The British Beauty Industry Does Not ‘See’ Women of Colour…Or does it?

The British Beauty Industry Does Not ‘See’ Women of Colour…Or does it?

I was going to write a scathing post about the British Beauty industry not seeing or recognising women of colour specifically dark skin tones, however my opinion has changed slightly.

I live in London and I love my city. London is an international city and it is a melting pot of different cultures and races which I love. You meet people from different walks of life from just walking through London. People with different backgrounds, experiences and perceptions on life. It is truly a multi-cultural city.

However, when I was growing up, the British beauty industry was colourblind, seeing a certain spectrum of colours and unfortunately darker shades did not feature in that spectrum. Medium to darker skin tones were not represented in drugstore products. I used to go into drugstores and was unable to find foundation shades even slightly close to my skin-tone to test or buy. Women of colour almost feel forced to buy high end foundations just to get access to a variety of shades suitable for their skin-tones.

I am going through a stage in my life, where I have decided to use my voice to make a change. To me, this issue is deeper than just makeup. I believe going to drugstores and only seeing shades suitable for Caucasian women subconsciously reinforces the very idea that women of colour are invisible and are not recognised. I do not want my daughter to experience this. 


I wanted to see if things had changed since I was younger, if the British beauty industry now recognised that women came in shades other than white! So I did an experiment where I visited six different drugstores around Central London to see if I could buy or test foundations suitable for my skin tone. At first I was feeling discouraged because I couldn’t find any in the first five stores, however the last drugstore had 4 different foundations suitable for my skin tone.



Rimmel and Bourjois do not even have foundation shades for medium – dark skin tones. I even checked online.

Sleek was one of the only brands that had foundation shades suitable for women of colour, however they no longer do liquid foundations, only crème to powder foundations

Maybelline Dream Satin Liquid – 68 Golden Caramel

L’Oreal True Match – 8N Cappuccino

Revlon Photoready Airbrush Effect – 010 Caramel

Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse – 70 Cocoa

Maybelline, Revlon, L’Oreal have a larger variety of shades for medium – dark skin tones which are sold in the U.S. Why are they not stocked and sold in British drugstores? Is this because these shades are not sold in the UK at all or because drugstores are choosing not to stock them for commercial reasons? I wish someone could answer my question.



This situation has improved, however the problem still exists. For the first time, I was able to walk into a drugstore and find shades of foundation to try! I found four different foundations suitable for dark skin tones, however there is still a problem with stores only providing one medium or dark shade, almost assuming that women of colour all wear the same shade and have the same undertones.

No, not every person with a dark skin tone has a red undertone. No, not every person with a medium skin tone has a pink undertone. When you stock 5 of the lightest shades in a particular foundation and only 1 medium to dark shades, you are disregarding the women with other skin tones who may want to buy the foundation.

One thing I have to point out is that there are still Cosmetic companies that do not have any shades for medium to dark skin tones. This is not acceptable. Especially when one of these companies claim to represent ‘the London look!’.

Our duty as women is to call this problem to the attention of these beauty companies, even if it does not directly affect you. We all should be able to walk into a drugstore and find products suitable for our skin tones. I know that drugstores cannot stock every single shade, however there is a change that still needs to happen.

How many of you have experienced this? What has been your experience when trying to find a drugstore foundation for your skin tone?


 Statistics of 2011 Consensus:


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