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  • Writer's pictureNiya Doyle

It Isn't Just Youthforia's Problem

Decades-long discrimination and prejudice still linger in the beauty aisle, starting with foundation.

 


If you haven’t heard by now: Youthforia, an indie clean beauty brand, is in hot water after recently extending the shade range of their Date Night Skin Tint Serum Foundation line. The darkest shade, Deep 600, is being compared to “tar in a bottle.” 


“This foundation only has one pure black pigment,” explained Javon Ford, a cosmetic chemist, in a TikTok video. This explains the lack of depth and undertone in the deep shade; swatching the foundation appears as gray-black face paint.  Obviously, no person on Earth possesses that deep — or bloodless! — of a skin tone, nor can the shade be used as a mixing medium, since black is a terrible shade to mix with, according to color theory. So how would common sense lead Youthforia to blunder this badly?


There’s not a straight answer, but rather a history and conglomeration of biases, discrimination, and prejudice against darker skin, particularly black skin. It’s evident that some industry power players don’t understand the complexities of making darker complexion products — or, frankly, don’t care to. Beauty companies in the 21st century still struggle to make inclusive shade ranges, even after Fenty Beauty’s renowned launch of 50 foundations and concealers in 2017 (dubbed the “Fenty effect”) led brands — from drugstore to luxury — to expand the shade range of their complexion products. Other brands embraced inclusivity upon first launch, too; at the time, it felt like a sea change in the way products were not only formulated but marketed. 


But the industry’s deafening indifference since 2017 — as evidenced by the Youthforia Foundation scandal — has stalled progress, especially off-shelf and out of the lab. Most marketing and beauty media assume that the majority of their audience is white, even though black consumers account for more than $6 billion in sales within the industry and contribute to nearly 11% of yearly revenue. And make no mistake — this indifference is intentional in front of the camera, too. White models historically dominate runways and ad campaigns. black models deal with unprepared makeup artists blending too light of a foundation on their face; hairstylists who haven’t a clue how to work with Afro-textured hair; and, even worse, occasionally have to do hair & makeup themselves. These situations can be time-consuming, laborious, and downright humiliating. 


When stories like these happen, it only perpetuates the notion that we, as black women, don’t belong in these spaces. The fashion and beauty industry has always favored Eurocentric beauty standards, which are still reflected in all forms of media that we consume. Fair skin and button noses are prized as the acme of femininity. Coily hair is unruly, and wide noses and dark skin are masculine. In some ways, black women are treated in a sense as unwomen, especially considering that, throughout history, black women were designated to fill in some type of service role — from slaves to maids to nannies. This is why representation doesn’t just matter — it’s essential. Rather than a token black model being showcased in a singular beauty ad or a designer collection, black women should be seen, celebrated, and given an equal playing field. 


So how do beauty brands learn from these mistakes? For one, diversity and inclusion cannot be another box ticked off, especially as it disappears from public life — it must be studied and fully understood in order to satisfy people of all skin tones, from the palest of pale to the richest deep. Dark skin, like all skin, is composed of various undertones and complex pigments. If Fenty’s success has taught us anything, it’s that making an accessible shade range isn’t difficult — doing the work is. 


“I think the beauty industry has this misconception that people with darker complexions just always lean more in red undertones,” said Golloria George, the creator behind the viral Youthforia video, in an interview for Business of Fashion. 


If it’s not in a brand’s budget to develop more shades to suit most — if not all — shades of skin, then they must wait to formulate skin products until it is. Otherwise, the product self-segregates consumers from buying, which means lost sales and lack of trust. Brands should also be more transparent if a complexion product’s shade range is not inclusive enough, rather than swatching (and even Photoshopping) products that don’t match a darker-skinned model’s skin tone, which can mislead consumers. 


Truly embracing inclusivity means better representation (and more options for black consumers to choose from). In 2024, beauty brands must meet the culture and recognize that true inclusivity isn't just a marketing strategy — it's a moral imperative. 🌀


 

Niya Doyle is a forever East Coast-based writer, beauty buff, and cat lover. She is a freelance journalist for HALOSCOPE covering beauty. You can follow her makeup and skincare journey on TikTok.

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