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Not Fair: Superdrug steps up budget beauty game for darker skin tones

July 12th 2016 / Ayesha Muttucumaru Google+ Ayesha Muttucumaru

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Beauty for darker skin tones and afro and Asian hair types used to come at a price - but times are (thankfully) changing. Superdrug’s Shades of Beauty campaign looks to help put this right

When I was 16, I decided to buy my very first foundation. So off I went to my local department store and, £30 later, left with a bottle of deep brown base. Suffice to say, it made a serious dent in my pocket money reserve.

Fast-forward 14 years, and many a makeup-obsessed teen is still having the same problem - finding that only the more expensive beauty brands offer them a greater chance of finding their perfect match. However, this is an issue that Superdrug’s Shades of Beauty campaign is looking to put right.

What is the campaign?

Aimed to make it more accessible for Black and Asian women to shop affordably, the initiative hopes to provide a greater level of choice, transparency and awareness surrounding the availability of products for darker skin tones and Asian and Afro hair types on the high street.

And it seems about time our bank balances caught a break. An independent survey conducted by the high street giant revealed that 70% of Black and Asian women felt that the high street did not cater for their beauty needs and that on average, they spent £137.52 more on their beauty products per year than anyone else. And the price paid for the perfect foundation match? £25. At least. Around £15 more than a foundation from brands such as L’Oréal and Maybelline. It’s an issue that Superdrug is acutely aware of. “We know that we’ve not offered all our customers the products they need in the past, but we are going to do our best to address this issue once and for all,” says Sarah Gardner, Head of Beauty at Superdrug. “It is crazy to think that in 2016 women with darker skin may have to spend twice as much for a foundation to match their skin tone or have to go to specialist stores to find suitable haircare.”

Talking about the motivation behind the campaign at last week’s launch, Sarah commented: “We’ll be in the office and hear these horror stories of women not being able to go in and buy for example, MUA or Makeup Revolution as they didn’t have a shade that was suitable. The first experience women often have of going into a department store is spending £30 on a foundation - but who wants to do that when you’re 13, 14 or 15? We’re great at doing beauty, so for us it goes without saying we absolutely should have a wider shade palette out there.”

It is crazy to think that in 2016 women with darker skin may have to spend twice as much for a foundation to match their skin tone

As readers of my Not Fair column will know, the lack of more bank balance-friendly options for darker skin tones is an area that I feel is in serious need of improvement. So although it’s been a long time coming, this campaign is definitely something I wanted to support. “This research just goes to show the lack of products and advice available on the high street for Black and Asian women,” says Sarah. “So we have made it our mission to offer women of colour the latest in beauty products at an affordable price.”

MORE GLOSS: Are darker foundation shades harder and more costly to make?

What changes will we see?

Firstly, Superdrug has redesigned its website to create an area specifically for Black and Asian beauty products. I went on it and was definitely encouraged by what I found. What was in my basket? A Sleek Highlighter Palette in Precious Metals, £9.99, and an OGX Anti-Breakage Keratin Oil Conditioner, £6.99. Oh, and a Nivea Daily Essentials Eye Makeup Remover, £3.59 - a must-have for all skin tones! Still in its beginning stages, plans are in the pipeline to make it bigger and better with a greater variety of content to choose from too. So watch this space...

Secondly, it looks to up its shade range game and to help spearhead this, Superdrug has met with all of the UK’s largest makeup brands to challenge them to help offer a wider collection of dark shades of foundation, concealer and powders. “Since launching the Shades of Beauty campaign, we’ve already seen an increase in foundation shades from Maybelline, L’Oréal and Revlon and will be launching an additional 23 shades for darker skin tones by the end of July,” says Sarah. “September will also see the launch of further shades.

“In addition, we will be creating more space in store to allow for new cosmetic shades. If this means we have to reduce space in other products areas, then that is what we will do.”

It’s absolutely something we want to be championing and the brands are behind that

This was a particularly interesting point made by Sarah at the campaign’s launch event last week. The crux of it was this: each brand has a limited amount of shelf space, so why use it to carry strange colours of nail polish that no one wears for example, when it could instead be used to house a greater range of additional foundation shades? “We are going to start making those [nail] ranges smaller so we can offer a wider [shade] range in our stores - the brands have been very supportive of doing this,” said Sarah. “It’s absolutely something we want to be championing and the brands are behind that.”

In terms of its reach, the greater makeup and haircare offerings won’t just be confined to the capital. “In the past, it could all tend to be very London-centric,” commented Sarah. “We’re going to evolve quite quickly outside of London into a lot of key cities and then start moving that down the chain.”

MORE GLOSS: The best foundations for dark and olive skin tones if you’re on a budget

To help shape the campaign, Superdrug has appointed June Sarpong MBE as the official Shades of Beauty Ambassador. June will be the voice for Superdrug’s female black customers to help make a change in the way the beauty industry responds to black women’s needs.

“As a black woman I know how hard it is to find affordable beauty products,” she said. “I can’t wait to get going and be a voice for black women and I’m delighted that Superdrug is listening to customers and is going to help make a real change.”

At the launch she also commented, “It’s about making products for women with darker skin tones normal,” and this quote really resonated with me. In 2016, it only feels right that beauty for olive and dark skin tones and Asian, mixed-race and Afro hair types should be viewed more as mainstream rather than niche.

“If you come into the store in the next couple of months, you’re going to see a much better selection out there,” says Sarah. “We know this is a small start, but we’re determined to see this through and ensure that when women with darker skin come into our stores, they will find a good choice of shades and find the perfect match for them.” I for one am very happy that Superdrug has stepped up their game. It’s definitely a step in the right direction.

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