Following the launch of Fenty Beauty, many brands quickly expanded their foundation shade range to compete, but not everyone got it right.
Quantity or quality? Fenty Beauty’s 40 shades have sparked a range race in the beauty industry—but Charlotte Tilbury isn’t interested in entering the competition.
When Rihanna launched Fenty Beauty last year—offering 40 shades of foundation for all skin tones right off the bat—the brand experienced immediate, staggering success. (In its first 40 days, it brought in $100 million in sales.) The singer’s star power and the fact that she was the first woman of colour with that level of fame to launch a globally accessible makeup line with the concept of inclusivity at its core resonated well with the masses.
Propelled by her own struggle with shade matching, Rihanna wanted to ensure that the line would address everyone’s needs. “I’ve had my makeup done thousands of times, and when it comes to foundation, you just never know how it’s going to turn out,” she said in an interview with Time as part of its Best Inventions of 2017 roundup. “It was important that every woman felt included in this brand. We are all so different, with our own unique skin tones.”
Other cosmetics companies quickly followed suit, expanding their ranges to include a consumer base that had been overlooked: people of colour. “What a lot of brands do is for the white North American woman,” says Vic Casale, chief innovation officer at Cover FX, a brand that has long carried inclusive foundation lines. Casale says that often only 15 shades will be offered because it’s known they’re going to sell. “For black women, brands offer very few.”
Even drugstore brands hopped on board. CoverGirl recently teamed up with Issa Rae for the launch of TruBlend Matte Made Foundation—an extension of its original TruBlend line—which offers 40 shades in an effort to make inclusive beauty more affordable. But while Rihanna may have made 40 the new normal, Fenty Beauty wasn’t the first to cater to a variety of skin tones. In addition to Cover FX, other mainstream brands, like Estée Lauder (which used to offer 42 shades of its Double Wear Foundation but has just increased that number to 56), Maybelline New York (whose Fit Me Foundation comes in 40 shades) and M.A.C (Studio Fix Fluid comes in 42 shades), have long offered wide ranges. To stay competitive, Dior and Lush recently upped their ranges to 40 and NYX now offers 45.
Companies are being closely watched via social media, where consumers are weighing in on their every move. Beautyblender, a brand that revolutionized how we apply makeup, recently made a “beauty blunder” after entering the foundation category. Though it offers 32 shades, social media users quickly noticed that the collection seemed to cater primarily to light and medium skin tones,