For decades, the mainstream beauty industry has failed to fully recognize Black women. Traditionally, marketing practices like printed ads and commercials have only shown a limited type of woman and rarely, if ever, did those images include women with deeper skin tones or textured hair.
While things have gotten slightly better over the last few years, with companies now showing women across various backgrounds, a lot more work still needs to be done.
Testing out a product by swiping a pigment across your arm (i.e. swatching) is a common practice among beauty aficionados and amateurs alike, and it's also something brands commonly do. This method of marketing is used by nearly every brand to help give customers an idea of how products will look on their skin tone. But more often than not, these products are only shown on a few very lighter complexions, making it nearly impossible for women with skin deeper than beige to assess how products may look on them.
Devin McGhee, Ofunne Amaka and Tiara Willis three Black women who are also beauty enthusiasts, found this completely baffling considering that Black women spend more money on beauty products than any other group. Leveraging the power and visual nature of Instagram, the women have created beauty accounts to help Black women better navigate the beauty world and more importantly feel beautiful.
Devin McGhee a graduate student at Savannah College of Art & Design started the Instagram account @glossierbrown. The account, which has nearly 3,000 followers, is dedicated to showing Glossier's skin and beauty products on people of color.
"Once I became a Glossier rep, I started receiving DMs daily for product suggestions and color matches. It was amazing to see all of these women of color interested in a brand that I adore so much," she says. So, in order to better field questions and inquires about how the brand's products look on a wide variety of deep skin tones, she started an Instagram account.
Like McGhee, Ofunne Amaka started her Instagram account, Cocoa Swatches, because she wasn't seeing her favorite beauty brands on deeper complexions like hers. "I wanted to create a page that connected beauty lovers that were experiencing the same issues that I was. People who wanted to get into makeup but just didn't know where to start or couldn't find products suited for darker skin tones," she tells ESSENCE.
Both women acknowledge that they wanted to create a safe and honest space for Black women to express and share their experience with beauty, something sacred and still very rare.
At only 16, Tiara Willis is also committed to making the industry a more diverse and inclusive place. "I am Black and Puerto Rican and I created my account to help other brown girls and women of color to see the beauty that we possess," she says. Because mainstream media and brands still tend to lack resources for Black and brown women, we've been forced to create our own.
More than ever, it's crucial that the definition of beauty be one that's inclusive and not one-dimensional. "Diversity is imperative in order to properly serve the world we live in. There needs to be people of different ethnicities and cultures because we live in a diverse world," Willis reminds us.
When asked how companies can do better, the women agree that it starts from the inside out. "The lack of women of color in leadership positions at beauty companies directly affects who is fighting for diversity and inclusion within those companies," McGhee says. While there are women at companies like Estée Lauder and Shiseido creating change, this isn't enough.
The women also encourage Black women to continue to use our voice and dollar to support those companies who are authentically and genuinely supporting us.
"My roles have enabled me to cross paths with VPs, CEOs, Creative Directors, etc. and I am always cognizant of who might be listening to me or reading my words. I always try to make sure the Black women's perspective, experience, and pain points are represented within the spaces I occupy," Amaka shares.
There's no denying how much Black women love and spend on beauty, and it's time for brands to finally fully acknowledge us. Until then, we'll continue creating those spaces for ourselves, both on and offline.