When Fenty Beauty launched in September 2017, it sent ripples throughout the beauty industry. I was lucky enough to go to the launch and meet Riri herself. I told Rihanna how excited and proud of her I was and that I had been fighting for inclusivity in the beauty industry for 16 years. She told me, “Well give me a hug!!!!”.
To love the skin you’re in and to celebrate it both physically and spiritually is fundamental to my beauty philosophy. Growing up this was hard when many beauty counters just didn’t cater to my skin tone, and when they did, the offering was ashy, too light, too orange or too matte. This left me feeling “other,” like my skin was a problem and worthless. Today, times have changed and there has been a huge shift in the industry towards diversity and inclusivity but we still have a way to go. Giving a nod to darker skin tones shouldn’t be just about tokenism.
Fenty Beauty laid down the gauntlet for other brands and busted many beauty myths and prejudices. I had been told for years there was no market for darker skin tones in the UK, that there wasn’t enough shelf space or that it was too hard to formulate darker colours. So the darker colours would be launching six months later, which left me feeling angry and marginalised.
Fenty Beauty’s success annihilated all the nonsense that I had been told by marketing directors for years, Rihannalaunched with 40 shades and has now expanded to 50 shades with huge numbers and huge success. According to The Business of Fashion, Fenty Beauty made 500 million euros in the first year and $100 million in the first 40 days of sales. Men and women with darker skin tones queued for weeks around the block to get their hands on a bottle of her Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longer Foundation. From 10th May, Fenty Beauty will be available in 32 Boots locations across the UK, making it even easier to access the range.
This is only the beginning. More needs to be done. Choice is still a huge issue with darker skin tones. The trend for heavy matte formulations are often targeted at darker consumers, as darker skin is often oilier, but this is really old-fashioned thinking. More dewy and fresh foundation in darker shades need to be made available.
Glossier, Nars and Chanel have all recently launched sheer textured foundations which is great, but ironically, I am often left feeling like Goldilocks when it comes to foundation. If a formula is sheer and dewy, which I love, then the ingredients list often reads like a horror show to me, as I like to avoid silicones, petrochemicals and synthetic fragrances. Other times, a powder will have a great finish but will be laced with talc, which always leaves my skin with a slight white and grey tinge.
A formula can be just right and the undertones will be wrong. I’m dark and warm-toned and often the darkest “espresso” shades at the end of ranges are dark and cool. Other options can be laced with iron oxides and titanium oxides which “turn” or oxidise on the skin towards the end of the day, leaving the dreaded orange effect, which looks brassy and wrong.
That’s not to say brands like MAC, Bobbi Brown and Nars who have always had great offerings for darker skin tones for years, and now Estée Lauder and Lancôme, aren’t working hard to cater to all.
However, it can all be a minefield, which is why a couple of years ago I set out on the journey of creating my own foundation for darker skin tones called Ateh Jewel Beauty. I am going to start with a range of foundations for mixed heritage skin tones, which are often overlooked, to Asian and darker skin tones, packed full of skin nourishing ingredients that will be kind to your skin, while at the same time as making you look dewy and glowing.
Having darker skin I have always felt like the poor beauty cousin to my fairer-skinned beauty sisters, with less choice and the feeling that I should be grateful for the pitifully few options which were on offer. Those Oliver Twist days of being scorned for asking for “more please” are over. Social media has given POC consumers a new voice. We are vibrant, mindful and beauty-educated, and now we have a powerful tool to express how we want to be catered to and marketed to. This is a new dawn, a new beauty age and it’s time everybody stepped up their beauty game.
Scroll down for my recommendations for the best foundations for darker skin tones below…