26/02/2016 12:44 GMT | Updated 26/02/2017 05:12 GMT

Beauty and Diversity: A Note on Diversity in the UK Cosmetics Market


There is an uncomfortable conversation that I have on an almost consistent basis when I attend a new makeup launch, which is to do with the universality of a product or the availability of a diverse range of shades. At a recent launch for a 'universal' brow product, it began with me swatching the product on the back of my hand "is this product suitable for darker skin tones? " I asked. "Definitely, it's been formulated specifically to match all skintones, that's our usp" responded the PR.

To cut the story short, on trying out the product in the comfort of my own home and mirror, it sadly didn't work on my dark brows or skintone - and instead turned them an unflattering shade of grey!

The world and it's perception of beauty is changing, and in the UK, the Black and minority population has doubled over the last 10 years, and the mixed race population is one of the fastest growing ethnic groups. I now see more and more advertising campaigns and magazine editorials that feature a wider range of ethnicities.

But in a world where the population is changing rapidly, when it comes to foundation shades, it's still largely and sadly a 50 shades of beige affair. I don't say this to be inflammatory or reductive because as a beauty insider, who has been in the industry for a number years and kick started her love of beauty as a young child mixing lotion and potions for fun, I know there's been tremendous change and growth in the industry - in regards to it becoming more ethnically diverse.

Companies that previously only provided limited foundation ranges have expanded their spectrum of shades in their catalogues and a few brands such as Tom Ford with Betty Adewole, YSL with Jordan Dunn and Charlotte Tilbury with Tiara Young are now including darker skinned models in their advertising.

The majority of brands however, don't communicate this racially inclusive message in their imagery and a number of them don't showcase the darker shades they have available within their catalogues on their beauty counters. Additionally when many of the higher end brands launch a new product, the darker shades are rarely available at the initial launch and often seem to be a follow up shade extension of the range. As a consumer this means that you are left completely unaware of what is available to you and can also end up feeling like a complete afterthought.

So while things are getting better, we are definitely not there yet.

On speaking to a friend Symara Templeman, who works as a model in the fashion industry to find out her experience, she echoes similar thoughts. She said 'there have been some changes and I now see a lot more black and biracial models on campaigns and runways, but it's at such a snails pace'. 'I still have experiences where I am typecast into a tribal look because they don't believe I can do anything else and often on shoots, make up artists don't have the right products, shades or even pallets to mix up and make the right blend, so you end up having to use your own stuff'!

A recent shopping expedition for my 16-year-old niece who has just started to dabble in the world of beauty (much to the horror of her mum) confirmed this even further. When she asked me to recommend a tinted moisturiser or foundation that she could pick up easily in either Superdrug or Boots, and which wouldn't empty out her limited budget - resulted in us returning home empty handed I knew it was a big issue.

The only two brands that came close to providing a shade that was suitable for her skintone were Sleek and Revlon, which unfortunately didn't work with her undertone. Everything else was simply too light! This is an issue that I experienced as a teenager and to see that the same problem still exists many years on is ridiculous! It's a sad state of affairs when in 2016 your teenage niece can't walk into the same stores that her friends can walk into or share the same experience of makeup shopping on the high street that they can. What is particularly frustrating is that a number of those high street brands have darker shades, which are available across the pond in the US! But the spectrum of the shades here remain limited.

So whilst I celebrate that progress has been made over the last few years with embracing a wider definition of diverse beauty, there is still much work to be done to acknowledge and cater to the ethnically diverse beauty population that we have here in the UK.

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.