In 2017, you’d think all women could cherry-pick cosmetics to suit their skin tone – especially in the UK, which celebrates its diversity. Yet our black and Asian shoppers are barely noticed, or even ignored, by some mainstream make-up brands, which is utter madness. Buying a new concealer should be a ten-minute task, not a monumental trial. Until the entire beauty industry is dragged into the 21st century, we need to the champion brands who cater to the whole spectrum of customers.
Editor of the website Brown Beauty Talk, Ronke Adeyemi was compelled to start a conversation about beauty because it was hard to find high street products. “There wasn’t a space for women of colour – we had to spend around £30 or more for a product,” she says. “Now there are more budget options: MUA, Makeup Revolution, and Makeup Obsession where you can make your own eyeshadow pan. L’Oréal has stepped up, too.”
Other budget buys for skins that aren’t on the Caucasian spectrum include Kiko Skin Tone Foundation, in 39 shades, and its self-explanatory Long-Lasting Stick Eyeshadows. NYX’s Pro Foundation Mixers can be added to any of their liquid foundations, achieving a better match to your complexion. Sleek is a high-street hero brand when it comes to beauty, with Crème to Powder base in 30 shades of reliable medium to full coverage, and True Colour lipsticks making an impact too.
Superdrug’s 2016 Shades of Beauty campaign takes customers of all ethnicities seriously. The retailer’s UK survey found that 70% of black and Asian women felt the high street didn’t cater to their beauty needs; there’s now a dedicated link on Superdrug’s website for suitable products. C.A.K.E. cosmetics – currently online-only at Superdrug – would be great on the shop floor, too.
When asked to comment, a representative from Boots, Superdrug’s high-street rival, claims it has plenty of inclusive choices: “from affordable brands such as Sleek, to more premium beauty brands such as Estee Lauder and Dior”. You could also consider Vichy Dermablend, Clinique and No.7.
Beauty etailers are on the ball, too. Emma Watson, from Look Fantastic, suggests EX1 foundation for Asian shoppers, as it’s “dedicated to those with yellow and olive undertones”. As for beauty blogger favourites, “Our Ambassador, Patricia Bright, named the Illamasqua Skin Base Foundation as her ‘Spotlight Saviour’ in November 2016,” Watson says. “She said it was important for her ‘to have a skin that felt like mine.’”
Being true to your skin tone is, of course, crucial. Lee Etheridge, International Education Director at bareMinerals, says, “Compact foundation is less forgiving, particularly for tan to deep shades, so we formulated barePro Performance Wear Foundation with skin matching, high-impact mineral pigments.” But what do shoppers themselves recommend? “Unfortunately, I don’t have many options, but I love brands that love me. I stick with MAC Studio Fix Pressed Powder and MAC Pro Longwear Concealer whenever I want to put my game face on,” says Denean Rowe, a make-up enthusiast from London. “Also, Bobbi Brown for bronzer and their Honey liquid foundation.”
Bobbi Brown is famously inclusive, and its vast Skin Foundation Stick range is getting bigger. However, Rowe is frustrated by other brands’ half-hearted customer service: “Women from the beauty desks would try and sell their other products to me, almost as an attempt to make up for what they didn’t offer, but I wouldn’t have it.”
Beyond the big names, check out Doris Michaels, one of the original brands for women of colour. Next up, MDMflow lipsticks and glosses were designed to suit black skin; aptly-named shade Ninety-Four gives 90s matte lipstick vibes with modern-day comfort. The brand was founded by Florence Adepoju, a cosmetic science graduate from the London College of Fashion.
Kat von D’s make-up line (exclusive to Debenhams) has incredible staying power, with base shades categorised by warm, cool and neutral undertones to match your complexion precisely. Meanwhile, IMAN Cosmetics, founded by the supermodel Iman, has won coveted awards. The range isn’t cheap, but you can buy items in bundles online to save money. As for unforgettable eyes, Ronke Adeyemi’s top eyeshadow picks include Estée Lauder’s the Estee Edit and Illamasqua – they have great pigment.”
If you can pay more, Nars, Becca, Eve Lom, Laura Mercier and Smashbox all perform well. A few quick shopping hacks: buy when you’re travelling abroad, or you know someone who is; check cashback sites for discounts, and take advantage of free beauty counter samples. Lancôme’s Teint Idole Ultra 24h Foundation is loved by bloggers and shoppers, yet certain darker shades (13 and 14) have vanished from the shelves. Teint Idole relaunched in late February with 17 new shades, but it’s a long time to leave loyal customers unhappy. On a similarly slow timescale, Diorskin Forever Perfect Cushion Foundation will expand to 22 shades.
Ronke Adeyemi has had difficulty with other brands, too: “Chanel discontinued several foundation shades. They said they were improving them, but they weren’t relaunched.” When your shade isn’t available, feedback is important. “Have a word with the store manager if they don’t have the product,” she says. Try tweeting a brand directly – it’s the only way you’ll get a response from Lancôme.
If you prefer ethical cosmetics, see relative newcomer W3ll People, plus Kat von D are both vegan and cruelty-free. Alternatively, PHB Ethical Beauty – which stands for Pure, Handmade, British – is vegan and Halal. Here’s to cosmetics in every beautiful shade, because nobody should be excluded from the make-up aisles.