Day 25: Black Feminism and Cosmetics

As a Black, 25 year old woman growing up in the United States, I can safely say I have experienced all kinds of rude comments and ignorance from all kinds of people. But what makes these comments so hurtful is the fact they are directed towards both my race AND my sex. Because I am both Black and a woman, I have to fight a battle from two fronts. Not only is it exhausting to keep a smile on my face while being hit with harsh words, but it makes me question my external beauty. Laid out from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, they explain what the Black Feminism movement is. 

Black Feminist Movement grew out of, and in response to, the Black
Liberation Movement and the Women’s Movement. In an effort to meet the
needs of black women who felt they were being racially oppressed in
the Women’s Movement and sexually oppressed in the Black Liberation
Movement, the Black Feminist Movement was formed.

What this has to do with cosmetics can be linked with the low representation of Black women in magazines and the runway. Women, like myself, are left in the background to figure out what makeup and fashion style work for us. To make matter worst is though these numbers are very real, many designers, makeup artists, and editors still hire white models to represent Black women. As seen the image below, model Ondria Hardin (16 at the time in 2013) posed for Italian magazine Numéro as an “African Queen”. While she is absolutely beautiful–the darkening of her skin using darker makeup to fit the role of an African woman, offends many like myself. This spread speaks volumes. It is saying “white” features are more desired. I am not opposed to her posing for the magainze. I understand there are whites who are born and live in Africa and I understand whites can wear African traditional wear in respect, but the fact the photographer could have hired a Black or African model instead if she/he wanted a darker model to begin with. The magazine apologized but I do hope this is a reminder how Black Feminism is important. Women of Color from all walks of life need to represented in any outlet–that includes in the fashion and cosmetics world.

Cosmetics and Black Feminism

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The Struggle is REAL! The Issue behind Cruelty-Free & Vegan Cosmetics

Before I get into the issue behind the cruelty-free and vegan cosmetic industry, I wanted to say to thank you all the companies out there that are creating wonderful products for those who want to change their lifestyle without completely eliminating the freedom that cosmetics give to women and men in improving their outer beauty.

However, with that said, there is an issue I believe exists behind this movement. This post, of course, is not meant to upset anyone but bring awareness and hopefully inspiration for more change in the near future.

I began wearing makeup (with my mother’s approval) around the age of 15. It was the bare essentials though. One foundation color (after I bought two to mix), one blush , a tube of mascara, a kit of eyeshadow and stick or two of tinted lip balm. That was my go-to makeup routine for a few years. I just drove to my nearest drug store and pick up whatever colors I thought look the most flattering on me. I honestly didn’t think too much about it. It was not until my sophomore year of college in 2011 (and about 4 years into vegetarianism), I was researching for a paper about animal cruelty. Of course, I knew of animal testing for medical research, but was not aware that many companies used animals to test their cosmetics. I was so shocked! I felt guilty. I went home and threw all my makeup away!

I had to start over. Going au natural was not my thing however. I was happy to see there were many companies out there! Even stores like ULTA and Sephora carried cruelty-free and vegan brands. I thought to myself, “Wow, this is easier than I thought!”. But as soon as I thought those words, the reality of the matter hit me… I am still a minority.

What that means to me is,  before I switched to this lifestyle, I had a difficult time finding the right shade of foundation or cosmetics designed for women (and men) with darker skin tones. I would walk down aisles and aisles in different stores and see many options for women with lighter skin tones, but when it came to darker ones, it was very limited. Thus, I would mix foundations because some of the darker tones were either too light or too dark for me. Yes, I knew of Clinique, Bobbi Brown, and M.A.C BUT it did not fit into my narrow views of what cosmetics should be: vegan or cruelty-free.

Four years later, I am still struggling. Not as much, but still finding my way.

Of course, I am not going to point fingers at any particular company or person! But I will express my frustration as a woman with darker skin that wants to lead a healthier lifestyle, both internally and externally,  has not been given the same opportunities as my lighter skin counteracts have. I would visit other makeup bloggers and majority of them are women with lighter skin tones. They will review all kinds of beautiful products but when I visit the website to research, there are only 3 to 4 shades created for darker skinned women. I am right back to mixing foundations like I did previously. Not only is that expensive, it is very time-consuming and tricky.

Blushes, lipsticks, eyeliner, and mascara are my safe haven but BB/CC/DD creams, tinted moisturizers, foundation, and an array of complexion products are very limiting in the cruelty-free and vegan world. I have found one or two awesome companies that sell makeup for individuals like myself but to me, that is not enough. I wish I knew the reason behind this. I have came up with some theories.

  1.  Creating darker tones are more expensive.
  2. There isn’t a large enough market to create these products.
  3. The myth darker skin has less “flaws” thus darker-skinned women did not need complexion aid.
  4.  Pure laziness or ignorance about dark skin.

I hope it is 1,2, and 3! Either way, I believe there should be an equal number of cosmetics for ALL people. From one side of the septrum to the other. Hopefully as my blog grows, companies will also and realize EVERYONE from ALL backgrounds want, need, and deserve to look beautiful inside AND out.

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