The beauty world is not reserved for the young, white face. Let’s just get that out of the way right meow. And there are plenty of brands out there that cater to just that and it fucking sucks for a wide range of reasons, and, beyond sucking, it can be racist, ageist, culturalist, and gendered. Here are some examples of how it plays out:
RACIST: When a brand only carries a limited range of foundation shades that tend toward white skin. And, another fire to put out quickly: brands that focus on darker skin colors are borne of necessity explicitly because so many brands don’t provide the color depth needed for folks all over the color spectrum. Speaking of, here’s a great link to 19 black owned beauty brands that are geared toward the darker skinned beauty babe.
AGEIST: Flagship formulas that are branded specifically for the young woman, as if age is an afterthought, leading women with aging skin to try harder and dig deeper for whatever works. Beauty blogging is notoriously young, but that’s changing as more women get comfy in front of the camera that have features the beauty business considers flaws.
CULTURALIST: Appropriating terms and names for product names, as if by buying an eyeshadow color named “Navajo” that one can channel something that does not belong to them.
GENDERED: My favorite current example of gendering in the makeup world is Ulta’s holiday slogan: Joy to the Girl. Cosmetics are buried so deep in gender, but how fucking boring is that?
Paying attention to this type of thing helps to sharpen your awareness on true values based beauty brands. While you’ll obviously see Maybelline and Cover Girl cover the spectrum generally, it’s important to note that it’s kind of a new thing. Target markets are important, but so is diversity and inclusivity.
The beauty world should and can accommodate every face, which brings us to VBB’s first list ever:
TOP FIVE THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN A REAL FACE BRAND
- A wide array of foundation color choices. It matters to have a big spectrum, because if it doesn’t matter right out the gate, a company is making a choice about whose money is most important to them which is institutionalized racism. There is no “average” or “typical” beauty buyer that aligns with skin color. If there were, there would be exactly one shade, so only producing colors for white skin varieties is a huge no-no.
- Highly pigmented eyeshadow colors. High pigmentation ensures that color pops on the darkest skin as well as it does on the lightest. This makes a lot of sense regardless, because if you’re buying colors for your face, you want that payoff, and if pigmentation matters to the company, it’s a convenient symbiosis that everyone can wear it.
- Look at those names. I’m a total asshole when it comes to how things are named and it impacts how I buy… I will not, under any circumstances, buy a color that’s named “Sadie Hawkins Dance” regardless of the actual color itself. End of story. Being an asshole is one thing, but when a company names colors or items in a flippantly racist or culturally offensive or appropriative way, take note, like ColourPop had to do. Naming the product is a decision that someone has made and that the brand itself has accepted. It’s something that more than one person in the brand’s lineup has accepted, so if you’re on the fence about culturally offensive names, just google “racist makeup” and you’ll find a whole slew of stories and lists about it. Which brings us to…
- Read/watch bloggers/Insta/YouTube folks who don’t look like you. The best way to find brands that are doing the work for all faces is to go directly to the people using them well. Some faves include Manny MUA (Maybelline’s first brand ambassador to identify as a man, and your day gets better when you read his dad’s clapback at haters), Ellarie who’s as talented as she is gorgeous, and SugarPuffandFluff, a woman over forty who’s frank about what works and what doesn’t for different stages of skin.
- Research smaller brands that you haven’t heard of. When you dig in to trends and the next best thing, you’ll find a name or two you haven’t seen before, and the surprises don’t end there. Women and people of color are producing and creating more than ever before. It’s awesome and it’s shaping the new/now/next ethic that traditional brands owned by old white guys have cornered for way too long. I love The Lip Bar and SugarPill, both of which are cruelty free and owned by women of color.