Beauty Brands that are Going Beyond Light, Medium, and Dark

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Some of these brands at the helm of positive change are long-established and have been working to shift the industry for years. Others are relatively new and are coming to the market fresh with new ideas of how the beauty industry can be transformed for the better. We reached out to five beauty brands leading the industry in celebrating diversity and championing inclusive beauty to have them share their stories and their message.

Milk Makeup

GEORGIE GREVILLE, MILK MAKEUP CO-FOUNDER AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR: The line itself was inspired by Milk's community of artists, tastemakers, and doers, which organically grew into a living, breathing lifestyle of its own. The energy of this diverse, dynamic community is what inspired the line and is reflected in the product architecture. From the brand's inception, we wanted our products to speak to everyone with simple packaging that can easily be unisex.

ishonest No.222 - Fine Lines & Wrinkles

No.222 - Fine Lines & Wrinkles

GG: We introduced Blur The Lines as part of a new series of short films, an ongoing study of the spectrum of individuality. For our first film, we collaborated with men's grooming website Very Good Light, exploring the concept of gender fluidity with founder and editor, David Yi. I wanted to create a metaphor for the product (Blur Stick) that really spoke to its deeper, revolutionary meaning in the industry—a truly universal product for anyone that could help you feel like who you really are on the gender fluidity spectrum. Like me, David views this topic as a movement and not a trend and believes in the importance of unifying people and sharing their own truth in relation to gender identity. When David and I thought of what to title this collaboration, we looked at each other and instantly blurted "Blur The Lines!"

GG: I think it is great that brands are becoming increasingly inclusive and hope this continues—genderless beauty really is the future. For us, this project marks the beginning of a much bigger exploration into the spectrum of individuality for us—we have some exciting videos, product launches, and editorials in the works that will continue the positive exposure as part of our #LiveYourLook campaign.

Black Opal

DEREK WANNER, VP OF SALES AND MARKETING: It has always been about caring for the skin. Black Opal started as a conversation between two friends, Dr. Cheryl Burgess, a renowned dermatologist and her lawyer friend, Carol Jackson. They both lamented about the inability to find products suitable for skins of color in retail stores. Carol Jackson's husband, a manufacturer of beauty products, helped both women formulate and develop the very first Black Opal doctor- recommended product: Advanced Dual Complex Fade Gel, addressing issues of hyper- pigmentation and discolorations.

DW: Black Opal today is a global brand with distribution throughout Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, etc. We've always believed in the beauty of all cultures, and, as we grow, we continue to strive to create beauty opportunities for everyone. Our vision extends across racial and cultural borders around the world. Our message "For Every Shade of Beauty" is supported by shade offerings that go where few brands dare to go. No matter how light or dark your blended complexion is, Black Opal has your shade, and if not, know that we will develop it. We get constant feedback on the needs and wants of our global consumers and have our labs working hard on innovative formulations.


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MONIKA DEOL, FOUNDER AND CEO: I have always been frustrated by the limited number of offerings available to medium skin tones. That is, in terms of shades, performance, and price point. When I was thinking about producing a makeup line, I thought, "Does the world really need more makeup?" My instinct and experience told me that this demographic in the world does.

I literally took the Pantone Skin Tone chart and populated it with every shade of every foundation that Sephora sold in 2015, and it was right in front of my eyes. The fair tones were saturated, the very deep tones were surprisingly well populated, and the middle tones were, as I expected, not very well represented. I took out the foundations that were 50 Canadian dollars and over, and the gap just grew.

MD: I realized that to truly address the lack of options and to "nail the color" for most people in the medium range, we would have to acknowledge and invest in the fact that "a few sizes don't fit all." There are so many subtle undertones in skin color and that is the key to actually producing great shades that work for a large group of people. I based the shades on real life tones, and I tested them on real people with undertones of yellow, peach, olive, and red. It's subtle differences in the same color family, with an offering of different undertones within that family. And then applying that approach to many different colors, so that all skin tones are addressed. That's the only way to truly execute a fantastic line of complexion products.

