Diversity in Makeup: Is Change Still Needed?


Jasmine Washington

On September 8th, 2017, the makeup game changed forever. Launched by famous singer Rhianna, 40 foundation shades of many different varieties were set to hit stores soon. The world was shocked by the inclusivity of tones included in Fenty Beauty’s first makeup launch. With 40 shades introduced – about half of the shades being perfect for women of color – makeup companies and brands now had no choice but to step up their game.

But why did this change the beauty industry? Or more specifically – the black beauty industry? For years, women of color have had to struggle with makeup brands only giving them a choice of about 3-4 shades out of the 13 or more shades available. This left women of color not only to feel misrepresented but also ashamed of their skin color. Everyone who was able to wear makeup wasn’t happy, because not everyone had that perfect shade to match them. When Fenty Beauty announced their 40 foundation shades – which has now been expanded to 50 – women of color instantly approved. And since the launch of Fenty Beauty, it’s fair to say that the makeup industry has come such a long way from how it used to be. However, this doesn’t mean there haven’t been incidents.

Called-Out Brands 

In 2018, there were four different brands that were dragged on social media for their makeup lines – specifically the foundation they released. In these foundations, there was a low amount of representation for darker-toned skins, and this caused all of these brands to create apologies (and excuses) for why the makeup turned out this way. 

Tarte is one company highly attacked for their initial release of the Shape Tape foundations in 2018. There were 15 shades introduced, and only 3 of these shades fit women of color. They were attacked by both social media users and YouTube influencers, stating the company’s effort of makeup and inclusion was poor. After the fire they were put under for their shades, Tarte gave an apology through an Instagram story and discussed that they were going to better and fix the issues that they’d caused. At the time, this Tarte was obtained by PopSugar (another makeup company), and later this apology from their story was taken down. 

Since the outrage of their initial release, it seems that Tarte has been making their shades better. Back in 2019, Tarte announced that they would be releasing 50 shades on the Tarte (or Sephora) website on February 17th. Clearly, learning about the great backlash they got from their lack of diversity and the brand got to them, and they luckily made changes to continue their business.

It Cosmetics released their Bye Bye foundation 2018. This brand’s foundation contained 12 different shades – only three of which being for darker-toned skin. This is a brand owned by L’Oreal, a common drugstore company that is often used as a cheaper makeup instead of luxury brands. To combat the hatred It Cosmetics got for the foundation shades, L’Oreal claimed Bye Bye foundation had a good shade range, considering that it was a drugstore product, and should have access to the Multicultural Beauty Lab. 

But this argument doesn’t completely hold itself. Are women of color supposed to spend more money on luxury brands just so they can find their right foundation? Should it be acceptable for darker-toned individuals to expect only three shades for their skin while white individuals are given around six or more shades? Regardless of a product being connected to a drugstore makeup company or a luxury company, women of color should have options and get the same amount of variety that others are easily given. 

Another reason for the lack of darker shade rages for It Cosmetics’s foundation was the amount of SPF (Sun Protection Factor) in the product, which caused the formula to get as dark as the final shade was. It Cosmetics explained that their foundations all had great levels of SPF in them in order to protect those who wore it from the sun for a longer-lasting wear. Though this was a great thing to consider, it’s still upsetting that only three shades were available to women of color out of the 12 total shades. 

In the same year as both Tarte’s foundation and It Cosmetics’ foundation launched, YSL’s All Hour Foundation hit beauty stores. The foundation included 22 shades – 19 of which fitting lighter-toned skin. This meant only three shades were available for women of darker skin. According to Allure.com, the company claimed in an interview that they first claimed the foundation was waterproof, transfer-resistant, lasts all day, and “suits all skin tones.” Though this claim can be perceived as them not just willing to accept their mistake, YSL was still thrown under the bus through social media for the lack of representation in their shades.

After receiving such criticism on their product, YSL’s All Hour foundation now has 25 shades that are available only on the Sephora website. 

The largest and most controversial misrepresentation of colored women in makeup happened in the same year as these other three brands. Beautyblender’s Bounce Liquid Whip Long Wear Foundation came out in 2018, and the media was shocked. Compiled of 32 shades, only about 7 or 8 of these shades were suitable for darker-toned skin. Similar to Tarte’s foundation, social media users and YouTube influencers expressed their opinions on the brand and stated they should probably stay to what they’re known for.

This was Beautyblender’s first makeup launch, however, it quickly became the brand’s biggest mistake. In an interview with Teen Vogue, the company defended themselves by first apologizing and then stating they would do better next time. Since this claim, there have been no shade changes in the foundation. 

Fenty Beauty’s Revolution 

When Rhianna announced Fenty Beauty would be coming out with an entire selection of makeup – including bronzers, lip glosses, lipsticks, and highlighters – people were shocked by the foundation the most. With 40 shades included, it was clear how easy it would be for anyone of any type of skin tone to find their match. And since Rhianna still saw room for improvement, the Pro Filt’R foundation was expanded to 50 shades on January 11th, 2019. It is estimated from 2018 that since its release, Fenty Beauty gained a revenue of 570 million dollars. About 25 of the shades from the brand were suitable for darker skin tones, making an even playing field for anyone wishing to buy the product. 

But there are many, many similar brands that provided inclusivity in their makeup lines. A.P.D.G’s Long-Wear Liquid Foundation went viral when it was released in the middle of 2017. The brand released about 33 foundation shades, a little more than half of this foundation suitable for darker-toned skin colors. The foundation was loved and appreciated by several people, including makeup gurus on YouTube who complimented the foundation as it was also a concealer and a pretty good product. 

Sometime in early 2016, Milk makeup launched their foundation that included 24 different foundation shades – around 11 of which is suitable for colored women. The makeup brand was heavily applauded for its inclusion of skin colors and the amount of effort and thought put into the foundation’s release.

Though there are hundreds of brands available for women of color, this does not mean the job of finding makeup is any less difficult. Comparing today to the 1980s, women of color have been given so much more inclusive than they used to have, and finally, black beauty is being recognized by larger brands. However, this does not mean there is no room for improvement. With Fenty beauty and hundreds of other brands leading the way, it’s fair to believe that women of color can finally expect an even number of shades at any retail store.


Image/Information Sources: 

Informational Sources:



 All Hours Foundation


Fenty Beauty and Similar Brands: 




Image Sources: 

Image One, Featured Image – AfricanBelle.com

Image Two – BLOCKED; Out of Context

Image Three – BLOCKED; Out of Context

Image Four – MiraBeauty.com

Image Five – HudaBeauty.com

Image Six – Allure.com