How 40 Shades Changed the Cosmetic Industry


Evan Hecht, Staff Writer

On May 31st, Rihanna announced her new cosmetic line: Fenty Beauty. While many were excited for the pop star’s announcement, many expected another celebrity cosmetic line with low quality products and luxury prices. On September 7th, Fenty Beauty was made available worldwide at Sephora. From that point on, Rihanna had changed the makeup world.

The cosmetic industry has always been somewhat of an exclusive industry. When skin products, such as foundation, were first introduced, it was difficult for women of color to find the correct shade to match their skin. Foundations either made women of color look too ashy or too orange. It took the cosmetic industry many years to learn how to produce products for darker skinned people, and it still struggles today. Some brands today still cannot cater to people of color with richer skin shades.

With the release of Fenty Beauty came a shade range of 40 foundations and 20 highlight and contour shades. Some may view 40 shades of foundation as excessive, but to people who wear makeup regularly, it’s exactly what the makeup industry needed.

Some ask why it’s so difficult for people of color to find their shade. What many brands have failed to realize is the complexity of skin. Along with needing to match one’s skin color, foundation must match one’s undertones. While some people have cool undertones, meaning skin color leaning towards red, pink, or blue shades, others have warm undertones, meaning skin colors with yellow, orange, and peachy shades. While one foundation may exactly match your skin color, it can still appear to make you look uneven due to undertones. Because of these issues, Rihanna made it her goal to cater to everyone whether they’re albino or have a deeper skin tone.

Rihanna was able to set a precedent in the beauty world that has made a lasting impact. That same winter, Kylie Jenner’s cosmetic line, Kylie Cosmetics, released a line of concealers. The Kylie Cosmetics’ launch featured 30 different shades of concealers. Similar to Rihanna, her concealers went from the lightest to the darkest shades, creating an all-inclusive launch. Many people accredited this to Rihanna’s release of 40 foundation shades earlier that year. Others argued that Rihanna isn’t the influence for the release, and that it’s common sense to produce diverse, comprehensive makeup.

As Fenty Beauty grows, it continues to make strides for women of color in the makeup industry. Rihanna has truly made an impact on the makeup industry, saying that times up for a lack of representation.