Racial Diversity in Beauty: Expanding the Range of Products for Darker Skin Tones
It’s no secret that racial demographics in the US have diversified over the 21st century. In fact, The Washington Post predicts that the minority population, or non-caucasians, will continue to see an increase; by 2055, experts predict it will increase by 16.3%. More than likely, this percentage will slightly adjust many times due to changing political policies and economic climates across the globe. However, it is safe to say that the US’ ethnic makeup is moving away from having a majority white population.
This shift in demographics elicits inclusion in the the fashion and beauty industries. Creative directors are booking more minorities to be featured in photoshoots and walk the runways to better mirror the US’ diversity. Featured on the cover of British Vogue, Sudanese model Adut Akech accomplished what many minority models only dream of. Akech is noted for not her appearance in the December 2018 issue, but after walking for Yves Saint Laurent in the spring/summer 2017 show, she ended Chanel autumn/winter 2018 show by being hand-selected by Karl Lagerfeld to walk as a bride.
Not exclusive for people in luxury fashion, celebrities embrace diversity. Rihanna, a Barbados-native musician and fashion icon, released her line Fenty Beauty in 2017 “so that women everywhere would be included.” Fenty Beauty by Rihanna includes a wide assortment 40 different shades of Matte Longwear Foundation.
Many independent retailers also focus on producing cosmetics fit for a wide range hard-to-match skin colors – particularly darker skin tones, such as those of people of African descent. Founded by KJ Miller and Amanda E. Johnson, Mented Cosmetics stemmed from the idea that black women have difficulty finding a flattering shade of nude lipstick.
More awareness is brought to models and the different cosmetology needs of people of color. However, there remains the hurdle of convincing mass merchants to invest in skincare and makeup products for darker skin colors. From a buying perspective, retailers are concerned about losing their target markets of upper middle class consumers, most of whom are Caucasian. Thus, overstocking on products geared towards darker skin tones presents the risk of losing profit. Dr. Barbara Sturm never had difficulty in finding retailers to sell her merchandise, but once she presents skincare for darker complexions, companies, like Net-a-Porter and Barneys, are less eager to carry through the business deal. Strum claims, “they did not want products formulated exclusively for the needs of darker skin tones.”
Regardless of marketability, retailers have the responsibility to accommodate the needs and wants of people of all skin colors. The decision to avoid selling products for darker complexions may or may not be considered borderline racist. More importantly, changing demographics make selling beauty lines for minorities a necessity retailers wish to survive in the melting pot the US became to be today.