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The beauty brands leading the way on inclusivity

The beauty industry should be inclusive to all, full stop. We’ve sourced the brands that are championing diversity.

By Jenny Brownlees

It should be standard practise in 2020 that everyone can visit a beauty counter or store and find their perfect match in product form.

Unfortunately, some brands are lagging behind when it comes to catering to a wide spectrum of races and ethnicities. A white or light skinned woman has long been able to walk into any store and find make up and haircare that enhances their natural beauty. For darker skinned women however, this historically hasn’t been the case.

Luckily, the industry is changing, with a wider representation of gender, race and age being celebrated in advertising campaigns and the media. This does however need to translate to in-store experience — whilst many brands have begun to offer a more diverse shade range in their cosmetics online, products must be made available in-store so customers have the chance to see and try a tester — an experience those with lighter skin tones never have to think twice about being available. It is crucial beauty manufacturer’s move beyond light, medium or dark shades only and offer products that suit every skin and hair type. In this day and age, there really is no excuse for this not to be the norm. Inclusive and diverse make up does not simply start and end with foundation and concealer, either. For many black women, finding powders, blushers, bronzers and highlighters that suit their skin tones is still a struggle. Whilst there are some gems that cater for all, more work is needed.

These are the brands, from high-end to budget that are showing us how the cosmetic and haircare industry should look…

Fenty changed the beauty game when it launched in 2017. Rihanna’s forward-thinking line offered products for a wide range of darker skin tones and demand was so high the range instantly sold out. This foundation comes in an impressive 50 shades, suiting all skin types and tones — hence their tagline “Beauty For All.” The brand’s gorgeously styled, diverse ad campaigns and imagery cannot go without mentioning, either. Beyond their foundation, every single item in the range is suited to all skin tones — a true triumph. There’s no doubt there has been a ‘Fenty effect’ in the industry, their worldwide popularity and praise from consumers has made many beauty brands follow their exceptional lead by expanding their own shade ranges.

MAC has long been pioneer in terms of diversity, offering 50-strong shades in their foundation (which has now been expanded to an impressive 60.) The brand’s ethos has always been about inclusion, their mantra being “All Ages, All Races, All Sexes.” MAC has been a vocal ally of worthy causes including HIV/AIDS, Pride, and recently the Black lives Matter movement. The brand regularly collaborates with artists and personalities from a variety of background, to bring diverse points of view to their product ranges.

Offering 50 shades of foundation, Anastasia Beverly Hills wants to make sure everyone can experience their sought-after products. Last year, the brand paired with beauty influencer Jackie Aina to create an eyeshadow palette. Jackie regularly advocates for more diversity within the beauty industry and had previously expressed frustration that eyeshadow palettes on the market didn’t cater to women of colour, with too-pale or ashy products that don’t flatter darker skin tones. Anastasia Beverly Hill’s shadows ensure they use rich pigments that look great on all complexions.

ABH’s bronzers and blushers have been praised by women of colour for their ability to complement dark skin tones.      

Boasting 50 shades, this foundation is a consumer-fave. Urban Decay has put diversity at the centre of its brand —promoting individuality through its advertising campaigns, appointing a diverse range of brand ambassadors including award-winning singer Lizzo.

Not only does Too Faced offer 35 shades of their lasting foundation, their powders come in an impressive 25 shades, unlike many other high-end cosmetic brands that offer diverse foundation shades, but lack range within their powdered products.

Milk Makeup was born from the desire to shake up the beauty industry, their inclusive and ‘gender-beautral’ products come in unisex packaging and the brand’s model-casting is some of the most diverse we’ve seen. This forward-thinking brand says yes to self-expression through make up, offering this Flex Foundation Stick in 36 shades.

With 26 shades to choose from, finding your perfect match in this foundation will be a doddle. Illamasqua’s mission has always been to empower and inspire through makeup, whilst championing diversity and inclusivity. Campaigning for equality across all races, genders and ages has always been a core part of the brand’s heritage.  Pablo Rodriguez, Director Of Artistry told High Life North: “At Illamasqua we ensure that we champion all individuals, no matter of their skin colour, style, gender or sexual orientation. Our product line-up clearly reflects that: from an extensive list of foundation shades, to colour choices in eye palettes and lip products, there is something for everyone, and we proudly support this further in our campaigns and on our social media channels.”

Huda founder Huda Kattan worked hard to create foundation’s that didn’t look ashy on the skin, a common complaint from women of colour when trying to find the perfect foundation. Their #FauxFilter foundation, which is available in 30 shades is a long-standing fan favourite. Huda has also worked to develop translucent powders that are not one shade fits all.

Huda’s beautiful nude lipsticks cater to all skin tones, unlike many rival brands. 

NARS Cosmetics founder Francois Nars championed inclusivity from the beginning, and has been quoted as saying he believes foundation should be for everyone. The brand, which began in 1994 was one of the first to feature models Naomi Campbell and Alex Wek in their ad campaigns. Fast-forward to 2020 and their foundation comes in 35 shades, with their iconic Orgasm blusher available in an impressive 32 shades.

Bobbi Brown has historically offered a wonderfully wide selection of shades in their cosmetics, long before other brands got on board. Their long-wear foundation is no exception. With 42 shades to choose from, everyone can find their ideal match.

Legendary make-up artist Pat McGrath has worked at top fashion house’s runway shows for decades. She has often spoke about the need for make-up that caters to all skin tones. We knew when she started her much-anticipated cosmetics brand in 2019, that a diverse shade range would be a key component. The Pat McGrath Labs Skin Fetish Foundation is an easily buildable base that comes in 36 universal colours and five shade levels, custom-curated for all skin types, tones and undertones.

