Why Voting With Our Wallets Is A Woman Of Color’s Best Defense

Being a beauty writer of color can be a difficult task. There’s a near endless array of amazing brands with wide ranges of lipstick and vibrant eye shadow palettes that I itch to get my hands on and try.

In an automatic ritual, not unlike checking that the stove is off before one leaves the house, however, before I start writing about a brand, I find myself peeking at its foundation section to see if it bothers to carry my shade. I’m disappointed--expectedly--more often than not: many brands rarely offer anything darker than a “medium tan,” and if they do, it’s usually one lone medium brown seemingly thrown in as an afterthought.

Women of color and makeup artists alike have been aware of the absence of products catered to our skin for decades. And many of us opted to fill that void by creating our own lines, like Iman, Fashion Fair, and Shea Moisture, or deciding with finality to only purchase from brands that make a real attempt to recognize that we exist.

Even still, it can be incredibly hard to distance ourselves from visibly self-segregating brands, because the quality of their product is generally so good. Neutrogena makes fantastic cleansers; Rimmel London makes beautiful eye shadows; and Benefit (to say nothing of this recent racist ad featuring Bon Qui Qui) makes amazing mascara and eyeliner.

Where, then, is a woman who’s ignored by these brands supposed to go?

My answer to this age-old, and somewhat personal, quandary is short and blunt: Go anywhere else.

You have to wonder about the priorities of a company in this modern age--with the knowledge that black and brown women spend enormously on beauty products--that would actively continue shutting out several demographics of potential customers. You have to wonder about the priorities of a company that would dodge the profits being thrown at them by women they refuse to cater to. When a company’s desire to blatantly dismiss you takes higher priority than making money, it’s time to stop supporting that company. To that end, I’m willing to help out.

From here forward, I will only purchase, use, and review products from brands that make a point to include women of color.

We’re thankfully no longer stuck in the purgatory of the early to mid-90s, where even the famed Kevyn Aucoin himself needed to rely on theatre supplies to do work on dark-skinned women. We’re lucky to have new brands like Flower Cosmetics and Kat Von D--brands that are young, fresh, and deserving of every bit of limelight and praise for the quality of their products as those mega brands that continue to wed themselves to a narrow demographic.

Unfortunately, accessibility can be a big problem for women of color who live outside of urban metropolises, making the availability of an already small product pool even smaller. Keeping this in mind, there are still a few options for those of us outside of the city.

Ask for products in your shade at drugstores.

Many of the brands commonly found in drugstores do have darker shades of foundation--they just tend to be curiously absent from their displays. One way to get around this is to simply ask the manager to order some. Simple as that.

Shop online.

Brands like Blackup, Alimapure, and Valana Minerals offer sample packs where you can choose between three to four foundation shades to have sent to you in a neat, compact tester before you buy.

Read reviews from other women of color.

The Internet has broadened the reach of beauty in unprecedented ways. It’s now possible to know how a product looks and feels on the skin, from other women who look just like you, all before you decide to spend money on the product itself.

Sites like DooBop (and this one!) are indispensable for getting real-world opinions from both regular women and trained experts that can help guide the new shopper and the makeup veteran alike.

Fellow women of color: What other factors influence your purchasing decisions when it comes to beauty?