Where’s My Foundation?

It’s 2016 and there STILL aren’t any accurate shades of face makeup for women of color.

Brands may advertise that they offer a large number of shades with many different undertones to suit just about anybody, but this is not the case. White skin only consists of a few different shades making it relatively easy to match, but black skin consists of innumerable different shades and various degrees of undertones.

Companies would have to invest heavily in researching these formulations, but why won’t they? It would be too convenient for these companies to claim that there is no market here, but it’s very evident that this is not the case. Since African Americans  make up at least 15% of the United States population, one would think that beauty companies would WANT to keep up with the rising population.

Dr Shirley Anne Tate, director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies at the University of Leeds, has written extensively on the subjects of race and beauty. “Many mainstream companies believe there is no market in ethnic makeup and so they are not willing to put money into this market or into advertising,”

Women of color are speaking out all around the world about their dissatisfaction in the selection of makeup available to them. Sudanese model Nykhor Paul recently spoke out about this issue. “Why do I have to bring my own makeup to a professional (fashion) show when all the white girls don’t have to do anything but show up?”

Balanda Atis, a scientist for L’Oréal USA (which owns L’Oréal Paris and Lancôme, among others), explains. “While brands might succeed in making darker shades, they didn’t always get the undertones or the depth right,” says Atis, who is African-American. “Typically, there are four pigments used to create one shade: white, yellow, red, and black. To create deeper hues, some chemists mix in too much black pigment, which can leave skin looking bruised.”

Terry Barber, Mac’s director of make-up artistry, also explained how much work goes into the making of darker shades and how costly the process is. “Lighter skins can get away with a mix of three colours to create their matching shades. Darker skins can look ashy or muddy if the shade isn’t correctly matched. It’s not a light undertaking to cater to the world’s skintone variations.”

So, what’s happening is the cosmetic industry is continuing to encourage and profit from Black women’s search for beauty. This issue continues to add to the lack of representation of people of color all over the world.

ARTERBERY, A. (2016). Where’s My Foundation?. Cosmopolitan, 260(1), 44.


“A Look at the Hard Truths About Human Nature”

In May of 2011, Psychology Today blogger, Satoshi Kanazawa, caused an uproar with his blog post titled, “A Look at the Hard Truths About Human Nature: Why are Black Women Physically less Attractive Than Other Women?” The blog post got removed from the site shortly after it was posted, but many people took screenshots before it was taken down.In this blog post Kanazawa argued that black women are less physically attractive than other women. He did not claim that he had discovered why black people were PERCEIVED to be less attractive, he simply stated as a fact that they ARE less attractive.

For many,many years society has been using media to impose beauty standards on African Americans that are almost impossible to acquire. African American women have always felt this pressure to have to fit into these ideal standards of beauty. This continues to affect many young women today and has had many negative effects on African American women overall.

An excerpt from the blog post:

“What accounts for the markedly lower average level of physical attractiveness among black women? Black women are on average much heavier than nonblack women. The mean body-mass index (BMI) at Wave III is 28.5 among black women and 26.1 among nonblack women. (Black and nonblack men do not differ in BMI: 27.0 vs. 26.9) However, this is not the reason black women are less physically attractive than nonblack women. Black women have lower average level of physical attractiveness net of BMI. Nor can the race difference in intelligence (and the positive association between intelligence and physical attractiveness) account for the race difference in physical attractiveness among women. Black women are still less physically attractive than nonblack women net of BMI and intelligence. Net of intelligence, black men are significantly more physically attractive than nonblack men.”

Kanazawa failed to include his sample size and exact methods he used to come to this conclusion. His argument was chock full of fallacies, but yet he still felt the need to post his findings. My concern here is why he would even do a particular study as this one especially since it is incredibly racist. With the long held standards of beauty being imposed on black women and the struggles that have come with it, this is very sad. Kanazawa uses “science” to determine the levels of attractiveness, but really he is just using “science” to justify prejudice and discrimination.

Psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa was fired from Psychology Today less than a month after this blog post appeared. (Thank goodness!) Psychology Today emailed ColorofChange.com, the largest online African American political organization, and issued an apology. Psychology Today ensured that Kanazawa’s work would no longer appear on their site and that they have even put new rules into place to prevent this kind of controversial material from being posted in the future. Kanazawa was also a professor at the London School of Economics. After this uproar his students also called for Kanazawa to be terminated.

But, Satoshi Kanazawa got to keep his job at the London School Of Economics. Why is it that this is okay?

