Tarte Shape Tape – 50 Shades of White

make-up shadesNotice anything in this photo? Do you think you’d be able to pick out your shade?

Tarte is a cosmetics company, prominent in high-end make-up stores like Sephora and Ulta Beauty. On their website, they boast their dedication to cruelty-free, vegan skincare and cosmetics that are both ecologically friendly and high quality. Tarte has recently made headlines for their controversial new line of Shape Tape Foundation.

By glancing at the photo above from the lens of our class, it’s easy to see the issue. The line offers only three to four colors that are appropriate for people of color, but it offers at least ten shades for White people. This is a strange proportion, considering African-American women spend upwards of $7.5 billion annually on cosmetics – 80% more than the general population. With numbers like that, why is there so little representation in the make-up available to people of color?

Other brands, like L’Oréal, have started things like the Women of Color Lab, which dedicate time, money, and resources to discovering the best way to make new products that cater directly to people of color. When brands neglect to include all of their consumers, they contribute to the invisibility and “White standard” that marginalized populations are often subjected to.

In response to criticism from the beauty community on social media, Tarte has announced that it will be adding ten more shades to its Shape Tape line. Their team expressed that the release of the shades in this way was not “meant in any kind of malicious way,” but as we have learned in our class, impact is greater than intent.

Is it too late, though? Their initial advertising was clearly targeted toward White women – at the expense of losing sales from people of color. Was it worth it? Will they be able to bounce back from this? And how does this reflect overall themes of invisibility and underrepresentation that we have discussed?

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3 thoughts on “Tarte Shape Tape – 50 Shades of White

  1. This is very interesting and brings up associations between cosmetics and beauty and “aesthetic perfection.” If a foundation serves to cover and smooth the skin’s natural imperfections, there is already implicit associations between goodness and perfection and aesthetic whiteness. There is a clear implicit bias in the decision to not release as many shades for people of color not only in a more upfront need to provide for White consumers, but due to this line between aesthetic whiteness and beauty/perfection it is subconsciously counter-intuitive to create these darker shades. This however is unfair because consumers are looking to find “their color” not to change it.

  2. I find the lack of racial representation in the beauty industry incredible (though not surprising). In America, beauty is so often considered a key proponent to a woman’s success. The more attractive or beautiful, the greater a [white] woman is valued. Obviously this is rooted in sexism, but what happens when you incorporate race? If beauty is success and we don’t even offer the same products to women of color as we do white women, the entire notion of professionalism and profitable success is curbed for women of color — dark skinned women in particular. Ideally, the equation of beauty with success would be dropped all together, but it’s ingrained deeply enough in our society that we’re also forced to cater to it. Unfortunately, the entire beauty industry has always been catered to the looks of white women; fashion shows, beauty tutorials, make up lines and everything else have served to exclude women of color. Rihanna, a Black woman and a musical artist had to up and make her own line of beauty products… and if not her, who would have?

  3. I wonder if the reason that Black women and women of color are spending more on cosmetics than White women in this country. Is it because they feel more of an inclination to abide by the beauty standards set by White women and the media? Are they trying to subscribe to the White standard by continuously purchasing beauty products that do no highlight their natural beauty and embrace that beauty? I think this is something also worth noting when thinking about why this is a problem to begin with. At the same time, I think if women of color are purchasing cosmetic and beauty products more often than White women, then why are the companies not doing everything in their power to cater to this group of people?

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