The perception of beauty standards

Perception of beauty blog post

We live in a world where the Eurocentric beauty standard has been deeply rooted in society, the false ideology of being beautiful is considered as having Eurocentric features to be accepted. This is often seen in the media, for example films, tv adverts and the recent skin lightening billboards by Nivea in Africa. The common misconception has often been depicted as being beautiful equals to lighter features. The following blog post will look at the ‘perception of beauty standards in society and the beauty industry’. Are things changing or is society still not accepting different forms of beauty. The following blog post will look at six women of colour and the challenges they have encountered in regards to beauty and their thoughts on the catastrophic Nivea skin lightening ad in Africa. This post is to encourage and to show all women are beautiful regardless of the shade of their complexion.

For years the media has defined beauty as being fair skinned with Eurocentric features. The perception of having lighter features was classified as the ideal beauty. Let’s step back into time, Marilyn Monroe was ‘considered’ as perfect with her all-American features; blonde hair and blue eyes. Followed by Brigette Bardot another blonde bombshell, Eurocentric beauty ruled the world. For years, Black women with a darker skin complexion had been shunned as not depicting or reflecting the ‘ideal beauty’. As the 60’s evolved, tv adverts with Black women promoting Black products but rarely pivotal household brands, ads such as; ‘lovelier hair, longer hair, straighter hair’. Don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t want nice long hair but the often indoctrination of having ‘straighter hair’ equalled beauty. Images translated to the world was ‘how to make your hair longer and straighter’. The thought of having a glorious mane of kinky, coily hair was horrifying to the media and the representation of a woman of colour in advertising was extremely marginalized. White washing has occurred many times in media, the L’Oréal storm is one of many examples where Beyoncé’s African American features were manipulated and you could go as far to say even eradicated to show a whitened version. Again, mainstream media implanting seeds of you have to ‘have fair skin, straight hair and light eyes’. Another recent blunder, actress Lupita Nyongo has defiantly argued that her kinky coily tresses was digitally altered to fit a more Eurocentric or ‘acceptable’ image in the Grazia magazine. Lupita once commented “I grew up thinking light skin and straight hair were the standards of beauty but I now embrace dark skin and kinky coily hair”.  Grazia did apologize, however this was a little too late.

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However, there has been some positive changes with the recent euphoria of the ‘Melanin fever’ where darker skin is becoming desirable and individuals are proud to flaunt the darkness of their skin colour. Hashtags on social media such as ‘Melanin popping’ or ‘My melanin rocks’. Recently, on social media I have come across a number of females that have openly admitted to skin bleaching. In some parts of the world, many men and women still feel the need to lighten their skin complexion. In 2016, the market for ‘legal skin whitening products was $5.6 billion in China alone”. A hideous phenomenon which is worth millions in Asia.  http://www.marieclaire.com/beauty/a27678/skin-bleaching-epidemic-in-jamaica/.  I once worked with an Asian lady that confessed that her mother had forced her to bleach as she was made to believe it would make her more beautiful and desirable, in terms of finding a suitor.

Last month the Dove advert which caused an international outcry and uproar which shows a black woman lifting up her top to show a white woman. Was this deliberately racist advertising or a poorly executed advertising blunder? What were they thinking? Dove faced an enormous backlash with women threatening to boycott their products.

Over the years Black and Asian women have encountered difficulty over the years when it comes to makeup. For years Mac makeup was the front runner for women of a darker skin complexion. Finding the right shade was difficult as women of colour come in different hues from caramel to mahogany, makeup brands such as Iman and Black up catered for Black women. I have previously read models finding it extremely difficult with makeup artists struggling to apply the right makeup or having a lack of knowledge when it comes to darker skin tones. Model Jordun Dunn once said in a Vogue interview; “to be honest the choices can still be limited for darker skin, people don’t understand they’ll offer darker shades but they don’t understand the different tones in darker skin whether they will be too ashy or too orange. It would be great if makeup artists were better educated in how to do makeup on darker skin”. Not just Black women in the world of modelling have encountered issues with makeup, I for one have come across issues such as my undertone not being taken into consideration. For example, entering a Mac store and being constantly having NW45 shoved down my throat as all ‘Black women are the same’.  I have also heard of women of colour mixing foundation shades to get the correct shade.