He also issued an apology, but not until four months later. (Real sincere!) Kanazawa did however promise not to do something like this again and claimed that he would give more consideration to the approach of his work in the future. It seems that since he took four months to make his apology that he may have been forced to do so by his employer.


Moss, H. (n.d.). Satoshi Kanazawa Causes Firestorm After Claiming Black Women Are Less Attractive. Retrieved November 14, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/17/satoshi-kanazawa-black-women-less-attractive_n_863327.html

The Politics of Skin Lightening

When asked about skin lightening, people would probably say that it is a thing of the past and that we live in a more diverse world today. A world where people don’t feel they have to lighten their skin in order to feel pretty. But this is not the case at all. Skin lightening is still happening even though the effects have been proven to be very harmful, sometimes even causing cancer.

Four years ago, Dove launched their VisibleCare body wash with the advertisement, “Visibly more beautiful skin.” The ad features a before and after picture of the effects of this body wash. In the before part there is a black woman and in the after image there is a white woman. (In the middle is a woman with a skin tone that is tan.)So is Dove saying that it’s body wash is strong enough to turn a black woman white?

When Dove was confronted about this ad, their PR firm responded,

“We believe that real beauty comes in many shapes, sizes, colors and ages and are committed to featuring realistic and attainable images of beauty in all our advertising. We are also dedicated to educating and encouraging all women and girls to build a positive relationship with beauty, to help raise self-esteem and to enable them to realize their full potential.

The ad is intended to illustrate the benefits of using Dove VisibleCare Body Wash, by making skin visibly more beautiful in just one week. All three women are intended to demonstrate the “after” product benefit. We do not condone any activity or imagery that intentionally insults any audience.”

So why is it that the black woman appears very much to be under the “before” picture? It’s hard to believe that his was a completely unintentional and mistaken placement of the three women. Isn’t Dove supposed to be “redefining” beauty? It seems that Dove is only reinforcing beauty.

A year before this Dove ad, Vaseline developed a skin lightening app for Facebook. This app allowed Facebook users to make their profile pictures look whiter. AFP, the company that covered the app noted that “a poll of nearly 12,000 people by online dating site Shaadi.com, revealed that skin tone was considered the most important criteria when choosing a partner.”

Skin lightening or whitening cream has been marketed to women with darker skin by various skincare companies for many years. this all goes back to the long held tradition that white skin is equated with beauty and what is to be considered beautiful.

Dove Ad


North, A. (2010, July 13). Vaseline Crowdsources Racism With New Skin-Whitening App. Retrieved November 28, 2015, from http://jezebel.com/5585906/vaseline-crowdsources-racism-with-new-skin-whitening-app

Nolan, H. (2011, May 23). Dove Body Wash: Strong Enough to Turn a Black Woman White. Retrieved November 28, 2015, from http://gawker.com/5804724/dove-body-wash-strong-enough-to-turn-a-black-woman-white


Back in August of this year, the hashtag #FlexinMyComplexion appeared on Twitter and in just one week it was used more than 85,000 times. Women all across the world came together to celebrate their diversity and color of their skin. The hashtag was created by a group of black women who decided to redefine beauty in their own way since they are so underrepresented in mainstream media. The media continues to try to reinforce the idea that white is beautiful and anything else isn’t.

And of course, it wasn’t long before people started to say that the hashtag was racist. One twitter user tweeted, “Excuse me for thinking all people’s complexions are beautiful. You may continue to be racist with your “blacks only” fountain.” This is quite ridiculous to me. Since people of color are so underrepresented, why should’t they be able to come together and celebrate their diversity? Whites claimed that they felt alienated by this movement.

This hashtag was not created with intentions of being racist; it’s a social media movement with good intentions trying to make the rest of the world recognize that there is more than just one color of skin. The idea behind this movement is to remind the world that dark skin not only exists, but that it can be just as attractive as light skin.



“She looks like she smells like patchouli oil.. or weed”

Zendaya Coleman, simply known as Zendaya, is an nineteen year old Disney actress. Earlier this year, in February, Zendaya hit the 87th Academy Awards red carpet. She was in a stunning white gown with her hair styled in gorgeous, long traditional loss. Most of you all know, but locs are a common way for African American men and women to wear their hair.

E! Network’s “Fashion Police” is a show that features several panelists commenting (and criticizing mostly) on the latest celebrity fashions the day after major events occur. Giuliana Rancic, current host of “Fashion Police,” chose to comment on Zendaya’s appearance on the red carpet. In regards to Zendaya’s locks, Giuliana Rancic said, “she looks like she smells like patchouli oil… or weed.” Ignorance at it’s finest right here.

