{This article is a part of our Around The Internet Series featuring articles from key news sources. Originally published September 4, 2014, Raconteur}

Based on latest forecasts from think-tank Policy Exchange, nearly a third of the population will be made up of people from ethnic minorities by 2050. Yet cosmetics companies have been woefully slow to grasp this opportunity to offer the wide palette of shades required to satisfy diverse customers.

For decades, Fashion Fair and Iman, plus MAC with their “all races” ethos, were the only options for women of color. Even today, for some foundation shoppers there’s unacceptable segregation.

In June, actress Thandie Newton took chemists Boots to task of the “ghettoization” of make-up by quickly taking darker shades of new ranges off the shelves in order to focus on better sellers. “The right shade is there for everybody, but you can only get it at specialized shops,” she says.

So just how far are research and innovation in color pushing integration for foundation customers?

Premium brands are rethinking their colour spectrum, investing in the more-complex color blending required for darker and Asian complexions. When YSL launched Le Teint Touche Eclat Foundation in 2012, the company started by identifying 7,000 skin tones, chose 700 shades that gave the widest cross-section and condensed the range to 22 final choices, in some instances almost tripling the options available elsewhere. Other forward-thinkers include Bobbi Brown, whose updated Skin Foundation Sticks now boast 24 shades.

This is certainly progress, although not altogether altruist. To be successful, cosmetics companies have to look beyond the traditional geography of skin tone and take heed of the changing economic global environment.

As customers become not only more ethnically diverse, but also demanding, it’s time for beauty companies to galvanize and play catch-up if they want to see true beauty democracy – and sales – at the counter.


1938 is the online magazine blog for Well-Kept Beauty, formally entitled Primer.

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