Let's Discuss Diversity in the Beauty Industry | #MyMelaricheStory
Sparking change and tackling issues regarding diversity in the beauty industry head on, is new online beauty retailer Melariche. I introduced their new website and what they're all about (curating beauty products for darker skin tones) in last week's post. As a part of their "My Melariche Story" campaign, I'll be sharing my thoughts on diversity in the industry, how it has affected me and my outlook and how it became the reason that this blog, Pretty Not Included, exists today.
When I turned 14, the acne monster caught me. It was only then did I open my eyes to the beauty industry. Before that, I hadn’t consciously thought about how adverts, magazines and industries portrayed beauty. I hadn’t thought about what was considered beautiful or labelled as “mainstream beauty”. I went to a school rich in diversity and naively assumed that most things were commonly inclusive.
I started to feel self-conscious about my acne. I wanted the chance to hide this insecurity and that’s when I was introduced to makeup. As a child, I’d play with my mother’s lipstick, wear lip-gloss and the occasional bit of glittery nail polish. Essentially, it was dress up and it was fun. As a teenager, I found makeup a chore. Why? Because I needed foundation and concealer and decent coverage.
I needed a good shade match. And I couldn’t find one.
The darker shades were orange, the lighter shades had too much pink and everything looked grey and ashy on my skin tone. Back then, I wasn’t wearing a hijab (headscarf) so I had to blend all the way down my neck so I didn’t look like a patchwork of skin tones. As a teen, with very little money to my name, I accepted this (something I’m glad younger generations aren’t so willing to do today). My love for skincare and ingredients were born out of me trying to heal my skin so I didn’t feel the need to wear makeup. I’m glad I was able to draw something good out of the situation but as I got older, I realised how utterly ridiculous the situation was.
Why was such a hugely rich and successful industry lacking in diverse colour ranges, suitable formulations and realistic beauty standards?
I started my blog and fell into the depths of the beauty industry. I discovered higher end makeup which had more shades than high-street brands. I started buying £30-£40 foundations in an attempt to get as close a match as possible. The worst part was getting shade matched. They would clean off my current layer of makeup to reveal this muddy orange foundation on a cotton pad. Then proceed to tell me that I’m wearing a foundation 3 shades too dark. “I know. But it was either that or I look grey and washed out with a lighter shade.”
I opened my eyes to the reality of the industry. From a skincare point of view, I see innovation and research and technological advances. Makeup-wise, it felt like the industry was shutting out entire groups of people by not portraying them in any light.
By not inviting them into the conversation.
It was never something that made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. But rather, I was confused as to why products weren’t being created for people who were so willing to part with the cash. And then why you would even advertise “3 darker shades” if they would never be in stock or were just marginally different reincarnations of existing shades.
When I began blogging 5 years ago, you had to put so much work into finding makeup swatches on darker skin tones. Now, in 2016, a quick Google search will do. As with many things, the internet has provided a platform to share a voice. The ones that call out brands and campaigns and entire industries to make change. The progress is slow. Shockingly slow. But in turn, it has allowed other brands to emerge, like those sold on Melariche, to cover the customer base that has been waiting so patiently for so long.
Brands such as EX1 Cosmetics who cover Middle Eastern skin tones, the new campaign for L’oreal True Match and Superdrug’s Shades of Beauty are all making changes to cater for as many skin tones as possible. It’s 2016 and looking back, the Western beauty industry is a slow chugging train when it comes to diversity. And it’s not just about the lack of shade ranges or suitable products for darker skin tones. It’s the twisted and ignorant portrayals on which diversity is celebrated. The way that beauty is represented to us on a daily basis.
I don’t mean to sound wholly negative or bitter on the situation. Because I’m not. I love being introduced to brands who don’t ignore the rich diversity of the industry’s customer base and equally those who acknowledge the situation and are making changes step by step.
However, that uncomfortable feeling that you are seen as a niche still lingers in the air. I used to hear the excuse that it wasn’t as profitable to produce extensive shade ranges. Today, that’s been replaced with an indefinite “we’re working on it” or “when the demand is high enough…”. I promise you, it is.
Campaigns have shown how brands have dipped their toes into portraying diversity but won’t fully commit. I’m not quite sure whether it’s fear, ignorance or something else entirely? Although I do fully appreciate the need to celebrate small wins in regards to larger brands, should it be limited? Celebrating small wins importantly highlights the issue and the unappealing standards which exist but there’s this worry in the back of my mind that we’re applauding too soon.
Younger brands and larger ones ready for change are finally starting to turn the industry’s standards on its head. Beauty is moving on from just being what you see in the mirror. It’s about encouraging empowerment, true confidence from within and learning to love yourself.
I hope this has a positive impact on younger generations. Helping them to not be as naïve to the situation as I was growing up. But also knowing that beauty is not a “one size fits all” measurement nor something that is predominately tangible or quantifiable.
5 months after I began blogging (under a different name), I bought the domain “Pretty Not Included”. I was finally resolved in the definition of beauty being defined for yourself. To me, the name symbolises that there is no default “beauty”. It is not for me or any industry to tell you what is pretty or beautiful or worth something. You should fill that definition with whatever you choose to and keep an open mind.
What's your definition of beauty?
PIN ME, PRETTY PLEASE: