Every few months, I carefully scoop out the last few drops of foundation left in the bottle, buff it over my face, and face the reality that it's time to buy new makeup. For most, trying and buying cosmetics is a thrill; to me, it is the source of deep anxiety and complete dread. As a woman of colour, I've had more than my fair share of humiliating experiences in the makeup chair at department stores. Whether it's sitting there for a full hour as multiple artists try and try again to find the right foundation for my complexion, or being encouraged to buy a product that “matches” my tone only to later look like I’m wearing clown makeup — it's always an experience, and never a good one.
As a teenager, I would even raid my mother and sister’s makeup bags just to avoid going to the mall. I grew accustomed to the embarrassment and almost started to believe the ridiculous excuses people came up with to account for the fact that they simply didn't have my shade behind the counter. (Poor lighting seemed to be the most common.)
And I'm certainly far from alone. Many, many women have also experienced pain in the makeup chair and drugstore aisle. Viola Davis says she is quick to speak up now, but spent years staying silent for fear of losing a job. Just yesterday, actress Nicole Byer penned an essay for the Lenny letter expressing the same frustrations. Even Kerry Washington said that Neutrogena didn't have her shade when she signed as its ambassador; she took it upon herself to make sure that quickly changed.
So, how is this still happening in 2017? To understand it, you have to go back (way back) to explore the deeply rooted issues within the makeup industry, an industry that hasn't fully taken the time to explore the rich, diverse backgrounds of women of colour. Take my own skin, for example. It's multifaceted and reflects my bi-racial lineage, one that consists of my French and Dutch grandmothers, Native American great-grandparents, and Ghanaian ancestors. After a decade of swatching every colour I could find, I have finally discovered a shade that works (Charlotte Tilbury Magic' Foundation Broad Spectrum in 9, bless up), but many of my sisters are still searching.
So, I decided to do an investigation into the history of foundation and why, systemically, there has been such slow change to the industry. (Check it out in the video above.) I must note, while this journey is far from over, there have been so many incredible improvements in the past few years. Brands like Becca, Juvia's Place, Bobbi Brown, L'Oréal, and M.A.C. have done an amazing job in making sure they are both inclusive in their advertising and in the development and research behind their newest projects. I will continue to be persistent and hopeful that things will change across the board so that our stories and beauty are celebrated — not ignored. And so we can all, finally, find our damn shade.