Photo: Glossier, Covergirl, Fenty Beauty 


Why I’m only buying the beauty brands who recognise women of colour

There are a handful of brands leading the charge when it comes to inclusivity. Otegha Uwagba explains who’s getting her money and why the rest of the industry needs to catch up 

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By Otegha Uwagba on

If you were hoping to get your hands on some Fenty Beauty make-up anytime soon, I wish you the very best of luck with that – more than two weeks after the launch that was Instagrammed around the world, the queues for the Fenty Beauty counter at Harvey Nichols (the brand’s only bricks-and-mortar stockist in the UK) are still snaking through the department store’s front doors and down the street to the Tube station. You’ll fare slightly better if you choose to pick up a few bits online instead, yet even on the Fenty Beauty website itself, many of the darkest shades of the Pro Filt’r foundation – one of the most talked about products from the range – are sold out, snapped up by an army (or should that be navy…) of make-up enthusiasts, and you need only look around the existing beauty landscape to figure out why.

For women of colour – particularly black women – Fenty Beauty is one of the few premium beauty brands that actually caters to us as a primary concern, its exhaustive shade range one of the key talking points at launch, and supported by an ad campaign featuring several darker-skinned black models. In a category where black women are very often an afterthought (when they’re even thought of at all), it’s little wonder that black women have descended upon Fenty Beauty in their droves – to stock up their make-up bags, yes, but also to show their support for a black woman who, at last, is addressing their needs.

Fenty Beauty’s success has created an irrefutable argument for beauty brands to cater to black women, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: black women have always wanted make-up

Looking at the wider beauty landscape, it’s clear that newer, millennial-focused brands are the ones leading the charge when it comes to creating inclusive shade ranges and campaigns. Cult beauty brand Glossier (which landed in the UK last week) has garnered attention and Instagram followers by the bucketload for its chic millennial-pink branding and cool-girl status, but as a woman of colour, the thing that really caught my attention when scrolling through their Instagram feed is how effortlessly diverse they manage to be. Darker-skinned women are not an afterthought, nor does Glossier signpost their inclusion in a showy but ultimately superficial manner. Same too with US teen girl favourite CoverGirl, which recently announced actress and producer Issa Rae as the face of their new campaign.

Still, I’m cautious about suggesting Fenty Beauty has heralded a "new era" for the beauty industry, as many are breathlessly proclaiming, pointing to its commercial success as the long-awaited "proof" other brands needed to follow suit. Of course, Fenty Beauty’s success has created an irrefutable argument for beauty brands to cater to black women, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: black women have always wanted make-up. There is nothing new here. The reasons long-established beauty brands have been slow to introduce darker shades into their line-ups, or to use black women to front their campaigns, have roots far deeper and darker than just "not being sure if they’ll sell". In many arenas – particularly within fashion and beauty, where Eurocentric beauty standards reign supreme – black women are seen as a downmarket demographic. Their omission from shade ranges is a convenient way of brands avoiding their products falling into the hands of an audience they would rather not be associated with.

So, how will Fenty Beauty change the beauty industry, if at all? In the months and years to come, I suspect we’ll see many more new "all-inclusive" brands springing up à la Fenty and Glossier, as opposed to existing brands rolling out darker shades. I only hope this will have a trickledown effect to high-street make-up brands – as a teenage girl, I’d have been unable to afford Fenty Beauty (or similarly priced brown-girl go-tos such as MAC, NARS and Bobbi Brown), and it seems unfair that white women are able to access make-up at every price point while black women are forced to fork out the big bucks for an often limited repertoire.

That’s not to say it wouldn’t be great if long-established beauty brands began rolling out ranges that cater to all skintones, although the prospect feels like a somewhat hollow victory when said brands have ignored the needs of those communities for decades, only picking up the baton now to avoid censure and rake in the cash. Personally, I’d rather spend my money on brands who’ve recognised the needs of black women from the get-go – so, if you need me, I’ll be outside Harvey Nicks.

The brands in my make-up bag


Fenty Beauty

Fenty Beauty Invisimatte Blotting Papers: I'm yet to try these, but I have high hopes for their ability to keep the shine at bay.



Glossier Haloscope in Topaz: A really subtle highlighter for those who prefer a more natural look, the Topaz shade looks great against darker skintones.



NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Cacao: This is great for covering up blemishes and dark spots, and is pretty much invisible against your skin once applied.


Bobbi Brown

Bobbi Brown's Nourishing Lip Colour in Suntan Pink: A really flattering nude for dark-skinned women, its moisturising formula makes it a pleasure to apply.




Becca Ever-Matte Priming Perfector: This is a godsend for oily skin, applied as a base before foundation (or worn on its own).



Bourjois Little Round Blush Pot: An easy-to-apply powder blusher that – crucially – doesn't shatter into a million pieces in your make-up bag.


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Photo: Glossier, Covergirl, Fenty Beauty 
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