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A popular beauty company has just released a 32-shade foundation range, but the optics around it so far — both literally and figuratively — are not great.
Beautyblender made its name on its now-ubiquitous hot pink, egg-shaped, $20 makeup sponges; the company says it has sold over 40 million of them. Now, it’s announced that it will be releasing its own foundation range, called Bounce, to go along with the sponges.
This makes a lot of sense for Beautyblender, which has had success as the result of one single product. While it has released other accessories like blotters and eyeliner stencils, the sponge remains its bestseller, and has inspired a lot of cheaper copycats in the meantime. But to survive long term, a company has to be more than a one-hit wonder.
The foundation, which launches July 24 on Sephora.com and in Sephora stores in August, already has the makeup community chattering, thanks to some early image releases. The brand offers 32 shades, but they do not appear to be equally distributed across a variety of skin colors and undertones. There seem to be five to seven shades maximum that are suitable for anyone with skin much darker than light olive, at least according to pictures posted by popular beauty product account Trendmood.
Commenters on a thread on Reddit’s “Makeup Addiction” subreddit (which has over 600,000 subscribers) pulled no punches. “Qwhite the selection” said one. “If you can do 20 shades of ‘white’ you can do 20 shades of ‘dark’” said another.
Beautyblender hopped into the fray on its own Instagram account, writing to one irate customer: “We hear you but the image on trendmoods post has a wacky filter and doesn’t give a true representation of our shade range.” That did not help matters. Trendmood replied, “Hey loves, this image was taken from your promo video. Not sure what filter you guys used but we did not alter this image at all.”
Beautyblender posted a grid image of models with different skin tones, supposedly representative of the range, but has not posted a full product range image yet. Commenters have continued to call out the company on social media and Reddit.
Beautyblender sent the following statement to Racked:
Of our 32 BOUNCE blends, half the shades (16) are formulated for a range of olive to dark skin tones and include subtle nuances that make a world of difference on the skin.
We truly want everyone to find their perfect match, so to ensure this we put our shades to the test against some of the most inclusive on the market. While the range goes both very light as well as very dark, we have THE MOST shades in what we call our “medium plus” range. This was created specifically for people of multicultural backgrounds as they have the hardest time finding the right shade to match their undertone.
Our founder, Rea Ann Silva is not only Latina, but a professional makeup artist who has always worked with women of color throughout her 30 year career. Those with tan, deep and dark skin tones understand that finding the right color foundation is all about matching your undertone and this is where Rea Ann saw the biggest hole in the market: for women like herself and her multicultural family.
It will be interesting to see how the shades work on people in real life, because it’s true that how a bottle photographs and how it looks on the skin are very different. That said, the brand didn’t exactly position its new foundations this way at first.
Regardless, this is another case of the so-called Fenty effect in action. Last year, Rihanna launched her Fenty makeup range with 40 inclusive shades of foundation, a move hailed as revolutionary in an industry that has mostly failed darker-skinned women for decades. Since then, brands have scrambled to catch up, often launching 40 shades (or more) in an attempt to meet the needs of as many customers as possible. To take the cynical view, if they’re not doing it for the good of humanity, companies need to do it for their bottom lines and to avoid PR fiascos.
What this Beautyblender hoopla shows, though, is that number is not as important as range. Sure, having over 30 colors is great, but not when 20 of them seem to be the same shade of beige. Tarte faced a huge backlash last year when it released a small foundation shade range that was mostly suitable for lighter skinned people. For an example of a company that has formulated its shades well within a smaller offering, see Beauty Bakerie, a small company that offers 30 foundation shades. The shades are more evenly distributed across the potential range of skin tones.
Rihanna set the bar, and beauty companies now need to meet or exceed it, or face the pain of online excoriation.