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50 shades of beige: Foundation and our obsession with fair skin

Kezia Vessalius
Kezia Vessalius

Fresh graduate who is passionate about beauty and Vietnamese coffee

Jakarta  /  Fri, October 19, 2018  /  01:19 pm
50 shades of beige: Foundation and our obsession with fair skin

Local beauty brands do not provide foundations with enough shades to match darker skin tones. (Shutterstock/File)

In Indonesia, it is normal to have the desire to appear lighter-skinned. In my family, I am the only one who’s not obsessed with fair skin because I feel like being tanned suits me better. Meanwhile, the other fellow Indonesians are obsessed with having fair skin. No matter how hard or expensive it is, they will always find a way to make it happen.

This is evident through the availability of whitening and brightening skincare products. If you go to any stores and walk to the skincare section, you will find most of it contain brightening and whitening properties.

Other than that, Indonesian women are often willing to cover their faces with a foundation that is lighter than their own skin in order to appear fair-skinned.

Reddit user u/eraser_dust said she noticed the trend of wearing a lighter foundation shade when visiting Indonesia. She also said that a brand manager of local drugstore had told her that its lightest foundation shade was the most popular, while the darkest one was the least popular. Because of this, brands' effort to advertise their darkest shades of powder or foundation remain unnoticed.

I remember that back in the day when I didn’t know much about make-up, my mom always told me to use the foundation she has; the product was either in a shade called porcelain or light beige. She insisted that it looked good, but I remembering looking very pale as neither color matched my skin tone — nor hers. She bought the shade porcelain just for the sake of being fair.

Dina, a research and development representative from Zoya Cosmetics Indonesia, said to Female Daily most women in Indonesia were still holding on to this beauty standard, which leads to most companies and brands focusing more on creating fair foundation shades.

The outcome of this can be seen in the market as most local brands only have four shades on average. Other than that, there are some international drugstore brands that have more shades, but most of them have a similar tone, mostly beige.

I am so tired of seeing 50 shades of beige on the racks. It really broke my heart when I accompanied an Indian friend of mine to look for a suitable foundation because none of the colors we found matched her skin color.

What’s worse is that the beauty brands seem to be supporting the domination of beige tones. They close one eye because people will keep demanding the lighter shades, leaving those with darker skin suffer.

But the launch of pop star Rihanna's Fenty Beauty in September last year started to change a few things.

When Fenty Beauty hit the beauty community with 40 shades of its Pro Filtr Foundation, the gateway to a new beauty industry worldwide, including Indonesia, opened. Even though half of the success of Fenty Beauty is because of the figure behind the brand, Rihanna’s foundation line has stood out due to her decision to offer a wide range of foundation shades.

Fenty Beauty has yet to launch in Indonesia, but at least some international brands that are available have followed in the steps of Fenty Beauty by creating a wider range of shades and undertones in their foundation line.

Read also: Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty launches ultrametallic looks for holiday season

What about Indonesia?

As for local brands, I have not really seen any obvious signs of progress. Most of the new brands also focus more on creating other product and not base product like foundation. A recent report from iPrice detail the growth of foundation lines belonging to local companies.

The data collection focused on five best-selling drugstore brands. BB and CC creams do not really have as many shades to be compared, so the focus was on liquid foundation. The products of each brand were arranged according to their shade to gauge which brand offered the most variety.

Based on the data gathered, Maybelline’s FitMe Matte+Poreless collection has the most shades with 16 in total. But shockingly, this is nothing compared to the 40 shades available in the United States.

Similarly, the Revlon ColorStay Liquid Make Up line has only five shades in Indonesia but 43 shades globally.

Meanwhile, Make Over only has nine foundation shades, but these actually cater to darker skin tones.

But what surprised me the most was that Wardah, a local brand that has a 50 percent share of the local market, only has four shades in its Luminous Liquid Foundation line.

Other local brands like Emina, Caring and Inez also have around four shades at most. This actually shows that no real progress has been made by local beauty brands to fix the issue.

Many beauty enthusiasts have complained about this lack of range. Indonesian beauty vlogger livjunkie praised the quality of local foundations but was disappointed with the shade range.

Shella “Ochell” Sanjaya, an editor of women’s website Female Daily, once conducted a small survey in her Instagram account and found that 85 percent of women have a hard time finding a suitable foundation for Indonesian skin.

Local brands are expected to catch up with the global beauty community and keep up with the international brands in order to provide a larger range of colors to women in Indonesia and at a lower price range. Even though brands and companies are expected to do so, changes in the community also need to be made by consumers and the community itself.

Local brands should take more concrete steps, such as collaborating to organize a huge campaign to educate people that those with darker skin can make changes in the Indonesian beauty community.

The involvement of an influential beauty vlogger with a darker skin tone as a spokesperson is also possible, as they normally have a lot of fans and followers. Thus, the consumer will be more educated regarding the matter. (dev/mut)


Kezia is a fresh graduate who is passionate about beauty and Vietnamese coffee. Find her on Instagram 

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.