Racism is a nuanced and subtle poison. It even extends to the beauty products I can buy

The lack of choice and diversity in beauty, especially when it comes to foundations, tells me everything I need to know

Credit: Ian Oliver Walsh

Covid-19 has changed the world forever. Everyone has had time to reflect on what is really important to them. The murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer has meant that the world has erupted with a call for social justice. We have all watched as the Black Lives Matter movement has attracted people of all ethnicities to come together to fight for equality. 

Many have argued that we are all already equal and that ‘All Lives Matter’. However, racism in the 21st century is a very nuanced and subtle poison. Any person of colour will tell you that when entering a beauty hall, it is very clear to see that some of us are more equal than others.  

Beauty reflects our values as a society and the lack of choice and diversity, especially when it comes to foundations tells me everything I need to know about how my needs are viewed. I’ve been a beauty journalist for 20 years and at the age of 42 I can say like millions of other people of colour, I still don’t have a foundation that I love and that suits my skin tone.

The beauty writer Ateh Jewel

I have now decided to be part of the solution and to create my own range. My journey in developing my foundation, which to me is an act of beauty activism, honouring and celebrating my melanin, has been exhausting and heart breaking. 

I have been told by many in the beauty industry that people of colour will not be able to afford to buy at my luxury price point. This is ridiculous. According to Mintel and Nielson we spend eight times more on beauty compared to white counterparts and in America, the African American spending power will be $1.5 trillion by 2021.

I have been told to simply add black, white and titanium dioxide into my foundation to make the shades deeper and add more coverage. I explained that there is no black in my skin and that these ingredients make the finish look muddy and ashy with a grey tinge. I have searched and fought to find “true brown” and have been told by many pigment houses that I am the only person to ever push back and not accept the status quo. 

I think as a black beauty consumer I have been made to feel grateful for whatever is on offer. Real equality means real choice and to be seen and valued as a consumer. I think when people making the decisions in businesses are from more diverse backgrounds then things will change. I believe in celebration and not just ‘tolerance’ and that everyone deserves to feel powerful, seen and beautiful.