Once upon in the beauty industry, there existed only one standard of beauty. She was thin, blond, and white. There wasn’t much to aspire to, or leave to the imagination. For those us who didn’t fit the criteria, finding our own standard of beauty was hard.
Looking at all the magazine covers and advertisements growing up, all I saw were white women. There wasn’t anybody who looked like me. Yes, there were a few “token” Blacks in the fashion industry at that time. But there was an even greater absence of Asian, South East Asian, Middle Eastern and Latina women. Whatever race you were, there was only one dress size and it had to be zero.
These types of beauty standards can be damaging to a young girl’s self esteem. Even though I was strong enough to withstand societal pressure to fit into the "ideal", I always thought that at I wasn’t pretty enough. To make matters worse, I grew up in an all white community and attended all white schools. There was no way anyone would find me beautiful! It’s hard to create your own beauty standard when no one in the media looks like you. I only wish that things were different back then.
Flash forward..Things have started to change, thanks to the digital age. Social media and influencer marketing have changed the beauty industry, with beauty brands being forced to take notice. Themes like “all inclusive” and “diversity” have started to spring up. Although not enough, it is a good start.
If you look on social media beauty brands are starting to use beauty influencers of different ethnicities. Brands have finally started to realize that other races use their products, and the importance of including them in their marketing strategies.
To Gen Z, it might seem as if there is a lack of diversity in the beauty industry. But things have come a long way since my time. I love seeing women of all ethnicities and cultures representing brands. The mix of different hues has such a positive effect on people’s self esteem. When you see someone that looks like you in an ad, you feel a sense of belonging.
BUT it’s still not enough. Even though brands use the terms ‘inclusivity’, ‘beauty for all’ and ‘diversity’ it still doesn’t erase the fact that they don’t formulate their products for people of color. In fact many brands do not do research and development for products that cater to darker skin tones, nor do they test existing products on dark skin.
We still have a long way to go…
The genetic make up and physiology of darker skin tones is much different from fairer skin tones. For one thing, we age differently. And we also tend to have drier skin. Treating conditions such as hyperpigmentation cannot be treated in the same manner as someone with pale skin. Yet most brands have failed to take these things into account.
Statistics show that Black women spend nines more on cosmetics and skincare products than any other race. In 2017, African Americans alone accounted for an 86% share of the ethnic beauty market. In a report published by Nielsen in 2018, African American women spent $465 million on skincare and $473 million on haircare.
When you look at the numbers, you wonder why brands don’t cater more to darker skin tones. Black people spend the most, but have the least success at finding products on the market tailored to their needs.
With small indie brands springing up here and there, we’re beginning to see more beauty and skincare products created for darker skin. It’s a start. But it’s not enough. I would also like to see larger and more reputable brands start changing their formulations to suit dark skin as well.
The fight towards diversity and inclusivity is still ongoing. And we’ve only won half the battle. Thankfully today’s society is one of transparency; we now have the power to call brands out and demand more. We also know our worth, and can consciously choose where we spend our money.
If the beauty industry truly wishes to be diverse, it cannot hide behind ‘all inclusive’ marketing schemes. It’s just lip service. The industry must actively take steps to formulate products that address the skin needs of darker tones. Until this happens, the beauty industry will continue to hide behind the guise of being pseudo diverse.
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