In 2015 Lancôme catered a shade for darker skin women called ‘Teinte Idole Ultra 24h’ which was championed by Lupita, this was progress for women of colour as the foundation range complimented different hues. Optimism in the beauty industry for women of colour were no longer being seen as invisible, the market industry was starting to realize women of colour were also a target audience too. This was opening doors for the exclusion of women of colour, for example celebrity collaborations such as Fenty beauty. Fenty beauty launched in September this year, by the global superstar Rihanna. The makeup line was a brand that really cared and catered for all women and Rihanna and her team executed a well thought out make up line. The buzz around the line was the fact there was something for everyone, with an astonishing 40 shades the highly anticipated line delivered from YouTube guru’s and the everyday woman gushing and screaming finally a brand that really understands the different hues and undertones.

Enniful

In April this year the fashion world changed forever, a talented Black man became the first Black male editor of Vogue magazine, this broke all status quo. An individual that is extremely passionate about fashion is striving to bring diversity to the world’s iconic fashion magazine. Mr Enniful is determined to show a true reflection of the beauty industry in the UK. “My Vogue is about being inclusive, it is about diversity, showing different women, different body shapes, different races and class.” Beautiful mixed race British Ghanaian model (another win for the Ghanaians) Adowa Aboah was featured on the cover of Enniful’s reign. Showcasing a depiction of the different beauty standards in the UK.

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As things were looking optimistic in the beauty industry, Nivea faced a rather appalling storm with a TV advert showing a Black woman applying ‘skin lightening cream’ with the title ‘visibly lightens’. A step back especially in Africa where dark skin looks ravishing in the sun. Many individuals took to social media to show their outrage even demanding the removal of billboards. Why was this even allowed? The brand has apologized however it is a little too late.

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What is changing?  I spoke to six different Black women who discuss the challenges they have encountered regarding their skin tone when it comes to make up and their thoughts on the different standards of beauty.

Nicole Biredu, Aspiring model

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Do you think the standard of beauty in the media has changed or do you think we still have a long way to go?

I feel that it has somewhat changed, the media are trying to embrace people of all different colour, shape and sizes. Even so, I believe that it is only to a certain degree. There is still quite a way to go

 Fenty beauty recently came out with 40 foundation shades for light and dark-skinned women, which is amazing. Mention a time where you struggled to find the right foundation shade or any other beauty product to match your complexion. How did you feel? Do you think more needs to be done?

Yes, not being able to find the right foundation shade has been an issue for me in the past, especially with the higher- end brands as most of them featured very light tones. I had to buy my foundation from specific ethnic company’s such as Mac. This was quite frustrating as I had a limited choice. I do still believe that a lot has to be done, all companies, especially designer higher- end brands should embrace darker foundation/beauty tones, I feel that it shouldn’t only be ethic specific brands.

How would you like to see Black beauty depicted in the media in the next couple of years?

Simply for all skin colours and undertones to be embraced equally, whether it be in magazine spreads, on the runway or commercially

Lastly, what are your thoughts about the Nivea billboard for fairer skin in Africa?

I find it quite bizarre that an African country, which is filled with individuals of all colours, would imply that having ‘fairer skin’ is the way forwards to looking beautiful. If ethnic countries cannot accept darker skin tones, then it makes it harder for the rest of the world to. You should feel comfortable and beautiful in the skin God created for you

Sarah Owusu, Artist

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If you could describe your skin complexion, in two words what would it be?

I would describe my complexion as rich and ebony

Growing up, did you encounter any challenges over your complexion and how did you overcome it?

Growing up, I didn’t encounter any challenges with my skin complexion until I started a new primary school after coming back from Ghana after a few years of schooling there. Some of the children would sometimes refer to me as “blick” and what’s saddening about this is that the few children who were saying this were black children. Fortunately, although hurtful, it wasn’t something which bothered me much it wasn’t anything that I had to overcome

Do you think the standard of beauty in the media has changed or do you think we still have a long way to go?

The standard of beauty has slightly improved but I definitely would not say it has truly changed. I think the only reason why the media is more inclusive of more skin tones now is to meet their “diversity” targets but not because they believe that a black woman is truly beautiful. Often also, you find that a mixed raced girl would be used to sit in for all black women in some commercials when that isn’t a true representation of what a full black woman looks like. I feel there should be a fair representation of every type of woman in the world from the fairest white to the deepest shade of black. Then, we could say that the media has truly changed, when every woman can watch most commercials and see herself in the models

Fenty beauty recently came out with 40 foundation shades for light and dark-skinned women, which is amazing. Mention a time where you struggled to find the right foundation shade or any other beauty product to match your complexion. How did you feel? Do you think more needs to be done?

I highly commend Fenty Beauty for launching their brand with 40 shades right away because that confirmed to me that larger brands purposely leave Black, Asian and minorities out of their brands, not because they’re “testing” out how their first couple of shades will do but because they do not feel we’re important enough for them to include us nor are we there “target market”. 