There’s a long history of the media degrading and criticizing blackness. Since minorities are extremely underrepresented in media, the representations that do exist are usually full of long lived stereotypes. The media also criminalizes black people, especially in reference to drugs, which fuels the existing stereotypes even more. Rancic’s comments are derived from this history. She resorted to Twitter after her comments were made public to claim that she was “equating locs to bohemian chic style.” It wasn’t until later that Rancic issued an apology.

Zendaya used Instagram to voice her opinion on the ignorant comment made about her, without even specifically naming Rancic. “To say that an 18-year-old young woman with locs must smell of patchouli oil or ‘weed’s not only a large stereotype, but outrageously offensive. I don’t usually feel the need to respond to negative things but certain remarks cannot go unchecked.”

Kelly Osbourne warned Giuliana not to make the controversial comment over Zendaya’s hair. The Zendaya segment was shot three different times and yet Rancic still insisted on making the comment.

Rancic’s Comment and Apology on Zendaya’s Hair

Cited: People Magazine Online

Video from YouTube


Cosmo: Racially Insensitive?

Cosmopolitan magazine got itself into some hot water after the magazine posted a story on it’s website in January 2015. The article was titled “21 Beauty Trends That Need to Die in 2015.” The magazine was labeled as being racially insensitive and this story was center of a controversy three months after the story was published. The story was shared over 80,000 times.

With the exception of Nicole Richie, who is biracial, all the models that were featured as “in” for 2015 were white. The women of color that were featured in this story were all wearing looks or styles that should “RIP.” Users on Twitter called out this distinction and voiced their anger and frustration. One user wrote “Coincidence that all the “wrong” looks are on black women/WOC? #HowItFeelsToBeABlackGirl.” Another user tweeted “Boycott @Cosmopolitan this is downright disgusting.” Many people felt as if Cosmo has an implicit bias against women of color.

Diversity has always been a problem in the fashion industry. A 2014 report on diversity in fashion magazines found that white models are featured on the cover five times more often than people of color. Writer Jihan Forbes said in this report, “Fashion should represent beauty in all forms and it’s about time our magazines reflect that.”

Unfortunately, I think it will be a very long time before fashion magazines display diversity accurately.

Cosmo did however issue an apology for offending it’s readers. The story has since been updated with a letter from the editor to begin the article. “A note from the editor: This article focuses on beauty trends with images that represent those trends. Some images have been taken out of context, and we apologize for any offense. Celebrating all women is our mission, and we will continue to work hard to do that.”

Maybe if there were more people of color on the magazine staff to give their thoughts and opinions while the stories are being produced, these situations could be avoided.



Image from Google Images

Discrimination at the Cosmetic Counter

According to WWD, the black beauty industry is worth 7.5 billion dollars and black women, on average, spend 80% more money than white women on beauty products.   The reason for this is because they have to try and sample more products to see if they will work for their skin.

The prestige brands such as NARS, MAC and Bobbi Brown provide make-up that spans a vast array of skin tones, but what about the more affordable brands? Most make-up brands are owned by one of the same few companies, so the knowledge is there. The lack of options for people who need reasonably priced make-up does not seem to make sense then.

In July 2014, Sudanese model and social activist Nykhor Paul spoke out about the ignorance when it comes to black women and make-up. “Why do I have to bring my own makeup to a professional show when all the other white girls don’t have to do anything but show up? Wtf!” Paul is not the first to speak out about racism in the fashion industry. In 2013, supermodels Naomi Campbell, Iman and Bethann Harrison formed the Diversity Coalition. They wrote and open letter to the top fashion houses demanding for greater diversity on the catwalk and the boycott of the fashion brands that do not comply with this. Nykhor’s experience of make-up artists not having make-up for her skin is, sadly, mirrored across the entire beauty industry.

It seems a bit convenient for brands to say that there is a “lack of demand” for affordable darker skin toned products. Testing and manufacturing darker shades of make-up may take more time and initially cost a large amount more to develop, but wouldn’t it be more costly culturally for brands who are not offering make-up to suit people of all shades?

Make-up should be made available for all people no matter how dark they are or how much money they have to spend. Discrimination is a real issue in life that can take a toll on people’s spirit and self-esteem. Unfortunately, women of color experience this practice at cosmetic counters or mostly any place they attempt to purchase foundations that match their skin tone.



Does the media influence how YOU wear YOUR hair?

Social comparison theory proposes that people compare themselves to others when they’re unsure of themselves. So, do perceptions of beauty influence Black women to alter their hair to fit with the Eurocentric beauty standard of long straight hair?

