How the make-up industry is becoming more inclusive

The make-up industry is more shade-inclusive than ever before and it’s easily the most exciting shift to happen in the sector for decades – with the days of only being able to pick a foundation from a handful of colours such as porcelain, beige, tan or mocha long over. 

One of the figureheads of this movement is singer Rihanna, who launched her 40-shade-strong Fenty foundation line in 2017, which sold out on its debut because it captured an audience that has been ignored for some time. “Gotta represent for my girls and we come in all shades, especially my brown sisters… been left out too many times in the make-up world,” Rihanna said about the launch.

The trend has now evolved into an industry standard, with the likes of cult brand Morphe following suit with its huge 60-shade Fluidity Full-Coverage Foundation range for those with a “lack of options”. 

“We saw this as an opportunity to do the right thing… so that everyone, based on depth of colour and undertone, can find their true hue,” explains Janine Gettinger, vice president of global brand development for consumer cosmetics brand Morphe. “This isn’t just a trend, it’s how make-up should be.” 

Those who don’t evolve are now facing harsh criticism from customers. Tarte Cosmetics, for example, suffered an Instagram backlash for the limited colour choice in its Shape Tape Foundation line – the bottom line being that inclusion sells. 

Make-up goes mainstream

The best thing is this “disruption” is happening in all forms, especially in terms of make-up brands addressing other groups who should be spoken to more. With one in three British men predicted to be wearing make-up by 2020, according to research by male make-up line MMUK Man, prestige brands Chanel and Tom Ford have launched male-specific cosmetic lines. 

Plus, influencers such as beauty YouTuber James Charles, who has 16.1 million Instagram followers, are helping to disrupt gender stereotypes associated with make-up by connecting with both men and women. Pro and consumer make-up brands alike are tackling these traditional stereotypes, evolving in tandem with the rise of gender fluidity. 

“Everyone wants to feel beautiful and shouldn’t be restricted because of their race, gender or age, and make-up brands are really getting to grips with that and breaking the boundaries of what was typically set before,” says Betsy-Dora Turner, PB’s Make-up Specialist of the Year 2019 and owner of Betsy Makeup Studios in Lancashire. 

Accessible make-up is also trending thanks to new brands such as Grace Beauty, which is hitting the market this year with a range of disability-friendly mascaras, having developed three different handles that will help those with mobility issues to maintain a better grip. 

But what does this movement mean for MUAs? Well, it’s about adapting your kit and becoming educated on the challenges facing customers. “You need to do more research into the brands you stock and think carefully about the client you’re working with,” says Turner. 

“For example, a nude lip for a Caucasian client will not be the same as a nude lip for an Asian customer. It’s understanding that ‘nude’ isn’t just your pale colours anymore, it's about being able to cater to every skin type.” 

To help you update your kit, we’ve rounded up the best “inclusive” launches from the pro make-up brands...

Best for shade inclusivity...

Mii Foundation campaign imagery

Image: Mii Cosmetics



Diversity is at the heart of Mii’s satin-matte perfecting foundation collection. Available in 16 shades, which range from pale to dark tones, the formula provides a natural-looking base and is infused with fresh carrot cells and seaweed extract to boost hydration. A campaign showcasing the make-up on Afro-Caribbean and Vietnamese models accompanies the range, created in collaboration with make-up artist Anna Priadka. 


This four-in-one product – foundation, concealer, powder and broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 20 – is available in an impressive 26 shades, from light hues Ivory and Satin, to warmer colours Cognac, Bittersweet, Cocoa and Mahogany. It’s made from micronised minerals and contains antioxidant pomegranate extract to help minimise UV damage. 



Airbase Ultra Foundation

This airbrush system uses a formulation combining breathable silicone and vitamins A and E to deliver a flawless finish for all skin tones, including Asian, African, Latino and Caucasian. It has seven core foundation shades, ranging from Porcelain 00 to Ebony 06, which can be combined with the brand’s bronzer or three blushers to warm up or deepen the tone. 

Mud liquid foundation swatchesMUD LIQUID FOUNDATION

This rich and creamy liquid foundation is formulated with aloe vera and shea butter to hydrate, while giving a lightweight coverage that allows skin to breathe. Available in 10 diverse shades – including D1, D2 and D3 for darker complexions – the range caters to the lightest and darkest skin tones. 


Best for mature clients...

HD Brows Campaign imagery

Image: HD Brows


Look Fabulous Forever has developed a range of “pro-age” make-up specifically for mature women, using formulations that work well on older skin, which can hold more challenges for application. A standout product is Cover to Cover Conceal – a concealer formulated with tea tree oil to keep crêpey skin hydrated and provide strong coverage for under-eye bags and age spots. 


HD Eye and Brow Palette

The Eye&Brow Palette is a go-to for skin that lacks elasticity, featuring vitamin C and E-infused eye shadow powders that are easily blendable, preventing unsightly product build up. It also includes a reflective highlighter to brighten a sagging eye area. The palette is available in three shades: Bombshell, Foxy and Vamp. To prove its commitment to inclusivity, the brand featured a 50-plus-aged model in its latest Love Yourself More campaign. 

Best for drag make-up...

Kryolan drag make-up

Image: Kryolan


This multi-functional base and contour product is popular among the drag community for creating long-lasting make-up designs. Available in more than 120 shades, the cream stick foundation allows for precise application and can be tailored to suit the client’s needs, from sheer to full coverage. The product’s mineral oil base hydrates skin while providing staying power against sweat and heat. 


Artdeco no colour setting powder

Enriched with Irish moss and mineral water to nourish skin, as well as microfine particles to hold foundation in place, this translucent powder can be used on any skin tone to give a matte finish, making it a great product to have in your kit when doing drag make-up. Use it as part of your baking technique to get a lasting crease-free finish. 

Top image: Morphe