"We Were Just an Afterthought:" A Black MUA's Take on Beautyblender's New Foundation

Has Fenty taught us nothing?!

Katherine Singh
by

Beautyblender is making its foray into the world of cosmetics, but the just-announced launch is many shades of wrong.

Next month, the company behind the life-changing blending tool will debut its first *actual* makeup product: liquid foundation. The Bounce Liquid Whip Long Wear Foundation, which will be available in American Sephora locations in mid-August (date TBD for Canadian stores), boasts packaging designed to be used with a Beautyblender and is available in 32 shades. The only problem? Those 32 shades are pretty much all variations of porcelain.

A flat lay of the entire collection, posted by beauty-insider Instagram account Trendmood1, made it clear that we’re not all on the same page when it comes to the definition of “inclusive.” Instagram users were quick to note that the range only provides a handful of darker shades, some of which appear to be red or Trump-esque orange hues. (Not v. wearable, tbh.)

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💗 #REVEALED!! 🚨Here is everything u need to know….@beautyblender NEW#BOUNCE – Liquid Whip Long Wear #FOUNDATION In 32 shades 🙌🏻🙌🏼🙌🏽🙌🏾🙌🏿 . Has a Velveteen matte finish, 24 Hour Wear $40 Each . . . Will be available ➡️ JULY 24TH on their website + @sephora ( waiting list starts tomorrow) . . Also July 25-26 there will be a #popup shop in NYC 10am -8pm 10 AM – 8 PM This is the only place where you can get the limited edition 32 blenders that match each shade 🙀💸 . . . I can’t wait!!!!! To try it. The packaging is beautiful!!!!! 😍 Who is ready to try Bounce ?🙋🏼‍♀️ XO #TRENDMOOD #beautyblender #makeupoftheday #motd #makeupoftheday #mua #ilovemakeup #makeup #makeupaddict #makeuplover #makeupblogger #makeuponpoint #onpoint #makeuplook #makeuplove #makeuptalk #makeuptutorial #makeuplover #makeupaddict #makeupaddiction #makeupdolls #onpoint #onfleek

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“The top 2 rows look identical?” wrote beauty and style influencer Arshia Moorjani. “I am so confused and disappointed.” Instagram user @han_vanslyke  shared a similar sentiment. “The expansion of undertones is amazing, until it gets to people that have a lot of pigmentation. Did you get lazy when it came to the undertones of men/women of color? 

On Twitter, users were similarly vocal. “Just because you have 32 shades doesn’t mean that you’re inclusive,” @JanoSammy tweeted. “Why are there 4 for deeper skin tones? Why is there an orange? Is Donald Trump expected to use this foundation?”

“Why did Beauty Blender feel the need to make 23 foundation shades for white people? You know, people of color come in just as many shades as we do. HAVE WE LEARNED NOTHING?! Jesus Christ, get your sh-t together,” tweeted another.

FLARE reached out to Beautyblender for comment, but did not hear back by the time this post was published. On Instagram, the company responded to consumer comments, blaming the contentious shades on a wonky Insta filter, but people weren’t buying it. 

“We were just an afterthought,” says Kameko Howell, a Black makeup artist from North Carolina, in response to the line. Howell makes beauty videos under the name Turtle Loves Beauty and works with clients with an array of skin tones. For women of colour, Howell says, finding products that work—and that don’t make skin look ashy or grey—can be difficult. While makeup artists can have the money and know-how to mix different products to achieve the perfect shade, that process can be time-consuming and expensive for the everyday consumer. “You can’t really just go directly to something like a bottle and say, ‘Ok, this is going to be a perfect match,'” she says. Howells says that longstanding brands like M.A.C, Covergirl—and now—Fenty, are some of the only lines that actually work for women of colour, as most foundation options that are available, miss the mark. “Either it’s going to be too light, or too dark, or too red or too orange,” Howell says of the makeup options. “Those are really the only choices people seem to think about when they make foundation for people of colour.”

And that’s just not cutting it.

“We need something more,” she says. “We need gold, we need neutrals, we need a lot more things than just getting a dark shade and adding a lot of red into it. That doesn’t work for everybody.” And she says, as a makeup artist, she’s tired of having to tweak what the beauty industry currently has on offer.

The reason people of colour are an afterthought in the beauty industry, Howell says, is because of longstanding (and problematic) assumptions that they can’t and won’t spend money on products, which is just not true. According to American market research from Mintel, Black women will spend $2.25 billion on beauty products by 2021.

“When people have launches like this, where they aren’t inclusive of people of colour, [brands] always say, ‘Well we’re going to come out with deeper shades after the second quarter or after we see how this initial launch goes,'” Howell says. “It’s crazy how we always have to wait to get something that’ll work for us. But, right off the bat are all the shades that work for everybody else.”

Case in point: the Tarte Cosmetics foundation fail. In January 2018, Tarte released a questionable response to backlash that its much-anticipated Shape Tape Foundation—released in 14 mostly-light shades—was un-inclusive. The brand  stated that darker shades would be released later in the year:  “Additional shades are usually added seasonally, which makes sense because your complexion tends to be paler in the Winter and darker in the Summer months.” FYI Tarte: some people have dark skin all year round.

What will it take for *all* cosmetics companies to release inclusive ranges? For one, we need to talk about who’s actually sitting at the table—and working in the lab. While brands like Huda and Beautyblender are headed by women of colour (the founder of the latter, Rea Ann Silva, is Latinx, which makes Beautyblender’s beauty blunder even more upsetting!), the fact remains that the industry still has a ways to go when it comes to inclusion in the boardroom. Shade-inclusive brands like Too Faced and Fenty Beauty—with 40+ shade ranges—are working towards making makeup inclusive, which is amazing. But, providing beauty products for people of colour is about more than the number of shades, it’s about learning what products work for different skin tones—and that requires expert insight. For beauty companies, that means working with actual makeup artists who are using these products every day on different clientele. “They can give you more input on the shade ranges that are needed, the different kinds of undertones,” Howell says. “You need people that constantly study colour theory.” 

For her part, Howell isn’t planning on supporting Beautyblender going forward, at least until it figures out how to cater to *all* of its consumers.

 “If you’re going to come out with makeup, you need to be inclusive,” she says. “That’s just bottom line now.”  

Related:

Praise Riri, Fenty Is Dropping a New Eye Makeup Collection
The Unboxing Trend Is Responsible for a Sh*t Ton of Packaging Waste
Tarte’s Response to the Shape Tape Foundation Backlash Was… Not Great

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