While Fenty Beauty certainly isn’t the first or the only beauty brand to introduce a huge range of foundations (click here to see a full list of brands that have a sprawling range of foundations too), nobody can deny that the launch of Fenty kickstarted a conversation about inclusiveness in makeup.

The conversation seems to be more fiery in America, however, even though the problem with non-inclusive beauty is rampant across the world, including Singapore.

If you are part of the Chinese majority in Singapore, chances are you wouldn’t have realised how limited the makeup choices are here. It’s probably easier for you to find suitable makeup from almost every brand on the market, and as a result save money on makeup because affordable drugstore options are available.

If America is the forerunner of every beauty trend that we embrace here in Singapore, then inclusive beauty is a new wave (and hopefully a permanent one) that will be something you can’t ignore.

Read on to find out what we learnt when interviewing three Singaporean women on the challenges of being a beauty junkie of a minority race in Singapore.

Nude is not beige

What is inclusiveness in makeup? It entails brands catering to all skin tones, and not simply that of the majority population. It means realising that “nude is not beige“, to quote the tagline for CoverFx’s new Natural Finish Foundation range, which also consists of 40 shades.

In fact, Fenty Beauty hyped up the inclusiveness of their Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Foundation range so well that TIME Magazine placed the brand on its 25 Best Inventions of 2017 list. The move also showed that people were starting to sit up and pay attention to this issue that’s been long swept under the makeup carpet.

A backlash as had never been seen before

After Fenty Beauty began the conversation, the beauty world has never been able to turn back. Brands were no longer able to get away with releasing new foundations if their shade range wasn’t as comprehensive as Fenty Beauty’s had been.

Inclusive Beauty Tarte Shape Tape Foundation

Source: PopSugar

Take this case study for example. When cruelty-free brand Tarte released the foundation counterpart to its widely successful Shape Tape Concealer, you would have expected it to also be something of a success as well.

Beauty YouTubers worldwide disagreed, although it wasn’t because of its formulation or its performance. It was because of its shade range, which was found to be a huge miss for those with deeper skin tones, even with 30 shades available.

Inclusive Beauty Tarte Shape Tape Foundation 1

Source: Tarte

The controversy had fuel added to its fire when Internet users went after top beauty YouTuber NikkieTutorials for her review of the foundations.

While she hadn’t said anything hurtful about the shade range, people’s beef with her lay in the fact that she hadn’t said anything at all about it, as if she took the shades for granted because they largely suited her own skin tone.

Inclusive Beauty Nikkietutorials

Beauty YouTuber Nikkietutorials

People also compared her review with that of Jackie Aina, a beauty YouTuber of colour. Aina sat down with fellow beauty YouTuber Alissa Ashley to try on the darkest shades of the Tarte Shape Tape foundation, which appear reddish or orange-toned on their skin.

Inclusive Beauty Youtube Jackie Aina Hydrating Deep Honey

Youtuber Jackie Aina trying on Tarte Shape Tape Foundation in Deep Honey; Source: YouTube

If the Tarte shade range didn’t have shades deep enough for their skin tone, how would it work on those with even darker skin tones, such as beauty YouTuber Nyma Tang?

Inclusive Beauty Youtube Nyma Tang

Beauty YouTuber Nyma Tang expressing her views on the Tarte Shape Tape Foundation; Source: YouTube

NikkieTutorials has since taken her own video offline and apologised for her review.

Our makeup scene excludes some Singaporean women

Reading the above, you may think this might only be a problem faced in America, where they have a lot more minority groups and where people generally tend to be more outspoken about issues.

That doesn’t mean that it isn’t also a problem in Singapore.

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For those in minority groups here, finding makeup that can actually match their skin tone actually poses more of a challenge than most might realise.

Buying foundation is not as easy as just walking into a store and finding the perfect shade.

“Buying foundation is not as easy as just walking into a store and finding the perfect shade – I have to do quite a bit of research online,” says Abhirami. She often has to buy and mix two different foundations in order to get a shade match, or use a different shade of powder to lighten up or darken a foundation.

Lancome Teint Idole Ultra Wear 24h Foundation Kavya Portrait

Kavya, videographer and video editor at Daily Vanity

The same is also true for Kavya, a video creator here at Daily Vanity. “It’s usually a game of trial and error with various brands. Once I find my perfect shade, I try to stick to it for years so I don’t have to keep experimenting with new products.”

The limited shade range here does not go unnoticed or taken for granted by those who have to go out of their way to find their shades. Abhirami laments that more affordable makeup options here tend to only stock lighter, more ‘popular’ shades of foundation, even if there is actually a wider shade range available.

I’ve got no choice but to turn to the more expensive brands.

“Drugstores only stock up on the lighter shades of foundation from international brands like L’Oreal and Maybelline, which leaves me no choice but to turn to the more expensive brands like NARS, Bobbi Brown and M.A.C. to find the most suitable shade for me.”

Lancome Teint Idole Ultra Wear 24h Foundation Faizah Portrait

Faizah, stay-at-home mom and Daily Vanity contributor

Faizah, a Daily Vanity contributor, also faces the same frustration. “Korean beauty brands tend to have very few shade choices and generally do not carry medium to dark shades. I find that limiting, and a bit of a turn-off. It’s really frustrating shopping for makeup when you have a medium to dark skin tone.”

