When Fenty Beauty hit the shelves of Sephora in 2017, it offered up a whopping 40 shades of foundation, ranging from very fair to very deep and in cool, warm, and neutral shades. The darkest shades flew off the shelves first, a phenomenon that put the entire makeup industry on notice. Rihanna’s new cosmetics line proved to everyone that the old adage is true: If you build it, they will come. Women of color cast their vote and confirmed that inclusive makeup brands were well overdue and in high demand.
Makeup for women of all skin colors shouldn’t have been a radical idea, but it was. Now, affectionately known as the Fenty effect, the introduction of Rihanna’s line forever changed the beauty world. Well-established brands scrambled to expand their offerings, and myriad new brands entered the scene. Here, the most noteworthy.
1. Fenty Beauty
Despite being a pioneer of beauty inclusivity, Fenty—also Rihanna’s last name—didn’t rest on its laurels. After its impressive launch with 40 shades of foundation, Fenty upped the ante by adding 10 more shades to include missing hues.
And it wasn’t only the beauty world that noticed: Time magazine named Fenty Beauty one of “The 25 Best Inventions of 2017.” Not too shabby, Ri-Ri.
While many drugstore brands don’t offer a deep assortment of colors, Maybelline goes against the grain. In an effort to meet its customers at the intersection of inclusivity and affordability, in 2017 Maybelline added 16 shades to its Fit Me foundation line—expanding it to a total of 40.
Not so long ago, finding the perfect color match came at a premium, but today, Maybelline makes it available for less than $10.
3. Pat McGrath Labs
Each year, makeup artist Pat McGrath designs the makeup looks for over 80 high-profile fashion shows worldwide. Oh, and in her spare time, she serves as the Beauty Editor-At-Large for British Vogue. In 2015, she launched her own makeup line Pat MacGrath Labs. When it came to bringing her brand to life, McGrath told The Guardian: “I was working all the time with pigments to make sure they work on all skin tones, particularly to make sure dark skin doesn’t become ashy, pigments that are so rich they work on everybody.”
By 2019, Pat McGrath Labs was already a $1 billion company. The line includes 36 shades of her Sublime Perfection Foundation, and 30 shades of her popular MatteTrance Lipstick to complement any skin tone.
4. MAC Cosmetics
Consumers and beauty experts alike have long hailed MAC Cosmetics, launched in 1984 and now sold in 120 countries, as one of the most inclusive makeup brands around. With 53 shades in its best-selling Studio Fix Powder Plus powder foundation and 63 shades in its Studio Fix Fluid liquid foundation, MAC makes finding a color match easy for anyone. And one need not look any further than its website to understand MAC’s take on inclusivity: “All Ages, All Races, All Genders”.
Early fans of MAC include Madonna, who specifically requested a shade of red that lasted throughout her performances. MAC’s answer to that request was a shade called Russian Red, created in 1990 for her Blond Ambition tour and still in the rotation today.
5. Mented Cosmetics
Mented, short for “pigmented,” was founded by best friends KJ Miller and Amanda Johnson and launched in 2017. While many makeup brands aiming for inclusivity opt for brighter shades and heavy pigments, Mented sought to offer a line of makeup for those who want a subtle look, and it was clear the women behind Mented knew what the customer wanted. Mented started with its popular Semi-Matte Lipsticks, which come in nine nude colors that suit deeper skin tones. From there, Mented expanded its line to include blushes, foundations, brow pencils, and the popular The Everyday Eyeshadow Palette, which continues to be in high demand.
In a 2017 Forbes article, the founders of Mented said of their brand, “Our end goal is that women of color feel prioritized in the world of beauty.”
Founded in 1935, Lancôme holds the honor of the oldest cosmetic brand on our list. While Lancôme’s Teint Idole Ultra HD foundation is jam-packed with 50 shades, the company pushes inclusivity a step further with the Le Teint Particulier, an innovative marriage of beauty and tech, where users can find their perfect color match.
Moreover, customers can even choose specific coverage and hydration levels for a foundation that is uniquely their own. Just over a year ago, Lancôme named actress Zendaya its latest brand ambassador, joining the likes of Lupita Nyong’o, Julia Roberts, and Isabella Rossellini.
7. Make Up For Ever
Launched in 1994, Make Up For Ever originally aimed to create long-lasting cosmetics that professionals could use on stage and even underwater. Years later, the brand launched its mega-popular Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation, which is specifically formulated to smooth out skin being filmed using 4K technology. And while Fenty garnered the spotlight for offering 40 shades of foundation, Make Up For Ever took to social media to point out that they, too, offered 40 shades and had been doing so since 2015, long before Fenty showed up to the party.
Today, Make Up For Ever’s Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation comes in 50 shades and the brand offers dozens of choices of other popular complexion products, such as the Matte Velvet Skin Full Coverage Foundation and the Ultra-HD Self-Setting Concealer.
8. Estée Lauder
When it comes to the world of cosmetics, it’s hard to find any brand more iconic than Estée Lauder. With products that have reigned for decades, like the Advanced Night Repair serum and Double Wear Foundation (introduced 38 and 23 years ago, respectively), Estée Lauder is a household name in beauty and skincare.
Not only does the brand’s Double Wear Foundation have one of the most comprehensive color palettes on the market (56, to be exact), it also has a cult-like following of users that swear it’s magic in a bottle. As someone who was convinced by the internet testimonies to buy the product, I can tell you that the legendary tales are true.
While Morphe was launched in 2008, it didn’t explode onto the scene until it tapped into the power of a few larger-than-life YouTube influencers James Charles, Jaclyn Hill, and Jeffree Star. Partnerships with these internet stars made it quite clear that, beyond skin tone, Morphe addresses gender inclusivity as well.
Along with the 60 shades of foundation in its lineup, Morphe also specializes in eyeshadow palettes and brushes that anyone can use to unleash their inner makeup artist.
10. Bobbi Brown Cosmetics
The celebrity makeup artist founded her namesake brand 1991 with a mission to fight the “more is more” makeup style of the ’80s, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics has grown into a globally recognized beauty leader. And a quick spin on the company’s website, reveals the brand’s take on diversity: “Shades for all has always been our standard.”
Today, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics sells 23 million products each year and the Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner tops the list with one sold approximately every two minutes. Reviewers also swear by the Long-Wear Weightless Foundation, which comes in an impressive 42 shades. And 28 years later, Bobbie Brown’s message remains the same, “The secret to beauty is simple: Be who you are.”
CoverGirl tackles the topic of inclusivity in more ways than one. Its diverse community of celebrity ambassadors, including Black actress Issa Rae, septuagenarian model Maye Musk, and its first hijab-wearing model Nura Afia, transcend race, age, and religion.
In 2018, CoverGirl launched its Full Spectrum Collection, specifically developed for women of color. Offering 20 shades of the Matte Ambition All Day Foundation, the line also includes a complementary range of concealers, contour palettes, and lipstick.