I distinctly remember one of my first experiences with beauty products. It took place at a grade school science camp, one of my first “sleep away” camps. I was super excited to be on my own..which really meant away from my parents and with my friends.
We were out in some random place in the woods, but that didn’t stop our pre-teen selves from bringing the finest Limited Too apparel, loads of $3 Bath and Body Works spray, and of course drugstore makeup.
I remember standing there in the mirror, among my cabin mates, perusing through their makeup stash. It was the only piece of the puzzle missing from my sleep-away camp kit. Moms refused to buy it for me and forbid me from wearing it until I was about 16. So I was stuck with powder pink blush, brown mascara, blue eye shadow, and colored lip gloss that just made my lips look they had been drenched in Vaseline.
I tried and tried to utilize the makeup of my White and Asian peers to create a look that matched the caliber of the girls in the Teen People magazine editorials, but to no avail.
It was at that moment I decided: makeup just wasn’t for me. There must be a reason why there were never any black girls in the beauty section of the magazines. There must be a reason why I couldn’t find any drugstore makeup I wanted, other than my Dr. Pepper Lip Smackers lip balm. And so sadly, as a young dark skinned black girl, I gave up.
When I look back and think about my former self, I feel a little sad and a little mad. It wasn’t until I got my makeup done professionally for my high school prom that I really became confident about diving back into makeup. It was the first time I had even heard of a black makeup counter brand (Fashion Fair), and it was the first time I had makeup on that I felt looked flawless. Even though, I believed at the time that my options were limited, I realized that makeup was something that I still might actually be able to enjoy.
Unfortunately, not much has changed since then. Yes, beauty brands may have expanded their range a little and have started to incorporate more women of color in their advertisements, but there is still a long road ahead. Even asking for advice from “professionals” proves to be a task in and of itself. I still have the occasional run-in with the MUA who just looovvess the contrast of light a** baby doll pink lipstick on my dark skin.
In 2015, walking into a drugstore to find makeup is still torture for a black girl with dark skin. There is normally only one or two shades of foundation that are remotely close to your shade and most of the time it is stillll a touch too light, unless you are lucky enough to live near a store that carries brands like Cover Queen, Black Opal, or Black Radiance. But those brands can be a struggle to track down and if you don’t have them in your local store, like I didn’t, you might not even realize they exist.
This is the main reason why I started my beauty diaries series. There are so many girls with darker complexions who have ruled out makeup simply because it is too difficult, and it really shouldn’t be that way. I hope that in sharing my triumphs and struggles, women of color and women with darker skin complexions can gain insight into the makeup world and not feel afraid to enter.
As I find out more and more about the beauty world, I fall more in love, but I also grow more painfully aware of how much things still need to change. For example, why are “nude lipsticks” always light, pale colors……
By speaking out, and sharing my voice I hope to contribute to change and add visibility for women of color in this industry. I know this post was long, but I hope you enjoyed it if you made it to the end.
You can follow my beauty diaries posts here on my blog, on my YouTube channel (see video below), and through my beauty Instagram page @cocoaswatches, showcasing the latest makeup swatches on various skin tones.