It's Time to Stop Telling People of Colour They "Don't Need" to Wear Makeup

Anabelle UssherAnabelle Ussher

Makeup is a tool for visibility. It makes me feel like my best, polished self.

I've worked in the beauty industry as a makeup artist and creator for quite some time, and spent my money on products as a consumer for even longer. And wow, how my relationship with beauty has evolved over the years.

From standing in front of the camera or a client's face, or on the other side of a makeup counter unable to find my shade, I've not only witnessed discrimination, but experienced it myself.

Let me paint you a picture...

I developed a love for all things beauty very early on in life. I guess it was the power I saw in the art of transformation.

My earliest memories of makeup all involve watching my mum with her powder compact, and my older sisters playing around with eyeliner and lipstick. I was too young to connect the dots at the time, but the reason I never saw them use anything else is because there really wasn't anything else.

It wasn't until I started going into makeup stores with my friends as a teenager that I got it. I remember feeling so excluded, surrounded by shelves filled with light foundation shades and walls lined with marketing posters of white-passing women. There was never anything for me. Or anyone who looked like me.

The lack of inclusivity and access made me feel inadequate and underserving – like I'd done something inherently wrong by being a dark-skinned black woman wanting to wear makeup. Time and time again, the response to how I was feeling was always the same.

"Don’t worry Anabelle, you don’t even need makeup..."

This didn’t make me feel any less like I was watching a ‘cool kids club’ as an outsider looking in. 

Fast forward to the last few years, and brands began launching foundations with 20 shades of beige. But don't worry, they'd say. Here's a follow-up second drop of more beige shades... and a few token browns. Not only is it devaluing to see how much effort is put into the lighter end of shade ranges while the dark-deep gets the bare minimum. It's damaging.

The darker side of the shade spectrum was and still is almost always grey aka 'casket ready', or comically red in tone. Even so, I still wore those ashy foundations in my late teens (pictured left) because I loved makeup, regardless of whether my skin 'needed' it or not.

Anabelle UssherAnabelle Ussher

Now, the issue at hand has slowly changed from brands not formulating shades for people of colour, to brands not enabling Australian beauty retailers to buy into and stock globally available shades in-store or online. And then there are the retailers who choose not to range them at all.

This lack of diversity in complexion shade ranges in the Australian beauty landscape isn't about me not being able to buy foundation. It's about how people of colour not being able to buy foundation contributes to the narrative that we "don’t wear makeup" or "don't want to".

This is merely another form of erasure people of colour have dealt with consistently for years; perpetuating whiteness and proximity to whiteness as the only beauty consumers worth formulating for.

It's unsettling to know most people of colour who consume beauty - and love beauty - probably have a similar story to mine. But we are worthy. My skin tone is worthy.

Enough is enough. It's time to #StockAllShades.

So, What's My Global Shades Foundation?

Anabelle UssherAnabelle Ussher

What: MAKE UP FOR EVER Ultra HD Foundation - A light-diffusing foundation that offers medium to full coverage, with a second skin finish.

Why I love it:

Hold on a minute now, am I LATE to the party on this foundation?! It's simply stunning.

I'd describe it as offering medium buildable coverage with a natural finish. Because glow might as well be my middle name at this point, I mixed it with the MAKE UP FOR EVER Ultra HD Soft Light Liquid Highlighter for some extra spice.

Applying this foundation was seamless. The shade R550 Dark Chocolate evened out my complexion and felt light as air all day. Finally, I get why people have raved about this foundation for years. It really blew me away!

Global ShadesGlobal Shades

If you believe beauty in Australia should include everyone, sign our Global Shades digital petition today and share it using the hashtag #StockAllShades. Together, let’s commit to elevating the voices of Black, Indigenous and people of colour.

Read more experiences of beauty, identity and Global Shades foundations in these stories below:

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