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What Inclusivity Means for the Beauty Industry






It is on Instagram, it is on Facebook, there are a dozen videos on YouTube. The latest launch by your favorite cosmetic company is making waves and blowing up your social media news feed. Ladies, you know this scenario is not a one-off. This is almost every other day. The influencers raving about a product on social media creates so much frenzy in your peers, it seems every friend and colleague owns that newest foundation or concealer that comes with a promise of solving all your problems. The next thing you know, you have spent almost half of your previous month’s savings on placing an online order.

Sure, at this point I could deliver a full-fledged sermon on how social media has stoked our consumerism but let us look at the other side of the coin. What really tempts you to purchase every new foundation, concealer or nude lipstick? For a lot of us, the bigger reason than mere temptation is that we can never seem to find that perfect shade of base that makes us feel really good about ourselves. The cosmetic industry has had a long history of portraying Eurocentric features as the “ideal” standard of beauty. Naturally, it became difficult for women of color to find perfect products to complement their skin tone.



While the buzzword of the beauty industry seems to be inclusivity, what is it actually about? Sure, it starts with a lot of foundation shades covering the whole spectrum of skin colors and undertones, but inclusivity is so much more than that. To be truly inclusive, cosmetic companies should aim to create a range of products to suit women from different ethnicity, skin and hair types and lifestyles, in a budget that they can afford. All this combined will truly make every woman feel special, empowered, and confident in her own skin. They need to understand that the goal is to make every woman out there feel beautiful, not end up giving her a complex because she does not fit into a particular category of skin colour or hair type or body image that has long been considered the norm of beauty.

In countries like the US and India, where the population is largely diverse, many women have struggled with this problem for decades. Sure, a few high-end brands like Mac, Estee Lauder and Bobbi Brown had a wider shade range, but the price range of these brands were again, not inclusive enough for all budgets.  It was not until Rihanna launched her juggernaut of a line, Fenty, that the beauty industry realized how much of the market was left unexplored. Fenty’s Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation was launched in a record 40 shades across all undertones, and the darker shades sold out at the very beginning. Coupled with great quality and Rihanna’s star power, Fenty was unstoppable. It is probably then when other brands understood that inclusivity is not merely a trend, but a necessity to stay in the game. And I am talking pure money here.

Some brands did latch on at the right time. Estee Lauder expanded the shade range of DoubleWear foundation to 50 shades and even appointed African-American Anouk Yai as the brand ambassador.
The fashion industry took major strides in body shape inclusivity when Ashley Grahame, a plus sized model, was asked to do a cover shoot for Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, traditionally touted as a petite woman’s domain.

India, easily one of the most diverse countries in the world, terribly lags on this front. Lakme, the country’s homegrown bestseller, has a shade range only geared towards fairer women. Entire product ranges are titled “Absolute White”. And it is for a fact that most of the high-end brands remain out of budget. Even drugstore foreign brands like CoverGirl, who seem to be doing diversity right, are inaccessible to Indian woman.

It is high time that more cosmetic brands sat up and took note, if nothing else, that there is a lot of money to be made out there with products intended for women of all skin colours. Probably then, would your savings not take a hit every month.

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