Sunday, November 08, 2015

Cosmetics for women of color. Yes? No?

NPR recently ran a story that started like this, "Women of color have long been ignored by major cosmetics firms, which meant there wasn't a whole lot of choice if you weren't white." I consider myself lucky to have begun my lipstick-wearing days at the end of the 1990s, when there were MAC and other cosmetics companies that had pretty good selections for women with my coffee-with-cream complexion.

In recent years, I've discovered Arbonne, a skin care company that uses only ingredients that have been proven safe for both humans and the environment. They use no animal products in their cosmetics and creams, no petroleum and nothing that you couldn't safely ingest, even if you're vegan. I love Arbonne's moisturizers, cleansers and hair products because I have extremely sensitive, rash-prone skin, but Arbonne's products never cause me any discomfort. I happily switched to using their lipsticks, knowing they contained no lead or dangerous ingredients. My colors were Earth and Bordeaux and it was like they were made for me. I even became an Arbonne consultant and spread the word about this wonderful company.

Then, sadly, after I'd been using Arbonne for four and a half years, they scrapped their entire line of lipsticks and started over. They reformulated their lipsticks for more creaminess and created a brand new palette of colors. I knew this would be bad news for me, but gamely I tried the new lipsticks. 

No luck. None of Arbonne's current lipstick shades come close to my beloved Earth or Bordeaux, but there were a couple of colors that looked promising, so I put on Dahlia and Iris. I found that these colors work very well for my skin tone, but unfortunately, they look almost the same. See this photo:

Can you tell that I'm wearing two different shades of lipstick? I'm wearing Iris on the right side of my mouth in this photo, and Dahlia on the left. The difference in these two shades, is so slight, there's no point in me buying both shades. 

Considering my preferences and coloring, I'm afraid these are the best lipstick shades Arbonne has for me now -- you know, as a Mexican. I'm very disappointed because I prefer more natural shades with yellow/brown tones. It's also aggravating because when I was an Arbonne consultant, I learned that Arbonne is actively working to to expand their market among American Latinas, plus it plans to do business in Mexico. But how serious are they about those markets if their current lipstick palette doesn't have great options for olive- and brown-skinned women?

So what the hell? Out of 16 Arbonne lipstick shades, two of them look almost the same on me. Arbonne consultants tell me it can happen that one person can try two shades of lipstick and have them look like distinct colors while another person (like Regina the Mexican) can try those two shades and have them look identical. It's because we're all different.

I wonder: did Arbonne test their new lipsticks on women of color, and if they did, did they really pay attention to how the shades looked on women of color? It doesn't seem to me like they did. If Arbonne were a company with dozens and dozens of lipstick shades, they could get away with two shades that are so similar. But they only have a lipstick palette of 16 shades, which I'm now calling 15 shades. Arbonne's new lipstick colors are a fail for this woman of color.

The NPR story ends by focusing on the MAC and Bobbi Brown cosmetics lines. I've been tempted to wander over to those makeup counters since Arbonne disappointed me, but I just can't bring myself to give up the pure, safe, high-performing and non-cancer-causing formulas Arbonne has perfected. If you want hippie-granola, high-end cosmetics that won't irritate the most sensitive skin, Arbonne is unparalleled. I still love most of their products; I just no longer like their lipsticks. Arbonne's new lipsticks are glossier and more moisturizing, but also meltier and they break more easily. I prefer the former matte-textured and more resilient formula.

Here's my big confession of 2015. I'm not proud of this, but I went on eBay and found two sellers of Arbonne's discontinued Earth lipstick. Each seller had only one tube left, and I bought them. It felt completely wrong to buy from a reseller, but I justify my actions by saying that Arbonne let me down. I would have bought their lipsticks forever if they hadn't eliminated the shades that worked so well for this coffee-with-cream-colored woman. When I get to the end of the Earth, I'll probably go back to conventional lipsticks (maybe Clinique or MAC). I was completely happy with Arbonne, but this chingadera with the lipsticks has changed our relationship. The right color is more important to me than any other lipstick quality and they just don't have what I need. 

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