In college, my friends were too nice to tell me that my foundation didn't match my skin. So in oblivion, I went on important job interviews, dates, and to happy hours wearing a reddish-brown base that was at least three shades lighter than my skin tone... the darkest foundation available at a local drugstore. It's a universal struggle that Cashmere Nicole, founder and CEO of Beauty Bakerie Cosmetics, is addressing... and in a way that's making history, at that.
For the brand's Cake Mix Demi-Matte Foundations, which launch on April 19, Nicole deliberately had the impressive range of 30 shades numbered from dark to light – not the other way around — which is unheard of. "There are constant reminders, subtle and overt, that being a woman of color is second best," she tells Refinery29. "For foundation, I know what's important to me as a Black woman — that's why the order is from dark to light. I wanted equal representation, and for everyone to feel just as beautiful."
I know what's important to me as a Black woman — that's why the order is from dark to light.
-Cashmere Nicole, founder and CEO of Beauty Bakerie Cosmetics
Even as a Black woman with fair skin, Nicole also had problems finding the right foundation while growing up. If a shade worked, then the undertone was off. And when her teenage daughter started trying on makeup, Nicole had to drive to several stores to find a full range that went past her own skin tone. Frustrated, she started talking to beauty lovers all around the world about how they shop for their shades.
"I found that foundation ranges were a common thing that frustrates women of color," she says. "It's something many white women will say they didn’t even notice, though. I figured if it alleviates a pain point for one group and doesn’t harm another, why wouldn’t I do this?" Plus, Nicole says that she has a diverse team of voices at the Beauty Bakerie conference room table who keep each other informed with honest perspectives.
Although the demi-matte, medium-to-full coverage foundations don't hit Beauty Bakerie's site for another week, the drop is already a hit on social media. "I literally screamed seeing shade #1 being dark," @booo_rad tweeted to Nicole. "PoC really are trained to look toward the end for their shade. Thank you." That's just a sampling of the love that the brand is receiving. When the haters do rear their heads, plenty of supporters are quick to defend Nicole. "There are literally so many foundations for lighter women," tweeter @elisejasek wrote. "Please let POC have this ONE thing without saying 'what about me.' We have every foundation shade, the beauty industry is mostly catered to lighter skin women. Don’t complain or say anything about 'fair and equal.'"
Despite a few critics, Nicole is still thrilled with her decision, and how she and her team are setting out to change a narrative that she's followed for so long. "Shonda Rhimes once said that she hates the word 'diversity,' because it suggests something 'other.' She uses the word 'normalizing.' I apply this directly to the beauty industry," Nicole says. "I’m normalizing it. It isn’t genius. I’m making this brand look like how the world looks. Now is a time of healing for people who were once ignored. It's a celebration of unity, understanding, and love."