It’s no secret; although slowly improving, the beauty industry still continues to fail to embrace diversity, and be inclusive (or skinclusive) of all skin tones, particularly for darker skin tones. Why, in 2017 does the beauty industry think that ignoring deeper skin tones is acceptable?
There are a several reasons as to why, noted by beauty expert Eryca Fremantle in an interview with WGSN. She said for a long time it was believed that darker women prioritised their hair over their skincare, (which, in reality is a myth). The truth is, African women have always invested in their skin, although not in the mainstream conventional way. Looking at culture over history, African women have expressed themselves by painting their faces and bodies, as well as decorating themselves with a lot of jewellery. And funnily enough, many major beauty influences have come from Africa, for example through African Tribal Makeup and the use of Kohl eye makeup in Ancient Egypt.
Many brands also believe that investing in darker skin tones has a high-risk factor (why exactly, I don’t know). Darker products are actually harder to make, although this should be no excuse. Anita Bhangwandas, Stylist’s beauty assistant talked about this in an article she wrote about the changing face of beauty. Making darker products, particularly darker foundations is a strenuous and costly process. Makeup for lighter skin tones can be achieved by simply adding a mix of three pigments to match a particular shade. Lighter skin tones can also ‘get-away’ with having the wrong undertone in a makeup product. However, darker shades can easily look ashy or muddy if the shade or undertone isn’t matched correctly.
MAC was the one of the first brands to make a notable effort to include darker skin tones, with their MatchMaster and Studio Fix foundations going right down to shades 9.5, 10 and NC45-NW58 respectively. MatchMaster 9.5 and 10 have been discontinued now however.
Many other brands began to follow suit though, such as Dior, Tom Ford, Bobbi Brown, Lancôme, and Laura Mercier who all now offer darker shades of makeup. With this move to provide products that are ‘skinclusive’, representation has also shifted too.
For example, Lupita Nyong’o, a Kenyan Actress is now a Lancôme ambassador. Jourdan Dunn, a British model with Jamaican heritage is an ambassador for Maybelline New York. Joan Smalls, a Puerto Rican model along with Liu Wen, a Chinese model are ambassadors for Estée Lauder.
While the beauty industry is changing, it’s still not fast enough. Many high-end brands are beginning to invest and create formulas that cater for the whole spectrum of skin tones, accessible and affordable ‘drugstore’ products for darker skin tones are few and far between.
For several months, I’ve been watching Nyma Tang on Youtube. She’s a self-taught beauty Youtuber, offering advice and products to those who also have darker skin tones. One of her first videos I watched was one from her ‘Darkest Shade’ series – where she tests out a brand’s darkest shade of makeup, often to prove that it is nowhere near dark enough or has the correct undertones. Nyma brings to light the ‘colourism’ or discrimination that people with dark skin face within the beauty industry.
Since first watching her, I’ve been hooked, even though I don’t even have a particularly dark skin tone. She has such a nice calm presence, as well as being down to earth, funny, and honest. She talks to her viewers, and says things like ‘our skin tone’ or ‘our complexion’ to make people with dark skin interested in beauty feel accepted and included – something the beauty industry has never offered before. Going out on a limb, I decided to flick Nyma an email in hopes of her replying and sharing her story and experiences with this issue. Even since I started watching Nyma, her social media following has increased rapidly – she has 17k followers on Instagram, and over 200k subscribers on Youtube. So last week when I saw her reply in my inbox, I was over the moon!
Nyma is South Sudanese (and proud!). She was born in Ethiopia to South Sudanese parents, before moving to the United States when she was around three years old. Nyma has six sisters, and is the oldest. ‘I love my family sooo much!’ she said.
Nyma’s African roots are what give her her gorgeous dark skin, however her skin is what many people made fun of her for. Growing up in the States, she went to a private elementary school. It wasn’t until High School where she switched to a public school where she got a shock. All of a sudden people began to make fun of her skin colour and how dark she was.
How did you deal with this?
‘I would basically try to hide or avoid situations where I had to confront people making fun of me or staring too long. It was how I survived back then, trying to stay under the radar and not get noticed’.
Nyma didn’t start wearing makeup until she was 21, and when she taught herself and found she was quite good at it, she started up her Youtube channel.
You didn’t start wearing makeup until you were 21. Was there any specific reason for this?
‘I didn’t start wearing makeup till I was 21 because I don’t really think I had an interest in it or maybe I didn’t have the time. Maybe, it could also be because I never found products that matched me or I never saw images of people with my skin complexion being represented on the posters or products I would see at the store/mall’.
