Cosmetic companies need to reflect inclusivity, diversity in products

Photo credit: Rewon Shimray

Not all women wear makeup, and that’s completely acceptable. However, some cosmetic companies fail to represent women of all colors equally, and that’s entirely unacceptable.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Tarte Cosmetics released its new Shape Tape Foundation, which many women had been waiting expectantly for in light of the company’s extremely successful Shape Tape Concealer. However, the range of shades for this new foundation has a severe lack of diversity and does not wholly represent people of color and their skin tones.

Makeup and cosmetic companies such as Tarte should be fully aware of their consumer-base, and in doing so, represent their customers accurately and equally, regardless of the color of their skin.

This insensitive move from Tarte comes unexpectedly, as some of its other types of makeup have been deemed inclusive, according to Insider. Also unacceptable, and ironic, is the fact that Tarte issued its new foundation on a day honoring a man who stood for equality and respect for people of all races and colors. This thoughtless action is a slap in the face to everything King stood for, as well as to every modern advocate for civil rights.

Men and women took to social media to express their disapproval with Tarte’s new line, calling it a “ridiculous mayonnaise shade range,” among other things, and are demanding more colors, along with an apology to the customers that didn’t fit their whitewashed assumptions. Before making a statement, Tarte disabled the comment function on its Instagram post, further angering consumers who felt they were being silenced.

While there are cosmetic companies such as Fenty Beauty and Maybelline that are well known for their thorough representation of all shades of skin, Tarte is not the only company to have struggled with cultural insensitivity, such as Dove and Shea Moisture.

Last October, Dove released an ad that depicted women of multiple colors changing shirts to indirectly show how one becomes clean with Dove body wash. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, Dove equated women of color with a dirty implication, and white women with a clean connotation, even if the original intent of the commercial was not meant to be offensive. Not only is this inherently inconsiderate, but also incredibly inaccurate – in no way does one’s skin color relate to one’s overall personal hygiene.

And, unfortunately, it’s not just cosmetic and beauty companies that struggle with inclusive products and culturally aware advertisements. Toward the start of 2017, Pepsi issued an ad that understated the seriousness of social justice movements and promoted the idea that the protests could be solved by simply sharing a soda. According to the New York Times, Pepsi pulled the ad, saying it aimed to promote global peace and unity, but that it clearly “missed the mark.”

Similarly, Tarte responded to the criticism and complaints Friday with a statement on its Instagram story. The last half of the statement reads, “We wanted to get the product out as fast as possible, and we made the decision to move forward before all the shades were ready to go. We know there is no excuse [and] we take full responsibility for launching this way. We lost sight of what’s really important in this industry, [and] for those who feel alienated in our community, we want to personally apologize. We’re doing everything in our power to bring those unfinished shades as fast as we can, at any cost. WE CAN AND WILL DO BETTER.”

While making a statement and apologizing was certainly the right thing to do, its wording does come with skepticism. If Tarte had intended to include other colors in the foundation, but did not simply because it “wanted to get the product out as fast as possible,” then why not announce that in the first place? Or better still, why not delay the release of this highly anticipated makeup until all shades can be presented? It seems slightly suspicious that the other, more inclusive shades were not ready to be released, and that no one knew there were other colors until Tarte had already been called out for its lack of diversity. Instead of addressing the issue after a social media firestorm takes place, Tarte could have avoided making a statement altogether by simply recognizing diversity in their customers to begin with.

Unfortunately, this issue has been around for a long time, and despite the fact that Tarte’s offense occurred recently, the lack of representation for people of color will continue until cosmetic companies begin to listen to their consumers.

With so many options for makeup and beauty products, it would be easy to ignore Tarte’s actions and dismiss the new foundation as a mistake, if not for the multitude of other examples of companies with culturally insensitive products and advertisements. Do better, cosmetic companies, and do it right the first time, not after being shamed and criticized on social media for your absence of equality.