Cheryl Thompson, author of BLACK WOMEN, BEAUTY, AND HAIR AS A MATTER OF BEING, argues that the Eurocentric beauty standard of long, straight hair does have a sociocultural affect on Black women’s conceptions of beauty.

When commercials started advertising skin lightening and hair straightening in the 20th century for black women, Black entrepreneurs saw the great opportunity to create and sell these products. These products put pressure on the need to assimilate to White corporate America. Some employers now strictly prohibit Black women from wearing their hair “natural.”

Mostly all of the women Cheryl Thompson spoke to while doing her research (correlation between long straight hair and beauty) had chemically straightened their hair before. These women explained that they felt better about themselves and had more confidence with their hair straight than when they wore it “natural” or had it braided because of the reactions they received. One woman told Thompson that she felt as if men had created this expectation that to be an attractive, desirable woman you must have long flowing hair.

Black women cannot style their hair a certain way without their choice of style being called into question. Their hair will always affect how others will respond to them and determine the amount of power they are given. Are black women straightening their hair for their own preference? Or, as a matter of survival?

When a marginalized group takes on elements from the dominant culture in order to survive, it’s called assimilation. Many black women cannot find work unless they adhere to the white standard of hair. Most black women have felt the impact of the pressure to survive by fitting in with the white culture at some point in their lives.

It’s a lot more than just the perception of beauty that causes black women to alter their hair. Black women get treated as if they are inferior just because their hair doesn’t look like a white person’s, Instead of constantly struggling with the issue, black women may end up straightening their hair just to survive in this cruel world we live in.

THOMPSON, C. (2009). Black Women, Beauty, and Hair as a Matter of Being. Women’s Studies, 38(8), 831-856. doi:10.1080/00497870903238463

Lupita Nyong’o, A Reason for Hope

In 2014, Glamour, a popular fashion magazine, named 31 year old Lupita Nyong’o its “Woman of the Year.” For decades the notion that you have to be light skinned, thin, and have long straight hair in order to be beautiful has dominated the media. The models that are featured on the covers of magazines almost always fit perfectly into the beauty standards imposed on most of the world. In 2013, a survey was conducted by the Huffington Post looking at the race of all models who made the cover of Glamour. It was not surprising that the results showed a serious lacking of diversity. If a dark skinned model does end up on the covers of a magazine their picture will most likely be photoshopped to make them appear to have lighter skin.

Lupita Nyong’o won an Oscar for her performance as Patsey in the movie 12 Years a Slave. Does it really take winning an Oscar to be featured on the cover of a popular fashion magazine? Much of the excitement of Wyong’o’s success in due to the disturbing beauty standards that America holds.

In her interview with Glamour, Nyong’o explained, “European standards of beauty are something that plague the entire world — the idea that darker skin is not beautiful, that light skin is the key to success and love.” She told them that Kenya, where she grew up and spent most of her youth is “no exception” to these standards of what is beautiful. Girls learn at a very young age what is considered to be beautiful by society. Lupin told Glamour, “When I was in the second grade, one of my teachers said, ‘Where are you going to find a husband? How are you going to find someone darker than you? I remember seeing a commercial where a woman (of color) goes for an interview and doesn’t get the job. Then she puts a cream on her face to lighten her skin, and she gets the job! This is the message: that dark skin is unacceptable.”

The idea that a dark skinned woman of color could be overcoming the white supremacy narrative is encouraging. This could be a small sign that America’s long held standards of beauty could be starting to diminish. Lupita gave a speech on Black Beauty at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood luncheon in February of 2014 that was very moving and is now iconic. In her speech she shares her personal feelings of being a woman of color in a white world. Lupita is a reason to have hope, hope that one day the standards of beauty held by our society will completely collapse.


The “Whitewashing” of African American Beauty Standards

The topic of my blog is on the beauty standards for African American women in America. Through the use of the media, society is enforcing standards that are nearly impossible to achieve, especially for women of color. There’s no question about what race dominates the media; there is and always has been a serious underrepresentation of women of color. Celebrities such as Beyonce, Halle Berry, and Tyra Banks whom are quite often shown in the media do not represent an ordinary black woman. None of these women have distinct African features.

Mass media bombards society with the notion of what is desirable and what is not. This results in African American women being “invisible, unacceptable and unworthy of the media’s attention.” There is a huge pressure to push all women into White-European standards of beauty.

But what is this “European Beauty Standard?”

It’s the notion that the more closely associated a person with European features, the more attractive she or he is considered. Some of these features include light skin, straight hair, thin nose, and colored eyes. (Kite 2011) It is commonly found in magazines.

I will be exploring the history, causes, prevalence and even a few challenges to “whitewashing” black beauty.