I've grown tired of watching low-budget beauty brands pick and choose when and when not to cater to women of colour, tired of applauding the beauty industry for its progression when it's still making women of colour feel like we are worth less. When in fact we are worth more. We are worth more than the occasional feature on page 82 of a 127-paged beauty magazine, more than a misleading advert or tokenism; we should be the ones picking and choosing, not the high street. Low-budget brands like Maybelline, Rimmel and L'Oreal (amongst others) have become oh so good at subordinating the beauty needs of brown beauties and it's time we challenge that; so I'm petitioning for change by demanding more variety in the high street cosmetic industry for ethnic minority women.
London is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, but you wouldn't know this if you judged its diversity by the range of skin tones low-budget beauty brands cater to. Sure, you might argue that the high street has progressed and that there are brands which cater to brown beauties, but 'progression' and the 'finish line' are not synonyms. The beauty high street's failure to acknowledge that melanin comes in more shades than just caramel and mocha shows that we still have a few hurdles to overcome. The finish line is a woman with dark skin being able to walk into her local Boots or Superdrug and come out with a concealer, foundation, pressed powder and BB cream that match her skin tone, without spending a small fortune.
I know that the financially savvy will argue that ethnic minority women are just that-a minority. And we shouldn't expect a huge range of products to choose from, as we're thought to have very little spending power in the cosmetic industry, but who can show me the beauty spending reports that support this ideology? I am yet to stumble across any definitive evidence that women of different races have different beauty spending habits. The only study currently looking into this in the UK is mine.
I have read so many stories on the inspiration behind brands like Bianca Miller London, MDM Flow and Nubian Skin or stories like Anita Bhagwandas' journey to becoming a beauty editor. Even though a few minor details change from story to story, the running theme is always the same - like me, these women aren't seeing themselves being represented in the beauty industry because society's beauty ideals are far too narrow.
While I think it's important that women learn to define beauty for themselves, I understand that our perceptions of beauty aren't solely defined by us. Our definitions are a mishmash of thoughts and experiences which have been shaped by the ideals embodied in family members, friends and loved ones. However, there is no denying how powerful the fashion and beauty industries are, so inevitably they also feed into our beauty ideals. From where I'm standing it looks like they both suffer from a serious case of tunnel vision when it comes to beauty. Beauty knows no limits and that includes race. I believe this needs to be reflected in the types of products and colour options that are offered to women with darker skin in Boots and Superdrug. Please help me make that happen by signing here.
This February, HuffPost UK Style is running a month-long focus on our Fashion For All campaign, which aims to highlight moments of colour, size, gender and age diversity and disability inclusivity in the fashion and beauty world.
We will be sharing moments of diversity at London Fashion Week with the hashtag #LFW4All and we’d like to invite you to do the same. If you'd like to blog about diversity or get involved, email us here.