These Makeup Brands Are Taking Major Strides Towards Inclusivity

From Erdem’s regal Spring 2018 show in London this past September to Ralph Lauren’s recent Montego Bay–inspired New York Fashion Week Fall 2018 runway, models of wide-ranging ethnicities and skin tones were seen looking flawless from head to toe. But this time, it wasn’t all about the clothes.

As the beauty industry enters a new renaissance age of inclusivity, the days when women of colour, both on and off the runway, had little to no foundation options are finally coming to a much-needed close. New brands are emerging, like Rihanna’s coveted Fenty Beauty, which offers 40 colour options in its Pro Filt’r Foundation (the darkest shades nearly sold out within a few days of its initial release last September, debunking the common industry claim that deeper shades don’t sell). Meanwhile, legacy brands like Lancôme released their Le Teint Particulier Custom Made Foundation line in November 2017, offering a jaw-dropping 72,000 possibilities of unique, fully custom-blended colours. It appears this positive push is here to stay—and it’s changing lives.

Rihanna in Fenty Beauty campaign.

“I had this beautiful Ethiopian woman who had sat down with me…and I remember we were blending the foundation and I was looking at her in the mirror, and literally her eyes started to water,” recalls Myles Sexton, Lancôme’s national makeup artist. “And she said to me, ‘Myles, my whole life I’ve been wearing the wrong shade of foundation and I’ve never been able to have something that’s me. I never understood why I always had to be excluded. For the first time in my life, I just feel normal.’”

The same desire to keep the full tonal spectrum in mind was also crucial to Rihanna for her eponymous beauty brand. “I work with a lot of beautiful women of all shades from all over the world,” the musician shared in a statement. “A lot of times, women have a hard time finding their shade in a brand, and I wanted everybody to feel included. I wanted to have a wide range of shades.”

But not all cosmetics lines have joined that narrative. Walking through the makeup aisle in drugstores and perusing the beauty counters at department stores, it’s still clear that many major beauty players aren’t making the effort to cater their products to women of diverse racial backgrounds, offering up only a very limited range of colours. Case in point: back in January, Tarte Cosmetics came under fire from fans on social media after the launch of its much-anticipated Shape Tape Foundation. People were quick to notice that the range, then 15 shades, catered almost entirely to lighter skin tones. Thankfully, the brand was prompt to own up, and took to its Instagram stories to release an apology for the lack of shades, and has since added deeper hues.

“Twenty years ago, financially, maybe [the industry] wouldn’t invest enough because we weren’t buying,” says Indian-born founder of Stellar Beauty and former MuchMusic VJ Monika Deol. “But now we are. We’re in the room, we are at the table. We are at the cash register—make our colours.”

Last year, Deol was inspired to launch her own independent line, which includes 22 foundations (17 of which focus mainly on the diverse undertones of medium skin tones) after struggling to find the right makeup to match her own skin as a TV personality. About 20 years on, Deol realized not much had changed when she discovered her daughters shared the same struggles. “When I say medium, that’s totally Hispanic, Aboriginal, East Indian, West Indian. It’s Afro-American, it’s Chinese, it’s Filipino—it’s a huge demographic,” she shares.

Stellar Beauty campaign image.

Much like Stellar, Marc Jacobs Beauty also recently released their Shameless Youthful-Look Foundation in 29 shades to represent the new generation of women who are speaking up about the importance of embracing all beauty, according to the line’s global artistry ambassador Morgane Martini.

But unlike the brand’s Re(marc)able Full Coverage Foundation line, this new formula offers medium coverage, to avoid masking distinct facial features, like the iconic freckles of model and activist Adwoa Aboah—who is the new face of the brand. “I love freckles, moles, and anything that makes someone’s face unique,” Martini shares. “Makeup is about enhancing the beauty of the people I work with, without changing who they really are.”

Marc Jacobs Shameless Youthful-Look 24H Foundation, $56, sephora.ca. Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Foundation, $42, sephora.ca. Lancôme Le Teint Particulier Custom Made Foundation, $110, Lancôme counters at Nordstrom Eaton Center and Yorkdale. Stellar Limitless Foundation $45, sephora.ca.

While these brands are paving the way, the beauty industry as a whole still has some ground to cover to become totally inclusive. But Sexton believes consumers hold the weight to push for real change. “What’s amazing is the power of the internet to prove that we’re a force,” he shares. “We’re united together. And look at the power we can have now, with embracing everyone and putting pressure on all the brands to make sure they have products for everyone.”

Deol agrees, and believes this progress is here to stay. “We’re really doing this because we believe,” she says. “We actually believe, yes, the world needs more makeup.”