Women of Color in Today’s Beauty Market

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by Ashleigh Perry, Contributing Writer

Being a black woman in America, I am accustom to misrepresentation and underrepresentation. From false media stereotypes of black women to the lack of representation of black females in positions of power, the phenomena is no longer a shock. Though I can cope with it, I would not like to accept this as the world’s reality.

I am also confronted with this lack of representation when I walk into the bright white lights of any cosmetics store. Though black women deserve their proper share of makeup shelves, just as fair-skinned women do, the makeup industry does not value us as legitimate shares of the market. Though it may seem inconsequential, the lack of makeup that caters to the black beauty market contributes to underrepresentation in our society.


As a beauty lover, I cherish waiting for the next big makeup launch to hit my local drugstore. Walking in and seeing the fresh displays with all the new product onsets both a wave of joy and an anticipated disappointment.

Unfortunately, as most women of color (W.O.C.) realize, a majority of beauty brands fail to acknowledge the diversity of skin tones possessed by most of us. Even in places you would expect to provide W.O.C. with a suitable foundation shade (such as the Walgreens store on the UW-Madison campus), the darkest shade resembles more of a golden-brown pancake than a rich cup of coffee.

This population of women struggle to find powders, concealers, foundations and nude lipsticks to fit them, despite being deeply embedded in an industry that wildly ignores them.


Out of the 24 shades of Maybelline New York’s popular Fit Me line, only five are W.O.C.-friendly. With the 12 shades of L’Oréal’s popular Infallible Pro-Matte Foundation, four of those shades are W.O.C. friendly.

Moving away from the drugstore, Ulta’s top-rated foundation from Estee Lauder, Double Wear Stay-in-Place, has 15 shades for black women out of the 38 in the line. However, where they may compensate in shade range, this high-end brand loses the affordability of other foundations, with pricing set at $39.50 a bottle.

Plus, the foundation that I so badly wanted, Too Faced’s Born This Way, has four dark shades out of their 18. When it originally launched, they had one dark shade at my local Ulta that was a glorified, fake tan.

Too Faced, like many other brands, fails to come out with enough of a shade range upon their first launch, and, in attempts to save face, releases a more “diverse” range. Born This Way also comes at a price of $39. The average drug store foundation is typically under $20, forcing W.O.C. to choose between makeup that matches and a dent in their savings, while white women have access to a wider range for a cheaper price.

Communities of color should not have to sacrifice affordability or feel unwelcomed at beauty counters, based on the color of their skin. We should not have to sacrifice quality of a product, because our skin tone was not a consideration in the developmental stages of a product. Instead, we have the power to withhold our money from the market, just like anyone else. We are taking note of the widespread ignorance toward us in the industry and demanding the equal representation we deserve, the same as every other shade.

For now, in the face of ignorance, we can be sure these beauty companies hear us, by using the voice of our dollar. By supporting only the brands that are inclusive, profits will decline for those that fall short, forcing them to listen. We will not be silenced, and we will make sure that one day, no W.O.C. leaves a makeup display empty-handed, simply because her shade was nowhere to be found.

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