A genuine challenge demanding real solutions

Alright people, anyone in the industry has seen it and we have all talked about it: The shitstorm Youthforia experienced after adding another 10 new shades to its Date Night Skin Tint Serum Foundation collection earlier this year.

 Remember the images of Gollloria George (picture from TikTok @golloria) comparing black face paint to Youthforia’s foundation shade 600 Deep and there being literally no difference between the two applied to her skin at all. It was shocking. 

 People of color felt hurt, disrespected, and simply left out—again. The New York Times, Forbes, CNN, Refinery29, LinkedIn and many content creators around the world have covered the story. This incident underscores the profound impact that neglecting inclusivity can have on communities, emphasizing the importance of meaningful DEI efforts in the beauty industry.

Over here at Mind the Beauty it really struck a chord for personal reasons as we are a diverse bunch ourselves, but also because we feel we have the chance to really make a change. How exactly? We have a few ideas but first, let’s start at the beginning.

What happened in early May this year and why is it so important for any beauty brand to re-think their diversity, equity & inclusion efforts?

The Youthforia disaster in a nut-shell

In October 23 the brand got called out by black beauty creators on TikTok for their lack of dark shades of their previously launched foundation. The criticism forced Youthforia Founder and CEO Fiona Co Chan to eventually apologize. Furthermore she announced an expansion of the brands shade range.

Only 5 months later the brand launched another 10 new shades but the execution fell short to say the least. Content Creator Golloria George with more than 2 million followers on TikTok and Instagram was the first to try out the new shades in a video that went viral and we all know what happened next. A proper shitstorm unfolded. Headlines such as „How Can Youthforia Be Saved?“ (beautyindependent.com), „Youthforia criticized over new black foundation shade“ (ABC News) and „From Hype to Ash: Youthforia’s Fumbled Diversity Play” (LinkedIn) are prevailing. 

And no, not all press is good. As of today (end of May 24) Youthforia has not reacted to the criticism. Date Night Skin Tint Serum Foundation 600 Deep  – which reminds me of images from not too long ago when people put black shoe polish in their face for carnival as a costume – is still available on their website despite the fact that nowhere in the world can you find a real person who has literally jet black skin without any undertones. 

And even worse: This is not a new problem at all: Tarte Cosmetics had a similar challenge in 2018 when social media users voiced their disappointment after Tarte unveiled 25 shades (mostly fair and beiges) for its new foundation range. They apologized and soon later launched another 15 shades (mostly dark) to their best seller Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Foundation. Unlike with Youthforia, Tarte Cosmetics new additions became popular. They have recovered since and learned their lesson. 

It is crucial for any beauty brand (even those without a shitstorm) to continually rethink their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts to ensure that all consumers feel valued, represented, and included.

Embracing diversity not only reflects the reality of modern society but also fosters trust, loyalty, and authenticity among increasingly diverse consumer bases. This is what Tarte did to make up for their mistake in the aftermath of their viral disaster.

Diversity, equity & inclusion – What your brand can do to do better

Inclusive Marketing Campaigns

Beyond product development, Tarte has taken steps to reflect diversity in their marketing campaigns. The brand now features models of various ethnicities, ages, and body types, ensuring that their advertising resonates with a wider audience. By partnering with diverse influencers and beauty experts, Tarte amplifies voices that represent a range of backgrounds and experiences.

Employee Diversity

Internally, Tarte has focused on fostering an inclusive workplace. The company has implemented training programs on cultural sensitivity and unconscious bias to educate their employees. Additionally, they have made strides in diversifying their team, particularly in leadership positions, to ensure a variety of perspectives are included in decision-making processes.

Community Engagement and Support

Tarte also engages with the community through partnerships and initiatives that support underrepresented groups. Their philanthropic efforts include collaborations with organizations that promote social justice and equality. Tarte has  participated in campaigns and events that celebrate and promote inclusivity and equality for LGBTQ+ individuals, aiming to foster a more inclusive beauty community.

By addressing past shortcomings and actively working towards a more inclusive future, Tarte Cosmetics has shown that they are dedicated to learning and growing. Their renewed focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion has not only helped rebuild their reputation but also set a positive example for the beauty industry.

But this is not all that can be done. Beauty brands can demonstrate their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in several other ways: 

Collaborations and Partnerships: Working with diverse influencers, makeup artists, and beauty experts can amplify diverse voices and perspectives. Partnering with organizations that support underrepresented communities can also reinforce a brand’s commitment to DEI.

Cultural Sensitivity and Education: Brands should educate their teams on cultural sensitivity and the importance of DEI. This can include training on recognizing biases, understanding cultural nuances, and fostering an inclusive environment.

Transparent Reporting and Accountability: Brands should be transparent about their DEI goals, initiatives, and progress. Regularly reporting on these efforts and being acc ountable to consumers and stakeholders can build trust and show a genuine commitment to continuous improvement.

Product Development and Innovation: Brands should consider the needs of diverse consumers in all product lines. This includes creating products for different hair types, skin concerns, and beauty preferences. 

Consumers expect brands to demonstrate a genuine commitment to inclusivity. Offering an even palette of foundation shades is not only about meeting market needs but also about respecting and celebrating the diverse beauty of all individuals.

Brands that excel in the latter, such as Fenty Beauty, Nars, Urban Decay, Make Up For Ever  and About Face have set a high standard by ensuring that their products are accessible and flattering to everyone. This commitment is essential for building trust and loyalty among consumers who seek authenticity and representation in the beauty industry.

How to curate a shade palette for your brands color cosmetics

It might look difficult especially for a small brand (with limited production funds) to get the shade palette for your color cosmetics collection right but we are here to tell you it is not! You don’t have to launch 40 different shades (picture by Make Up For Ever) right in the very beginning. It’s ok to start with half of it or even less but it has to be even when it comes to the ratio of shades.

When curating a shade palette for your brand’s color cosmetics, it is essential to ensure an even ratio of shades across the spectrum to cater to all skin tones. This means offering a balanced selection of light, medium, dark, and deep dark shades. What we still see quite often is a very unbalanced ratio with 25 different shades of light and medium with all kinds of undertones but almost no variety in the dark and deep dark shades. 

By maintaining an equal distribution, you demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity and provide every customer with a fitting match. This approach not only meets the diverse needs of your consumer base but also fosters trust and loyalty, showing that your brand values and celebrates the beauty of all individuals.

When it comes to Youthforia we are not sure what is going to happen. They are in a tough spot. Still, we wish for Fiona Co Chan and her team that they can turn it around and use what has happened to become a real beacon in the industry for genuine inclusivity and responsiveness.