admin |

You're a woman of colour. You walk into your favourite drug store or department store dying to replace the empty foundation bottle that's downing the vibe of your entire makeup bag.

You can spot the whole cosmetics section from a mile away. You immediately approach your favourite brand. You then find yourself literally navigating through a range of shades trying to find the perfect match for you. You are even forced to check every other brand in sight. You realise most of the available shades are relatively the same. None of which are close to yours in the slightest. Sound familiar?

And what about all the brand ads we see on social media promoting their ‘range' when all we see is a myriad of nudes and fair shades. If we're lucky, they'll throw in that one dark shade just to say 'hey look! We care about people of colour too!'

I remember being in Boots and getting told that my shade was discontinued which was a real shame because it wasn't as if there were a fair range of brown shades to begin with. The question of why it was no longer available haunted me for a while. Was it laziness?

One of the main issues surrounding the taboo in finding the right foundation shade as a woman of colour in my opinion is the lack of knowledge or possibly ignorant tendencies that are adopted that make companies believe that people of colour have less skin tone variations compared to their Caucasian counterparts.

Thus, we are thrown into a box where we are forced to almost 'share' the minuscule amounts of shades given to us. To make matters worse, some makeup artists are completely oblivious in identifying the perfect match just because you are a woman of colour! Let's not forget the common experience most black women have faced in the MAC store where the same shade of 'NW45' was recommended to us all. I wonder if that's still a thing. 

The inception of brands like Fenty Beauty and its 40 foundation shades brought a sense of excitement and relief, especially for women of colour with prior struggles because unfortunately for most of us, this was the largest variation we had ever seen.

Not so long after, many existing beauty brands suddenly felt the need to show off its diverse shade ranges or even create new ones to accumulate as much attention as possible. Were they threatened? Most definitely. But it shouldn't have taken an emerging brand like Fenty Beauty for brands to apply a new initiative for such a controversial matter.

Such difficulties faced by women of colour are ongoing and many of us either overlook it or decide to boycott particular brands. Despite new efforts from beauty brands in shade inclusive foundation options, this reoccurring issue has made us much more vigilant to how we are viewed in the industry.

For some of us, it reminds us of the times where we didn't feel beautiful because all the magazines, newspapers, TV ads, TV shows and programmes that we grew up with and indulged ourselves in, told us that having fair/white skin and blonde hair equates to true beauty and nothing else. It reminds us of that childhood ridicule where the darker your skin, the less attractive you were which is very much evident today.

Whilst the beauty industry can be a platform for positive and creative experiments, it can also be an extremely toxic space for women of colour when they feel excluded. The best option may be to stick with brands that actually offer a reasonable shade range, ensuring that it caters to all skin tones. We can then recommend to our fellow coloured sisters who also find themselves struggling, and gradually diminish the similar painful experiences among us.

~Bernadette Oppong

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