HIDDEN FIGURES: REPRESENTATION OF DARK SKIN IN BEAUTY

Recently, the makeup industry has made a significant advancement—- creating tones that are different shades of darker skin. L’Oréal is known to be one the leading companies to represent the diversity of skin tones in their line of foundation, True Match, along with other well-known brands, such as Lancôme, Smashbox, Dior, Bare Minerals, Covergirl, and MAC following close behind. These changes in the skincare industry are very recent, being closely linked to POC movements, such as #UnfairandLovely, and demands for representation in media; dark-skinned POC now possess a more influential voice than in prior years. However, there continues to be an uphill battle for accurate representation, as dark-skin models are often not featured to represent their tones. Instead, they are represented on lighter skin, some makeup lines even use blackface, such as Jeffree Star, Kim Kardashian, Illamasqua, and Seoul Secret.

The concept of applying makeup seems mundane to most, but serves as a challenge to those with darker skin, Clover Hope, a senior writer at Jezebel, shared her difficult experience with shopping at Sephora in comparison to her friend, in her article. “Having spent most of my life wearing solely mascara and a resting bitch face, this was my first time hunting for just one decent cream or powder amid the cascading options available for skin tones ranging from white to very white to kinda brown.”

Dark skin POC are often faced with the challenge of mixing various powders and foundations to create a shade that may or may not be relatively close to their actual skin tone because diverse options are still non-existent in many countries. Usually, these countries are large proponents for the use of skin bleaching and blatantly use excessive advertising for lighting creams to engrain lighter skin as better, persuading citizens to eventually adopt this exact mindset. In turn, dark-skinned POC, usually girls, are significantly affected by this perception as society has taught dark skin to be subpar to beauty standards. Even relationships become significantly limited due to the extreme effects of colorism and lead to self-hatred and an intense desire to change in order to meet societal beauty standards.

You might ask yourself, how could self-hatred infiltrate an entire community?
However, the lack of representation for dark skin is not a recent issue, nor is it just a ‘trendy topic’. Colorism, the primary issue, is a form of prejudice and discrimination that has existed in POC communities for an unfortunate amount of time, its effects on older generations being extremely prominent, as they are usually completely desensitized behind the true nature of their words—-spewing hatred without fully understanding its repercussions within their own family. There have been countless times I’ve experienced colorist remarks used as insults by family members, correlating dark skin to poor hygiene and evilness. “My mother says anybody too dark is evil” I remember hearing my 10-year old cousin said. I was heartbroken and angered at the mindset he was being taught.

Unfortunately, this is a common link within POC communities. Colorism is usually presented at an early age, comparing darkened skin with stereotypical tropes and lightening skin with social acceptance and beauty. Studies have even shown the direct link to colorism and opportunities, “Even 20 years after civil rights legislation was passed, light-skinned black men who were college educated only had a 10.3% unemployment rate, compared to 19.4% of dark-skinned black men with a college education. Skin tone – in effect, proximity to whiteness – was linked to economic privilege.”

Although dark-skinned POC has made a  significant breakthrough in mainstream media, breaking the vicious cycle of colorism is only in its beginning stages. Together, POC must continue working to dismantle the restraints of being perceived solely on skin tone.

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