Thursday, September 19, 2013

BB Cream and the Problem of Foundation in the Caribbean

Foundation was not created with tropical climates in mind. I have Black Opal's Foundation stick and let me tell you, it all starts out just peachy in the morning when it is not so hot yet. Plus I usually wake and get ready super early, so by 7:30 I'm finished my make-up and my face looks so polished, settled and happy. By nine o'clock you start sweating because of the heat but at first it looks really healthy and dewy under the foundation. You just look a little shiny but that's ok. By 11 you can feel it sinking into your pores. The worst case scenario is that you can feel it slowly sliding down your face. This has never happened to me, but I have heard horror stories. What always happens though is that by noon its practically non-existent. I might as well have never put it on. By the time I get home, usually around 7 pm (yes, I'm out all day from 8 am till nightfall), it literally looks like I never put on any make up at all. And it does not matter if I set it with powder or used primer. I just look super shiny and greasy and like I ran a marathon. This is why I rarely wear foundation. Nowadays I've just been using concealer, then setting it with powder, and calling it a day. Plus foundation looks really cakey to me and to be honest its not that great a product in general. I finally understand why so many make up gurus just go without it.
However, lately I've been having some trouble with hyper-pigmentation (this tropical sun can be cruel to black skin, let me tell you), and I've also been having some unexpected pimples (early 20's adult acne has been mainly confined to my back and shoulders though, thank you Jesus). Plus some freckles because of the summer sun. All those things means that I really need a product to even out my complexion. I just need something that will blur out the imperfections. But won't be cakey or sink into my pores halfway through the day. I also wanted something that wouldn't make me feel like I have make-up on.
Enter BB cream.
So I've been into this BB cream craze since 2011, but I couldn't find it on my island, which isn't surprising because we move pretty slowly on make-up products in general. Especially as it was a trend popular all the way in East Asia, and the Caribbean literally could not be further away, or more different in trends, outlook, world view, etc. The only places that had it in 2012 was a fancy department store in town, but they only brought it in "light" and "light medium", and that's no use to me, as my complexion varies between "dark" and goes down to "deep" depending on how much I go out into the sun. It struck me as odd that they didn't have shades for deeper complexions given that 95% of the island population is black or mixed. Why would they only have products for white skin? And pale white skin at that? I mean they didn't even have olive shades for South European Mediterranean skin. Then I did some research and found that the brand (which will go unnamed) simply did not manufacture any shades for dark skin at all.
I put my social justice hat on (which is never far away) and did some more research and found that there was a whole discourse out there among internet Women of Colour about BB creams. The lack of shades for us had not gone unnoticed. And we were definitely not amused.
But we still tried to find products which made shades for dark skin. At first the only brand anyone could find was Maybelline which moved hella fast on the whole BB cream thing moving from East Asia to the Western hemisphere. Shout out to them. I'd really like to reward them with my money but I cannot find that product anywhere on this island, up to this day. There are drugstores which carry Maybelline here, but all they carry are mascaras and a shitload of foundations (which as I have already said, is a product that makes no sense for this climate). I know I could order it online, but I feel really uncomfortable ordering products I have not tried yet. Its not even debatable for me. Make up is one thing that you feel certain about before purchasing.

Anyway, another brand which came out of the blocks running for us darker women was Sleek, a UK cosmetics brand. From the pigmentation of their products and how they emphasize that all women can use their products, I get the feeling they were made specifically with women of colour in mind. And their range of shades is indeed impressive. If you have white, Latino, East Asian, South Asian, African-American, Afro-Caribbean, or Afro-British skin, you can find something there from them. But the same problem lingered. It was an internet store so I'd have to order online. Nope.
Finally, my salvation came when my sister travelled to Europe. She is only half a shade darker than me, so I figured if she could find a BB cream that looked like it suited her, it should also suit me. I told her to bring me one back, by Maybelline from a Boots shop in London. She disobeyed me (oh the lulz) and got one in an airport departure lounge in Cyprus. But get this, the brand she got was Bobbi Brown. Now unbeknownst to me, Bobbi Brown had extended her (paltry) range of BB cream shades from 5 to 9. And this time, she had more shades for deeper complexions. She had deep, dark, and rich.
The following post will be a full review of this product as I want this post to be strictly about problems with foundation and discrimination in the make-up industry.
In short, I'd advise my fellow Caribbean people as we seem to love foundation so much, to at least only use it sparingly. We can still wear it at night comfortably, or even during the day if you are reassured that you will be in AC for the ENTIRE day. But if you have to go walking around the hot streets of town or you have to catch two buses to get to uni or to school, forget about it. It is not a product for non-AC tropic living. It is just not. Implore your favourite make up stores to carry BB cream by impressing upon them the discomfort of foundation in tropical heat. Tell them that another advantage of BB cream is the no-cakey-makeup-feel effect. Advise them to carry shades that will suit a range of women. Tell them that if their suppliers don't carry shades for dark women to begin with, stop ordering products from them! Either the suppliers will notify the manufacturers who will get the point and start making shades for darker women, or scram!! Its that simple. It really upsets me that so many mainstream brands failed to include black women when formulating BB creams. Its not just that they are ignoring us, its like they are denying our complete existence. Do. Not. Reward. Such. Brands. With. Your. Hard-earned. Money. If. They. Don't. Cater. To. You. It is your money and you have the right to not put up with that crap.

p.s. And yes I've heard all the excuses like the titanium oxide SPF makes dark skin look ashy and I can't help but think its a weak excuse because Sleek and Maybelline obviously found a way around it. And I'm side-eying the other excuse that because its has East Asian origins, a formula couldn't be made to suit dark skin, because it obviously didn't get in the way of making a new formula (which is just glorified tinted moisturizer) for white European skin. I see you, Western make-up industry. I see you and I ain amused.
Do better.

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