Make Us Up

Written by: Eboni Ball

It is no secret that mainstream media has been been a sore spot when it came to the perpetuation of African Americans. The idea of “European” beauty was a constant ideal which was inevitably shoved down our throats (esp black women) and always seeming to be out of reach. The long hair, the beautifully painted eyes, the thin nose, the high cheek bones and small lips.

Advertising has long been thought to equate cosmetics with the promise to women to bring out their inner beauty. The inner beauty that is “hidden” until the mascara, blush, eyeshadow and lipstick miraculously brings it to the surface. There are numerous television commercials, at any time, promoting different makeup brands that give hope to women that their wrinkles, dark spots, under eye bags and discoloration issues will be solved by their products. And we women- we fall for it every time. But what happens when you feel that the needs you face are out of reach? What happens when you feel that if only you were a different shade or race altogether, you would be able to obtain this “beauty ideal”?

This is what Black women face everyday as we walk into the Sephoras or the Ulta’s and we cannot find products geared towards “us” or “our skin complexities”. Let alone find an employee that knows about our vast undertones or how to properly match the cool or warmness of our skin. We have all seen the melanin-rich ladies who walk around with foundation that’s too light, lipsticks that don’t compliment the size of our lips and concealers that clearly don’t match. Oh, and highlighting and contouring?? Good luck finding that most of the time if you’re even half a shade darker than Beyoncé. We have long been plagued with these issues and in the year of 2015, it seems that companies have finally started to take notice.

MAC has long been held as the new age leader in the recognition of black women as complex buyers in regards to accurately matching their features and skin tone. They have received much success due to it and has created the pivotal turn towards more brands expanding their product offerings. Just this year alone, high end brands such as Makeup Forever, Too Faced,Becca and Stila have added on average five more shades to their current foundation offerings. Makeup forever in fact added almost 20 shades with undertone differentiations when they launched their new Ultra HD liquid foundation just a month ago. Even affordable drugstore beauty brands have taken note of the need to be more aware of the complexities of ethnic skin. Loreal recently launched their “True Match” collection which promises to accurately match the skin and undertones of women of all ethnicities and Covergirl within the last couple years have promoted their “Covergirl Queen” collection specifically aimed at African American women. This is largely due to the fact that a significant amount of black women (thanks largely in part to such platforms as Instagram and YouTube) have began to come forth with their dissatisfaction of brands lack of recognition of their purchasing power.

In 2009, Essence magazine’s Smart Beauty panel found that African American women accounted for a total of $7.5 billion spent on products aimed at their physical appearance. However, they also found that 80% more money was spent due to the fact that they were either buying the wrong products for themselves or having to buy more than one in hopes to “mix” them into working. What’s even more baffling when trying to figure out why the needs of African American women went unaddressed so long is pointed out in an article entitled “The Multicultural Edge: Rising Super Consumers”. In this article it stated that money from African Americans make up almost 86% of the purchases in the beauty industry. The 2014 Nielson survey projects that By the year 2017- the purchasing power of African Americans will stand at $1.3 trillion. And as women tend to be the head of households in the Black community, the beauty industry has began to aggressively set their sights on this demographic with its product offerings.

With this comes more independent and non-independent African American specific cosmetic lines. They aim to profit from the purchasing power of black women but also hope to fill that niche that has been missing in the cosmetic world for so long. Some of the companies include AJ Crimsom, BlackUp Cosmetics, Aboni Cosmetics, Black Opal, Bovanti Cosmetics and Black Radiance to name a few. These lines, as well as more high end brands, are slowly closing the gap between the Black woman and cosmetics. While “European” beauty ideal isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, black women are starting to finally feel that their beauty is being seen as a force to reckon with.