There is often discussion about people of colour in whitewashed societies struggling to find a space in the beauty industry that is specifically for them. Foundation and concealer shades are limited, eyebrow pencils are too light, and the market is very much exclusive to the paler complexion. There are breakthrough brands when it comes to this issue; MAC, Fenty Beauty, Estée Lauder, BlackUp, and they are the closest the industry has ever got to actually catering to the black consumer. But when we take it away from our society specifically, where we seem to forget about the fact that these whitewashed beauty companies are global, what does this lack of inclusive cosmetics mean for an entire country, continent even, of people with dark skin?
As expected, it means that they go ignored in the beauty equation, too, save for the aforementioned brands. Nelly Tuikong, a nurse living in the US although originally from western Kenya, was one of those people who found make up shopping a nightmare when it really shouldn't have to be. On a trip to Kenya, she had her lightbulb moment: 'If I was having a problem finding makeup for myself, what about an entire continent of people who look like me?' With that, Tuikong quit nursing and started her own business - Pauline Cosmetics - back in 2013.
Africa's beauty market is booming right now, and is the second fastest growing market in the world, just behind South America. Breaking that down within the continent, Nigeria and South Africa are the biggest African markets, with Kenya not far off. Next year, the Kenya beauty market's projected worth is 6.6billion Kenyan shillings (around £46million/$73million). This rapid growth in the beauty and personal care sector is as a result of growing populations, rising consumer wealth, urbanisation, plus social media.
Despite that, African women are still being left out. Whilst international brands that cater to darker skin tones such as MAC etc. are available in shopping malls across Africa, the products can cost up to 5,000 shillings (£35/$48) per product, prices that dissuade many locals from making purchases for a multitude of reasons. As a result of these sky-high prices on the African market, many Kenyan beauty consumers buy counterfeit products.
Pauline Cosmetics line specifically caters to the African woman (their slogan is #ColorsForOurColor, with prices ranging from 500 Kenyan shillings (£3.50/$5) up to around 1800 (£12.50/$17). Tuikong heads to China to source the products for the collection, which is now sold across all major Kenyan cities as well as online.
Talking to Quartz Africa, Tuikong said: “I focus on creating colors for our color, by exploring formulations that will give the best results as well as pigments that work for women with darker skin tones. I am inspired by other brands that are working towards bridging the gap to provide women of color with more makeup options.”
Pauline Cosmetics is still a work in progress, and Tuikong's mission is to expand, expand, expand. “We are set to off up to 20 lipstick colors in different formulas specifically selected for women of color. We currently carry 12 lipstick shades. We are also launching our liquid foundation, which will provide the widest possible color range of foundation colors for darker skin toned women like myself. We will have 15 shades of foundation specifically for women of color.”
Here's to seeing brands finally offering women of colour the choice and quality that they deserve.