I believed that if Stellar built it, they would come. It's a gamble, but I'm willing to take it because I think there's a need. I think someone who has lived in that skin, gets it.

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The Limitless Foundation formulations had to be weightless, long-wearing, and seriously buildable to address concerns like hyper-pigmentation. The Limitless Concealer had to have top-notch coverage with a luminous, natural finish to deal with the dark circles that come with our DNA.

MD: I think we have to have a new dialog and speak a different language when it comes to complexion. With the wonderful diversity going on in the world, it just isn't as simple as light, medium, dark, warm, and cool anymore.

Even the consumer has to be more aware of the subtle differences that will help them choose a better shade in a foundation. They have to learn that all colors of skin are good colors and feel empowered to love the skin they're in and get the right shade to be the best-polished versions of themselves.

ishonest No.212 - Repair Elasticity Damage

No.212 - Repair Elasticity Damage

I have learned so much in this process. For example, it turns out that super- fair skin also has challenges with finding enough choice in a high performance and well-priced foundation and concealer. I would love to be able to offer a huge range of shades in the future to cover everyone.

Over the next few months, we'll be bringing new Stellar products out that are quite innovative. Stardust Lip Powder Palettes, Cosmic Face Luster, and a few other intriguing stars from the Stellar universe. Stay tuned.


KAREN BUGLISI WEILER, GLOBAL BRAND PRESIDENT, MAC COSMETICS: MAC was built on principles of diversity and inclusion. It's a part of our DNA as our mantra is "All Ages, All Races, All Sexes." MAC is available in more than 120 countries and territories around the world, so it's imperative that we cater to the needs of people in a variety of environments, with different skin colors, tones, and textures. Our best-selling product, MAC Studio Fix is a foundation that offers more than 50 shades—you'll be hard-pressed to find a brand that has this many shades in a single foundation. We also collaborate with artists and personalities from all over the world, bringing their diverse points of view to our customers globally. Next month, we are launching a collection with Chinese fashion designer, Ms. Min. While she is very popular in our Asian markets, other parts of the world may not have exposure to her. Launching these regionally relevant collaborations globally is another way we celebrate the beauty of diversity and inclusion.

KBW: The VIVA GLAM campaign is the heart and soul of MAC. Since the brand's inception in the '90s, we have been committed to the fight against HIV/AIDS. We have historically tapped into celebrities to create their own lipstick where every single penny of the selling price goes to the MAC AIDS Fund, which helps people globally affected by HIV/AIDS. To date we have raised more than $450 million—that's a lot of lipsticks. Over the years, our VIVA GLAM spokespersons have been incredibly diverse, but what unites them is a strong point of view and not being afraid to use their voice to help raise awareness and end stigma around HIV/AIDS.

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KBW: With the growing popularity of social media, consumers have more choices and are exposed to so much more than just a few years ago. I think every beauty brand wants to cater to every skin color, but what sets MAC apart is our unparalleled product development and our more than 18K artists around the world who consistently give us feedback to offer the most expansive shade range. At MAC, we are constantly evolving and changing as the market and consumer changes— but our motto will always inspire us and be at the core of what we do.


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KERRY COLE, GLOBAL BRAND AMBASSADOR AND STYLE DIRECTOR FOR BECCA COSMETICS: From its inception, Becca has been a brand focused on perfected complexions. With a highly curated product portfolio, our range of shades will fit every woman's or man's personal skin tone and type. We strive to create products that match everyone's complexion while highlighting the features that we love most.

KC: To us, it's about a two-way conversation, which we're always having with our Becca Beauties, influencers, consumers, and each other. We have always been cognizant when creating or sharing imagery, that it represents, and stays true to our brand DNA of inclusion. Whether it's a Becca event, an influencer dinner, or collaboration, we are constantly engaging with those that influence communities. From yogis to lifestyle influencers, our approach is one that invites others to join the conversation, while encouraging interaction and inspiration.

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