It’s really frustrating shopping for makeup when you have a medium to dark skin tone.

If finding a suitable shade for their foundation is already a problem, you can imagine how much more difficult it is to find one with the correct undertone, which can sometimes be a problem even for those who fall in the popular shade ranges.

“The real challenge is to find a dark skin tone foundation with yellow undertone and not a red undertone. Red undertones are more catered to Westerners and yellow undertones are best for Asians,” says Abhirami.

Faizah agrees, saying that there is also a lack of neutral undertones in darker foundation shades as well.

How has Fenty Beauty changed these women’s lives?

Fenty Beauty launched in Singapore to great fanfare, and its 40 shades of foundations was certainly a spectacle to behold in the aisles of Sephora stores.

Inclusive Beauty Fenty Beauty

Fenty Beauty’s launch at Sephora ION Orchard; Source: The Straits Times

We reached out to Fenty Beauty to find out what the best-selling shades were for its Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation range in Singapore between Dec 2017 to Jan 2018:

  • 210: Neutral Medium
  • 260: Warm Medium
  • 240: Neutral Medium
Inclusive Beauty Fenty Beauty 2

The best-selling shades of Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in Singapore: 210, 260, 240 (L to R)

It is perhaps unsurprising that Fenty Beauty’s best-selling shades still veer on the lighter, beige-toned side, but it still does not negate the positive impact its shade range has had on Singaporeans who have struggled to shop for makeup in Singapore.

We have also reached out to Fenty Beauty to ask if there have been any challenges in stocking, shelving, and selling the shades on both ends of the spectrum, whether the lightest or darkest shades, but we have not yet received a response at the time of writing.

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Fenty Beauty promotional visual

Fenty Beauty seemed to have been life-changing for many Americans with darker skin tones, so how did it affect Singaporean women that fall into that shade range as well?

I was completely wowed because I’ve never seen a foundation match me so perfectly before.

“I refused to fall for the hype, but I went to Sephora to browse and got a swatch for Fenty on my face for the fun of it,” laughs Faizah. “Needless to say, I bought one! I was completely wowed because I’ve never seen a foundation match me so perfectly before. I’ve finally found the perfect neutral undertone for my medium olive skin.”

Kavya has always bought her foundations online, having given up finding suitable shades for herself in stores here. Fenty Beauty changed things for her. “I think Fenty was the reason I went foundation hunting again in stores in more than three years.”

Although she wasn’t able to find a perfect shade match in Fenty Beauty’s extensive range, being able to even choose from so many was a new experience for Kavya.

It made me feel for my Indian and Malay friends with darker skin tones than I have.

“It was so surprising to be choosing my shade from the middle of the range, and it made me feel for my Indian and Malay friends with darker skin tones than I have. Even for me, I typically have to settle for the darkest shades of foundation, even if it isn’t exactly right.”

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Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Foundation shade range

For Abhirami, though, it didn’t solve her issue with finding affordable makeup options for her skin tone. “It was exciting at first, but it retails at SGD50, just like every other high-end brand that offers a wider range of shades.”

How important is inclusive beauty to these Singaporean women?

How much inclusive beauty matters will, of course, differ according to who you ask. However, it is clear that inclusive beauty would be appreciated by some Singaporean women, considering that minority races that don’t fall into the popular shade ranges make up almost one-third of our current population.

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Abhirami exclaims that inclusiveness in beauty is “extremely important” to her. “More brands are widening their shade ranges, but it remains in USA and Europe. Singapore, or even Asia in general, is still stuck with a narrower range, which makes it difficult to find an affordable foundation with a shade suitable for me.

If fairer skin tones have a good chance of finding the perfect foundation for them from every beauty brand, darker skin tones deserve that too!

“I end up with no choice but to shop online for my foundations, and with shipping costs included, it can get really pricey. If fairer skin tones have a good chance of finding the perfect foundation for them from every beauty brand, darker skin tones deserve that too!”

Faizah agrees with this train of thought. “It’s not enough for just one or a few brands to release one range of foundation with a lot of shades and hype themselves up as being inclusive. Catering to every skin tone needs to go beyond marketing, this should be the new normal in the beauty industry.”

Catering to every skin tone needs to go beyond marketing, this should be the new normal in the beauty industry.

Kavya reflects about how it felt to grow up in Singapore as someone from a minority race. “I love Singapore and Singaporeans, and I never feel unsafe or uncomfortable in my own skin here. However, there have been times that I’ve felt like I’m not fully Singaporean just because I barely see us minorities being admired on beauty ads or serious celebrities.”

Inclusive Beauty Anusha Rajaseharan

Ms. Anusha Rajaseharan, Miss Singapore World 2010

“I find it very strange that we’ve had multiple people from minority races as Miss Singapore or representing Singapore in some context, but we still hesitate to put them on ads, posters, and beauty campaigns,” Kavya says.

Inclusiveness in beauty products also says a lot about a society and how much it prioritises its minority races.

“Inclusiveness in beauty products also says a lot about a society and how much it prioritises its minority races. It’s important so that people can feel that they belong in society and also to broaden everyone’s perception of beauty.”