Becca’s bases have always had a 50/50 split, 50% in the light-medium category, and 50% medium-deep. Unlike other brands who simply add a few darker tones to their ranges, this champions real equality. During Becca’s product development, the brand undertakes extensive testing on light through deep complexions, to ensure that all new products and shades are complimentary. You can find their Ultimate Coverage 24 Hour Foundation in 42 shades.

Though not a make-up brand, we wanted to give a special shout-out to 79 Lux, founded by Karen Cummings-Palmer. HLN got to try the range and it is truly sumptuous treat for the skin. Not only is this better than any other body oil we’ve tried, buying from 79 Lux is a wonderful way to support a black and female owned business.

Budget brand Morphe is the go-to for high-coverage concealer on a budget. At just £10, their dark-circle and blemish eraser comes in 31 shades.

Morphe’s contour stick is available in an impressive 10 shades, unlike many palettes that only offer ‘light, medium or dark’ options.

If you’re looking for an oil-free foundation, drugstore favourite Maybelline’s matte base is available in 40 shades, and is a steal at £5.99.

NYX has been praised industry-wide for its long-lasting, highly-pigmented products that offer high-end results at bargain prices. NYX’s entire range, from foundations to blushers and bronzers cater wonderfully to all. You can buy their 24-hour long wearing foundation in 45 shades, a shade range which rivals many designer beauty brands.

Need to conceal? Look no further than Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, available in 24 shades.

L’Oreal didn’t always have the most diverse ranges, but in 2016 they launched their True Match range, with their Liquid Foundation available in 40 shades which the brand states matches 98% of skin tones in the UK. We hope they’re working to make that 100% ASAP.

A steal at just £5, Revolution’s foundation offers a mattifying base, perfect for oily or blemish-prone skin. In 24 skin-true shades with a range of undertones, there’s full-coverage for all.

This velvet-finish foundation, also available for Normal to Dry skin, comes in 42 shades with SPF 15. Boasting an oil-controlling formula, ColorStay will ensure skin stays flawless all-day long.

GHD has worked closely with Charlotte Mensah, the UK’s leading authority in afro and textured hair, to create three new attachments for their helios hairdryer that work with natural hair textures. The Comb Nozzle (£25) is best suited for Afro/textured hair, Charlotte explains, “The ghd professional comb nozzle is a game changer not only for the stylist but also for the consumer. I am especially impressed with its design that not only provides tension suitable for different densities of afro hair textures, but the rounded ends are brilliant for scalp comfort. I like to use the nozzle to create a sleek blow-out for my clients. My top tip is to blow dry in small sections ensuring each section is completely dry before moving onto the next. Damp hair equals frizz so, keep a water spray bottle handy to re-wet damp sections before thoroughly blow drying. Finish with a blast of cold air to close the cuticle to reduce frizz.” Additionally, The Diffuser Nozzle (£29) works perfectly with natural curls and The Wide Nozzle (£20) is best suited to long, thick hair.

Founded in 1991 by Nyema Tubman and Richelieu Dennis, the range was inspired by Dennis’ grandmother, who sold shea butter at a village market in Sierra Leone in 1912. The entire range is ideal for afro hair, and with each purchase the brand funds its educational and entrepreneurial programs for education, healthcare, safety, and fair wages in Ghana, where their shea butter is sourced.

Loretta De Feo developed Dizziak after feeling frustrated by the lack of deep conditioners that worked on all hair types and textures. Called ‘an aphrodisiac for afro hair’, this deep cleansing wash cleans without the use of any harsh chemicals. The all-vegan formula is super-hydrating, leaving hair soothed and smoothed.

The range also includes an equally nourishing conditioner, which whilst a dream for afro-hair will work equally well on all hair types.

The entire Keracare range has been praised as the go-to for keeping afro hair nourished and healthy. The range was developed by Dr. Ali N. Syed, a master chemist with a wealth of experience formulating products for textured hair. This moisturising oil will replenish dry hair without the use of sulphates, parabens, phthalates or petrolatum.

Twisted Sista brings salon-inspired haircare to the masses, at an affordable price. This curl defining créme can be used to style, shape and hold, delivering volume and definition.

Award-winning stylist Charlotte Mensah has 26 years of expertise in the hair industry, and is the expert when it comes to maintaining healthy Natural Afro, Mixed & Curly textured hair. In her eponymous range, she has channelled her wealth of knowledge into hard-working, results-driven products. Use this shine-enhancing mist, with sustainably sourced Manketti Nut and Ximenia oils to condition, tame fly-aways and seal in a glossy shine.

From the award winning afro beauty and wellness business comes this luxurious hair butter, perfect to give locks a new lease of life. Organic and all-natural, each of The Afro Hair and Skin Company’s product is crafted by hand in the UK using locally sourced ingredients.

During childhood visits to West Virginia, Nancy Twine would watch her grandmother, the town’s resident beauty guru, making homemade hair care products. In later life, Nancy soon realised the natural hair care on the market did not live up to its performance claims. She took her grandmother’s coveted recipes and worked with a natural chemist team to found Briogeo. Whilst the entire range caters to afro hair, this scalp massager is ideal for encouraging strength and growth. Use on wet or dry hair, alone or with your favourite shampoo, oil or treatment to increase blood flow to the scalp for strong, healthy hair.

When it comes to slicking down or styling edges (the baby-hairs on the edges of the forehead) Bumble and Bumble’s Sumo Tech gel has true staying power. Use alone or with a small bristle brush or comb to shape.

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