Expanding Makeup Options for People of Color

Stroll down any drugstore cosmetics isle and you’ll notice a growing trend: More makeup choices for people of color. Cosmetic companies have taken note of United States census figures that calculate by 2042 Americans who identify themselves as Hispanic, black, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander will together outnumber non-Hispanic whites, according to the New York Times.

And it’s a market cosmetics companies want in on.

Of the six major cosmetic retailers found at Target, four offer foundation options for diverse people. These include Revlon, L’Oreal, CoverGirl and Maybelline, all of which rank in the top 10 world’s best selling brands according to Forbes.

Lines that do not carry foundation options are Almay and Neutrogena. The parent companies of Almay and Neutrogena offer foundation options for people of color through sister lines Revlon and CoverGirl, respectively.

CoverGirl is the only bestselling makeup brand to offer a full line of options to women of color with its Queen brand. The branding of Queen’s various color options mirrored similar trends across brands and includes: Sand, Almond Glow, Warm Caramel, Spicy Brown, Amber Glow, Toffee, Soft Copper, Rich Mink, Classic Bronze, Golden Honey, Sheer Espresso and True Ebony.

Similar to its other brands with foundations for people of color, Queen’s branding equates skin color to food and natural elements. It differs in that each color is named with an adjective and a noun, which is a trend across makeup for lighter skin colors.

A search of Google shows that naming for foundation for Caucasian women is closely associated with makeup. First page Google results for common foundation names such as Beige, Ivory and Nude Beige were closely related with foundation.5

Results for Natural Ivory

Naming for foundation for people of diversity was never related to a makeup color and yielded literal results for search terms like Amber Glow and Warm Caramel.

Results for Warm Caramel

Makeup for Caucasians was more likely to be named with adjectives like Natural, Class, True, Nude and Fresh. Its counterpart was much less likely to feature such adjectives. Across the four brands offering foundation options for people of color, only CoverGirl featured names that included similar adjectives (True Ebony and Classic Bronze).

What can consumers draw from an analysis of major cosmetic companies and their branding of foundation for people of color? The answer to that question ranges depending on who is asked. It is imperative that consumers continue to analyze branding of diverse foundation options.

What do you think of branding for foundation? Does anything pop out to you?

About Courtney Mirenzi

Courtney Mirenzi is the voice behind Those Graces. She has been named one of the 50 Most Fashionable People in Boston, one of The Boston Globe's Top Bloggers and favorite human of one of her cats. She loves red lipstick, hiking and traveling. (Find out more.)

Comments

  1. I use mac and their foundations are numbered. I always assumed with other brands the use of words like caramel, bronze etc was a reference to the undertones in the foundation.

    speaking of foundation Mac discontinued the perfect colour for my skin tone and since then I haven’t found anything that comes close to matching :( I find that most foundations made for darker skin tones don’t have a gold base and end up looking either orange or pink. The market is expanding, but there is still plenty of room for growth :)

    • That’s one way to look at it. It seems like more drugstore brands are starting to use a numbering system a la MAC.

      I’m sorry to hear your favorite color has been discontinued–that’s no good. I hope you can find a new color.

      Thanks for your input on this topic!

  2. What a spectacular post, Courtney. I think the profit motive is an incredibly important part of this as you mentioned at the beginning. That’s why the major manufacturers are making these efforts AND that’s why they choose the names they do. It would be interesting to know what kind of market research went into these naming choices (both for darker and lighter shades) and to track how the naming conventions change over time as the companies develop a more nuanced understanding of these markets.

    • Thank you Allyson!

      I think you bring up interesting questions. Surely marketers didn’t just name these products off-the-cuff. I wonder, too, what went into the research.

  3. Very interesting post! I really don’t pay attention I guess, since I never bothered to notice. I only use MAC foundations and I know what my number is so that is all I ever think about. I haven’t looked at drugstore makeup brands in forever.
    I think it is great to have the options out there as I am sure they are needed.
    http://www.fashnlvr.blogspot.com

    • I love MAC as well, but it’s hard because not everyone can afford $30 for foundation. I spend that much because MAC foundation gives me more confidence than any other foundation I’ve tried. I only buy every six months or so. Since drugstore brands are more accessible, I thought it was interesting to look at their branding since so few use a numbering system in lieu of names.

  4. Wow, you bring up an excellent point. Thank you for the analysis. I remember MAC was so popular when it came out because it catered to all skin tones. I guess the rest are catching up.

    • MAC is great, but its price is out of the range for many people, which is why I didn’t mention it. I agree, though, I think people love MAC because it has a lot of options for many different skin tones.

  5. I am glad they are at least providing options! As a very yellow olive skinned person, I usually buy foundation aimed at Asians. Which usually was found in the department stores not in the more affordable drug-stores like Rite Aid or even Target.

    I love that you’ve noticed the food names. And the fact that natural = white. Ha.

    Great post. I don’t have the time to give a proper response that this post deserves, but I am so glad you’ve written this!

    • The naming is what originally interested me so much! Aside from Queen, no other brands used adjectives like “natural” to describe darker foundation options.

      Thanks for your comment! I hope to write more posts like this.

  6. I like the new Maybelline FitMe numbering system best. We sort of discussed this in our email, but it’s really hard to define one single shade of brown and even harder to decide whether your Warm Caramel and Spicy Brown– what’s the difference? I know a lot of department store brands prefer to number rather than name as well, and I think it just makes the branding situation easier.

    • AH! But the interesting thing about FitMe is that it includes colors only up to what would traditionally be considered “tan.” I agree that a numbering system works well, but I hope they expand that branding to include options for people of color.

  7. I found the google search results very interesting (and a little disheartening) I just think the industry has to do some more research and get better at coming up with a description standard that serves women across the board.

    • The most interesting Google search results for Ebony and Tawny (another common name for foundation colors) were the MOST interesting. Neither yielded results for literal translations or makeup, but rather scantily clad NSFW (might I add) women.

      My personal conclusion about the foundation names is that colors for people of color are not popularly identified with makeup (yet). I’ll be interested to see the evolution of naming. Maybelline just came out with a line (Fit Me) that includes numbers instead of names. Fit Me, however, doesn’t include darker foundation options.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Those Graces – Natural Ivory to True Ebony: Expanding Makeup Options for People of Color: This is the final selection picked by the lovely Bella Q of The Citizen Rosebud. Bella shares that this post was so good that reading it actually gave her the chills! “Courtney, a premier feminist-fashion blogger, touches upon the subject of marketing make-up to women of color. Oh this resonates so well with me! She plans to write some follow-ups to this post.” (Note: Courtney has already written at least one follow-up posts and it is just as good! Check it out here.) [...]

  2. [...] hadn’t expected to see similar branding issues as with makeup where a color resembling Caucasian skin color is often called “Natural” or [...]

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by the Citizen Rosebud and Beyaz Cosmetics, msfemminista. msfemminista said: Natural Ivory to True Ebony: Expanding Makeup Options for People of Color Fresh Post http://wp.me/p1gDuI-fU [...]

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