Our industry has taken a lot of flack for the lack of provision for women of color of late. Consumers have slammed Maybelline for failing to offer its full range of foundation shades to UK consumers, despite the range being fronted by British model, and taken to Instagram to protest against Sephora’s representation of the bareMinerals line.
Yet a Los Angeles Times piece, entitled ‘What does the color ‘nude’ mean in an increasingly diverse world?’ has applauded the ever-growing number of products both in the beauty and fashion world that cater for a wide range of skin tones, with Mintel Category Manager Shannon Romanowski quoted as saying, “There isn’t just one ‘nude’ anymore. Brands are recognizing that women come in all shades, and there’s been a huge expansion in tones and foundations.”
So what’s the truth? Are consumer perceptions out of sync with product availability and range, or can our brands do better in the quest for #BeautyForAll? The answer, of course, is that our work is never done. But the reality is also that brands have upped their game and should be applauded for doing so.
L’Oréal’s Women of Color lab is a case in point, and indeed the French beauty giant’s L’Oréal Paris and Lancôme brands have been held up as examples of when a brand gets it right. There are 20 shades available in the latter’s Teint Miracle foundation and, although this is still under half of the 57 different skin tones identified by L’Oréal Chemist Banda Atis and her team in the Women of Color Lab, I think it’s a fair distillation given the inevitable shrinkage caused by the commercial imperatives of a multinational brand that must cater to all and still turn a profit.
So why the disconnect? What is it that is fuelling the sense of discontent? I believe it’s the retailers. As one disgruntled consumer put it on my personal facebook feed this week: “Why is there only one shelf of hair products for afro hair in Boots? Why do I have to go to a less glossy store to get what I need?”
I believe the retail world – despite its plethora of data collecting tools – is yet to catch up with who their consumers are and, until they do, the good work being done by brands will continue to go unappreciated. That’s why Australia-based Tayo Ade’s latest venture, fleshtone.net is pure genius. A website that groups ‘nude’ products from every category, for every skin color, in one place. Although it’s not yet an e-commerce site, it does point those looking for a nail varnish or foundation to match their skin tone to the best-in-class products. Bravo that woman. Let’s take nude – all nude – mainstream.