 There have been multiple times when I’ve walked into drug stores, duty free at the airports and very rarely do I find a shade past pale yellow. It’s very frustrating because this not only happens here in the U.K. but it happens across the world which almost in a way implies that women of colour are “invisible” to the beauty industry or that we do not like to wear makeup which is false.

 Lastly, what are your thoughts about the Nivea billboard for fairer skin in Africa?

My thoughts on the Nivea billboard is that skin bleaching is a serious epidemic which needs to be banned not only in Africa but across the world. Having lighter skin is unfortunately an ideology which sits in the subconscious mind of many black women and men. This is not by choice, but rather that our minds have been infiltrated with the notion that “white is right” for close to 500 years now and this in turn determines the actions of many black people which leads them into thinking that whitening their skin will brighten their futures (literally), improve their overall quality of life and unfortunately make them more “beautiful”. This also ties into the inferiority complex that having lighter/white skin automatically makes someone more important or above oneself when this is far from the truth. 

 We as a people need to really review, refine and change the policies and laws within our own continent or we will let others not only define us, but warp us into defining ourselves with beauty standards which only fit into the European standard. An African country could never enter a land unbeknownst to them and pollute the majority with their own ideologies, doctrines and practices on how a group of people should view themselves so why do WE allow this to happen in our beloved Africa?! 

Pariyetta Alford, Aspiring singer /songwriter

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If you could describe your skin complexion, in two words what would it be?

Rich and Beautiful

Fenty beauty recently came out with 40 foundation shades for light and dark-skinned women, which is amazing. Mention a time where you struggled to find the right foundation shade or any other beauty product to match your complexion. How did you feel? Do you think more needs to be done?

Though we do have a long way to go, at least it’s a start! I’m glad more and more people are realizing the issues we have to overcome to make the world a better place. Especially in the cosmetic world. I remember having to mix foundations just to get my exact colour. That’s why I commend Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty line for having 40 shades of foundation because there are so many shades that not all make up brands try to cover or at least match. I think more make up brands whether its high-end or drugstore makeup they need to try their best to match every skin colour.

How would you like to see Black beauty depicted in the media in the next couple of years?

There should not just be five or eight colours of foundation because each and every woman has different skin types. It’ll be great to see that in a couple years from now black beauty continues to expand and go above and beyond than what it is currently. Meaning having more makeup lines appeal to all women of colour, taking better care of our skin, and educating ourselves. Being Ghanaian and also being around ALOT of other cultures I’ve seen women try to change their complexion to become lighter. It is important that we educate ourselves to know that skin bleaching can cause serious damages and can lead to skin cancer and other diseases. 

 Lastly, what are your thoughts about the Nivea billboard for fairer skin in Africa?

When I saw that Nivea billboard for fairer skin in Africa I was confused and appalled. Promoting that to customers who do not know any better about the damages of skin bleaching was disheartening. By Nivea encouraging consumers to buy their product came off as whatever skin colour you are basically in isn’t enough and that we should go lighter. I would love for people to come to realization and know how timeless, special, and blessed their skin complexion is. Also for women young and old to know that that your skin is rich and beautiful

Kaiser Coby, YouTube Sensation

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Fenty beauty recently came out with 40 foundation shades for light and dark-skinned women, which is amazing. Mention a time where you struggled to find the right foundation shade or any other beauty product to match your complexion. How did you feel? Do you think more needs to be done?

I remember the first ever time I struggled to find the right foundation shade. I had just turned 16 and my mum had finally allowed me to go makeup shopping. My twin and I went into both Boots and Superdrug and picked out the only two brown shades and purchased them in hopes that they would match because they were the only brown shades available. When we went home and applied it we looked like ghosts! 

The foundations would not have even worked as a highlight colour. One shade was ashy grey and the second one was very red toned. 

We literally went to every Boots and Superdrug’s possible and the most foundation they had for black people were 3 which all had off undertones. We had to result into purchasing MAC products as that was the only brand that had a range of colours and undertones to fit black people. It upsets me that at 16 I had to spend £20 + if I wanted to purchase a foundation that worked on my skin tone instead of being able to purchase a brand like L’Oréal at the time that has foundations under £10. 

A lot still needs to be done because there are still the big makeup brands that will release 15 fair shade foundations and then claim to release foundation for POC in their next launch. It’s outrageous that we are always second in line! Its nearly 2018 and this honestly should be a thing of the past!

I am so pleased that Rihanna released her Fenty Beauty Line. It was her first ever makeup release and she was able to include 40 amazing and different shades. The shades range from the fairest of skins to the darkest of them. It definitely put a lot of these makeup brands in the hot seat! 

