If the year of 2017 and the launch of Fenty Beauty itself has taught us anything, it’s that Black women run the makeup industry. The presence of Black woman-owned beauty businesses has definitely risen this year and the immediate success of Fenty Beauty’s release and sales speaks volumes for itself. But what does it say when all the dark shades of the Fenty Beauty Foundation are immediately sold out for months? What does it mean when it’s been established that Black women spend an estimated $7.5 billion annually on beauty products? What does it mean when so many popular beauty brands continue to exclude Black women with the range of their products and representation on their social media?
You put two and two together and you’ll quickly come to the same conclusion that I did; Black women have enough power to make a change in the beauty industry and fight back with our money. The reason you’ll see me constantly bringing up Fenty Beauty is because of how inclusive they were from the start and always catered to dark skin, never leaving us to feel excluded or like an afterthought. That’s what separates Rihanna’s brand from the rest of the popular makeup brands we know like NARS, Too Faced, Benefit, Maybelline, etc. You can check the Instagram pages of these beauty brands and can literally count on one hand (maybe two if we’re lucky) the amount of Black women they’ve posted in comparison to white and non Black women. In addition to the lack of representation, it’s not uncommon for brands to be limited with their darker shades of foundation/concealer/powder in stores. These brands tend to have the shades we need, but they never advertise them and make them widely known to the public the same way they do with their lighter shades. So what’s the point in having them, really?
It’s so that brands can claim they’ve always been there for darker skinned women women called out about a lack of diversity, they use us as a shield for criticism. When Fenty Beauty was launched with a whopping 40 shades of foundation, plenty of other makeup brands came out of the woodworks throwing shade on social media, boasting about their diverse shade ranges and how they’ve always been there for Black women. Cue the eye roll. Black women shouldn’t have to travel 45 minutes outside of their cities to get to another store because none of the stores in their area carry their shade. Black women shouldn’t be scrolling through your instagram pages dating back to last year and only see a total of 4 Black women. We shouldn’t have to go out of our way to search high and low for our shades and representation with brands who claimed to be there for us.
It’s been a fact for a few years now that Black women have a lot of buying power, but there are still plenty of beauty brands that don’t care to include and cater to us. This has been pointed out time and time again this year especially, and brands have made it clear that Black women are an after-thought to them. After being called out for the lack of darker shade ranges, brands like Koh Gen Do and Too Faced after so many years, have finally decided to formulate darker shades. Why? Because the very heavy presence of Black women in the beauty world can no longer be ignored and they want our money now. But unfortunately for them it’s too late for that, Black women should’ve been included from the jump. If Rihanna could do it on her first ever launch, why couldn’t these other brands that have been established for 10+ years do the same thing? The “darker shades are harder and more expensive to make” excuse is now falling on deaf ears because it’s been clearly proven to be false.
So what do we do now? We act. We put our money where our mouth is. We no longer beg brands to include us and allow them to treat us as an afterthought. Black women are just as valid and should be as catered to as much as white audiences, and if that’s not the case then we simply must move along and find better brands that actually care about us as customers and want our money. Long gone are the days of Black women giving our money to undeserving people and companies, as it results in us giving power and wealth to the wrong people while we ignore those who actually deserve it i.e smaller and Black owned businesses. Stop giving these brands leniency and the upper hand to use Black women as tokenized pawns in their plan to collect more money from us, at this point it’s easy to see fake diversity makeup campaigns from a mile away.
I urge Black women to be more conscious about who they give their money to in an industry that simultaneously preys on us for money when convenient for them while also excluding us because they simply don’t care about Black women. We need to be committed to being more vigilant from now on with who we give our money and support to and to stop allowing people to make money off our backs.
"Erin Dyana is a freelance writer with a focus on pop culture, criticisms, and beauty. Her work has been featured in Teen Vogue, Urban Social TV, Wear Your Voice Magazine, Clementine Zine, and Philadelphia Print Zine. In her free time she likes to create art, watch films, read books, and eat everything in sight."