By: Courtney S.
I have been wearing makeup since I can remember (I think my first ‘cosmetic’ was a tube of Bonne Belle blue glitter gel that was oh-so-chic in the 4th grade), and in my recent postgraduate boredom, I have been branching out with new colours, products and looks. Thanks to some unfortunate genetics, my makeup routine always features extensive measures to correct redness, pimples, under eye circles and even blue veins (yikes!) before I can even get to the fun stuff like bright lips, winged eyeliner, rosy cheeks, etc.
Although I love makeup, I have to admit that foundation is one of my least favourite things to shop for; despite the endless magazine and blog articles extolling advice on how to find the right shade for you, I often end up with the wrong shade (I blame drug stores’ fluorescent lighting – how are you supposed to colour match under that?!). For gals like me that weren’t gifted with a flawless complexion, foundation is one of the rudimentary steps in the makeup routine – they don’t call it “foundation” for nothing – so finding the right shade is very important to boosting your confidence and making you feel great in your own skin.
Above: A Maybelline ad currently in circulation–this one is from the Elle Canada Dec. 2013 issue.
I recently found myself playing Goldilocks at the drugstore, finding the available foundation shades too warm (yellow-toned), too cool (pink-toned), too light, too dark…but while I was getting frustrated by the numerous options I had to sift through to find just the right colour for my very fair skin, I noticed that there wasn’t that much choice for customers of colour*.
Above: Courtney playing Goldilocks aka conducting her research. Image from her Instagram, follow her at @arealpip
Looking over the rest of the major brands, I noticed a trend towards tons of shades for lighter skin tones but very few options for buyers with darker (or to use the makeup companies’ phrasing, “deep”) skin tones. The Closet Feminist readers know how biased the fashion industry is towards to the tall, white and thin aesthetic and this bias on the runways extends to the makeup counter (in this case, the makeup aisle) with the majority of face cosmetics (foundations, concealers, powders and BB creams) catering to customers with light to medium skin tones.
Above: A Rimmel ad featuring Kate Moss currently in circulation.
I examined select foundations from five major cosmetic brands found in Canadian drugstores (Covergirl, L’Oreal Paris, Maybelline, and Rimmel) to see how they stack up in terms of representing customers of colour. I should note that my categorization was not 100% scientific. I simply went to the drugstore and did swatches of every colour to see how wide a range of shades each product offered**
Above: Table and research prepared by Courtney S.
As you can see from the table, foundations suited for lighter complexions were overwhelmingly represented across all of the products examined, followed by medium shades. With the exception of L’Oreal True Match Liquid, Maybelline Fit Me Foundation, Revlon Nearly Naked and Revlon Photoready, deep skin tones represented less than 25% of each product line examined***.
Part 2 of this article focusing on makeup brands and the diversity of their representatives will be up tomorrow, December 19th at 12 noon PST
* I wasn’t willing to break the sanctity of the “Do Not Open” rules at Shoppers Drug Mart, so I was only able to include products that had Testers for every shade. Thankfully these were lines that offered many shade options so I didn’t purposefully leave out brands with wider shade ranges.
** In addition to these swatches I noted the names of different shades, from the helpful (“medium beige,” “ivory”) to the vague (“light medium”), to the bizarrely food-related (“toast,” “coconut,” and “caramel” – interestingly all for deep skin tones…). Wouldn’t it just be easier and less offensive (I’m looking at you, “nude”) to just use numbered identification systems for foundation colours?
*** Keep in mind that these findings reflect the shades available for the Canadian market. In many cases, the ranges of colours available for purchase in the United States were much wider but were not included as I wasn’t able to compare them in person. Of particular note is Covergirl’s Queen Collection, which is geared specifically towards dark skin tones – the All Day Flawless Foundation features 14 shades ranging from “Sand” to “True Ebony.”