Fifty Shades Of Brown

Rudy Omisore gets under the skin of the beauty cream business.

Women of colour in the UK spend on average six times more than white women on their hair and beauty products. So you’d think hitting the high street stores to bag a perfectly matching foundation or BB cream would be walk in the park right? Well think again.

The UK makeup and beauty market for women of colour is considered ‘niche’ according to a UK Mintel report, which nevertheless values the market at a wopping 70 million pounds! Maybe this is why I found myself traipsing around East London all day in search of a BB cream that wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg. Well put it this way, I still ended up losing a couple of limbs, but at least I had found a product that might work: a MAC BB cream.

But after a great night out in Lewisham I looked through the pictures taken of me only to find that the BB cream was 50 shades of wrong, making me look like freakin’ Casper the friendly ghost! For those of you who don’t know, MAC is known as a high-end brand that caters for all women of colour, so you can imagine my frustration to find myself back at square one, trying to find the perfect shade.

“Most people can go to Superdrug and find cheap makeup, but due to our skin tones women like me have to go somewhere that has a MAC or a Bobby Brown,” complained Shante Harris, an East London student.

Not only is this costly, but it is also time consuming, as brands like MAC and Bobby Brown are not as easy to find, even in places where lots of black people live!

One of my best friends Patricia Frost shares my predicament. “My shade is very difficult to find in foundations. It’s usually too dark or too light.” Telling me about someone she knows who is forced to mix two shades together to create her own, she said: “I’ve given up on foundation so I just wear concealer and a bit of bronzer now.”

Unfortunately we women of colour will always be faced with this kind of problem because of the way that the increased melanin that we have in our bodies means that we are more likely to be faced with hyper-pigmentation and an uneven skin tone.

However, the problem could be made a whole lot easier if the UK followed in the footsteps of the USA, which provides a far wider range of shades.

Even the mainstream brands such as Garnier and L’Oréal offer more shades to the USA market than they do to the UK one. For instance, in America the Garnier BB cream has the added shade ‘medium deep’, which is not available here. Why is this?

My worry is that the lack of choice over here also sends out the message that black beauty shouldn’t be embraced or celebrated, implying that women of colour do not fit the ideal of what is considered beautiful. What do you think?

Skin colours