How would you like to see Black beauty depicted in the media in the next couple of years?

I would like for black beauty to be seen as the norm and not pushed to the side. I would also love for brands to start including black people in their makeup products initially and not wait for backlash for them to make sure it’s included in their next release. We are not second best! We are all equal and we should be treated like it in every aspect including the beauty world

 Lastly, what are your thoughts about the Nivea billboard for fairer skin in Africa?

I felt so sad when I saw the advert! To also know that their billboard was advertised in my country of origin (Ghana) saddened me deeply. It’s amazing how companies are still trying to advertise that fairer skin is more beautiful than darker skin! It’s also appalling that a worldwide brand like Nivea that’s known across the world created these products. The fact they’re trying to profit from such products that this is worrying

Esther Titi-Lartey, Entrepreneur and Writer

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Growing up, did you encounter any challenges over your complexion and how did you overcome it?

It’s funny because I’ve always been referred to as having ‘brown’ skin. Not too light, not too dark. Yet I identify proudly as a black woman. Whereas, being a darker tone, you’re referred to as ‘black’. I never quite understood why that was

 Fenty beauty recently came out with 40 foundation shades for light and dark-skinned women, which is amazing. Mention a time where you struggled to find the right foundation shade or any other beauty product to match your complexion. How did you feel? Do you think more needs to be done?

I’m proud of how far the beauty industry has come. Before, some brands had variety in shades but not in undertones. People have different undertones and it’s amazing to see the growth in beauty brands and the variety of tones they cater too. I definitely think we are headed in the right direction

 Lastly, what are your thoughts about the Nivea billboard for fairer skin in Africa?

I think it’s a shame that although Africa has come a long way, our minds have still not changed. People in the western world are seeing the value of Africa and Africans, yet Some Africans do not see the beauty in themselves. They still have the mindset of wanting to be accepted. 

The thought of thinking that being fairer is better is just a shame. That is slavery mentality

Breeny Lee, Blogger and Social Media Influencer

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 If you could describe your skin complexion, in two words what would it be?

Beautiful and chocolatey

Growing up, did you encounter any challenges over your complexion and how did you overcome it?

I was never bullied but when someone wanted to find a reason to insult you they would call me “blick” which was basically to insinuate I was as dark as night. My older sisters would also call me blackie as they were fairer than me.

I never took it to heart as I would always get compliments from my older family members on how rich and beautiful my skin was. Still I never thought about it too much and people seemed to care about my skin more than I did. My focus was on knowing that I was pretty no matter what

 Do you think the standard of beauty in the media has changed or do you think we still have a long way to go?

I think the media that people care about nowadays is social media and I think we have done a great job on Instagram specifically on bigging up and celebrating dark skin women. I follow a few dark skin women appreciation pages and I’m inspired

Fenty beauty recently came out with 40 foundation shades for light and dark-skinned women, which is amazing. Mention a time where you struggled to find the right foundation shade or any other beauty product to match your complexion. How did you feel? Do you think more needs to be done?

I never really struggled as I’ve always been “I can make this work type of person” but I used to model and sometimes the makeup artist didn’t know how to cater to my colour and sometimes I’d look grey and ashy. I think every brand has room for improvement and the more noise we make the more they will hear us and cater to us

 How would you like to see Black beauty depicted in the media in the next couple of years?

I’d like to see black women have roles that depict, a family unit, success and liberation. I would like to see black beauty in the movies and on TV in high positions instead of looking raggedy and ghetto

Lastly, what are your thoughts about the Nivea billboard for fairer skin in Africa?

I just looked at it and I think it’s diabolical and damn right disgusting that they would continue to push this stupid narrative that fairer is better when the majority of the population is DARK and there’s nothing wrong with it. Nivea need to stop trying to control our people to sell products, it’s degrading and actually mental slavery


As a target audience, I personally believe that there has been some positive changes with beauty brands starting to consider women of colour however I do believe we still have a long way to go for women of colour to be represented to the fullest potential in the world of media and beauty. I would love to hear your thoughts down below.

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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7 thoughts on “The perception of beauty standards

  1. Thank you for choosing to address this topic, and for allowing me to be a part of it. I absolutely loved this blog piece.
    In regards to makeup, I feel that more beauty brands are making the ranges diverse. However the shades/tones are still quite limited.

    Even though different races are being embraced in society, especially darker skin tones, it’s somewhat only to a certain level. I think in general there is still a perception of what ideal beauty is.

    You are very talented, keep up the amazing work!

    Like

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