WHEN EVERY SHADE ISN’T FOR EVERYONE
From olive to ivory and one to four, these words represent the specific shade of foundation that millions of women wear. While companies like Maybelline have slogans that pride themselves on finding the perfect “fit” or “color match,” the reality is that coverage for all is not created equal. The color wheel of skin tones is extensive, but there is just not enough coverage.
While most commercial drugstore makeup lines have some dark shades, the selection is minuscule in comparison to the range of colors offered for men and women of lighter skin tones.
“Everyone with a darker skin complexion knows about this problem. This has been a problem for awhile, although some makeup lines are trying,” says Xavier Biddings. The 20-year-old Chicago-based actor started testing the ocean of makeup waters in the 6th grade. His middle school cosmetic starter kit consisted of pencil eyeliner and mascara he stole from his mother. When he started wearing makeup as a junior in high school, it was then that he discovered that black was not always portrayed as beautiful.
L’Oréal, a well-known drugstore line, has a slogan that claims more than it can back up. “Because you’re worth it,” says Bidding. Can you actually feel worth it if companies don’t give a thought to a huge portion of the population that is not Caucasian? “Absolutely not,” Bidding adds, “the fact that that is their slogan is hilarious. My skin tone does not fall on your limited spectrum, so obviously I am not worth it.” He still has never found his perfect shade.
Companies will also try to sprinkle in a little diversity in their ads with maybe one person of color for every four or so. “In the ads, you never see people as dark as me,” Bidding says. “You will always find [people of color] represented as a shade similar to Beyoncé, the spectrum doesn’t end there and neither should the rep.”
However, not all hope is lost. Startup makeup companies like Hue Noir are shaking things up. The Oregon-based company was started by cosmetic chemist Paula Hays in 2009. The brand prides itself on using science and technology to create a makeup line specifically for people of color. “She was inspired like most women by makeup,” says Veronica Jones, Hue Noir customer relations manager.
“She was also frustrated with makeup products for her skin tone and her skin’s sensitivity.” It was through this frustration that Hays decided she wanted to create her own makeup. Everything is formulated and manufactured in Oregon.
“Our goal is to cater to multicultural women, first and foremost,” Jones says. “In the makeup industry we are often forgotten.” The company has taken over 100 women’s skin tone readings and have applied them to formulas for the development of diverse foundation options. “When you get our foundation, you get a product that is pretty precise to most women’s skin tones,” Jones says. Through reading the levels of melanin in the skin, the formula for creating a better foundation for people of color is made possible. They expect their foundation line to be ready for purchase very soon for skin tones “from the very lightest to the darkest,” Jones adds.
Jones has been with the company for three years and is an old friend of Hays. Jones wears many different hats at the small business. In addition to running all of customer relations, she also runs the social media aspect— which in today’s market is a full time job on its own. “I am the one most people talk to first,” she says. “I give you a feel of what Hue Noir is and try to translate that to the public.”
Hue Noir is currently coordinating with wholesalers to launch their line into boutiques across the country. Thankfully, for people like Biddings who self-proclaim to be “busted and cheap,” the makeup line won’t empty your piggy bank–their products range from $8-$30. But for now, their products are available online.
With lines like Hue Noir, coverage can cover all. The hunt to find that perfect coverage for people like Biddings might be easier than before.