When you did get into makeup, what were your thoughts on the industry and what they provided (or lacked to provide) for you?
‘When I first got into makeup I basically had to become a makeup mixologist (is that a thing?), I basically mixed and matched different products to get what I thought matched me. I still do this every once in a while. It’s gotten better but there is still some ways to go’.
In a Do’s and Don’ts tutorial video Nyma made for dark skin makeup, she here said to achieve the look she wants she often experiments, and suggested to her viewers to mix things together, if it worked for them. She often has to mix foundations and concealers to achieve the correct shade for her skin. ‘Some will be a good formula I like, but not my shade, or a good formula, but not my undertone, or a bad formula, but it’ll be my shade’. ‘Thats the struggle of being a dark-skinned person, you don’t really get many options. All this mixing sounds extra, and it is extra, its an unnecessary step we have to do.’
Nyma says it feels awesome to be able to help people with similar skin tones to her. When she first started out, she felt left out and excluded, never really having anyone who had a really deep complexion to look at and learn from. ‘There were barely any women of colour on Youtube to begin with!’ Now with her channel, every week Nyma still finds herself and others with darker skin tones being excluded as new products are released. One of her most recent videos was reviewing Kim Kardashian-West’s KKW Beauty contour kits. There were four shades from Light to Deep Dark, however, even the Deep Dark contour was still many shades too light and ashy, with the contour stick looking more like a highlighter on Nyma’s dark skin. Before even swatching or putting the products on her skin, Nyma had a strong feeling that the kit wouldn’t work on her skin tone. She still purchased the kit with her own money anyway, and tried it out to bring awareness to the omission of darker skin tones within the beauty industry.
Before Youtube, Nyma was studying nursing for a while. She decided to step back from nursing because she realised she got way too emotional and invested with people, and didn’t think she could cope with her patients dying or getting worse. While her empathy is part of what makes her such a down to earth person, it made a nursing career very difficult to pursue. She still is a bartender part=time whilst doing Youtube. Whilst Nyma’s Youtube success and growth is phenomenal and can allow her for it to be a full-time job, she says she’s still a bit hesitant to take the last step.
What’s on the horizon for you? What are you looking forward to in the future?
‘I hope the future brings with it different product collaborations, maybe my own makeup line one day, being involved in different charities, and building lasting connections with people and my supporters. I hope to hopefully inspire women’.
I think its pretty safe to say that Nyma has already inspired thousands of women everywhere with her kind nature, confidence and comfortably in her own skin.
What is your hope for the beauty industry in the near future? And where do you see the beauty industry going or changing?
‘In the near future I hope the beauty industry strives for a bit more inclusiveness. I would hope that their shade ranges for certain products increase on both side of the spectrum’.
In a Q+A video, Nyma said that being on Youtube opened her eyes to the struggles paler people go through too, not just darker people. The beauty industry often leaves out both sides of the spectrum.
Are there any companies you see at the moment as ‘changing the game’ for people with darker skin and makeup?
‘Not necessarily changing the game but at least trying… I would say Lancôme and MAC’.
Nyma’s favourite brand used to be MAC, but they discontinued the Matchmaster 9.5 and 10 shades – which she used to use. Now she doesn’t have an exact favourite, due to the fact that she’s had to experiment so much. Not one company got an entire line right, and Nyma still finds herself having to mix products to achieve her tone and shade.
What are your must-have products?
‘As far as must have products, I have to have my brow gel for my non existent eyebrows! Also lipstick, I love a good red lip!’
Have you ever considered being part of creating beauty products/ doing any collaborations? What would your dream collab be?
‘Not sure if I have a dream collab just yet. There are just too many people! I would love to be apart of creating beauty products/ collabing with a company in the future.’
One of your most popular Youtube Series is ‘The Darkest Shade’. Could you tell me more about this and how/why you decided to create this series?
‘I created this series as a way to bring awareness to just how far some companies still have to go, but also as a reference for women/men with my skin complexion or around my skin tone. I hoped creating a series like The Darkest Shade would help when a deeper skin individual decides to shop for make up for the first time or just considering whether it would be a good buy or not. Also, I am typically the darkest shade they go up to. I know some people find it hard to believe but there are still much deeper complected women out there whose skin tones are darker than mine.’
What is your advice for people with similar skin tones to yours, struggling to feel accepted by the beauty industry and society itself?
‘Know that it’s getting better and don’t be afraid to experiment and to let your voices be heard!’
In Nyma’s Q+A video she also answered a similar question, saying that you need to find your safe place, and work on yourself in this place. Once you are strong and confident enough, you’ll find you wont need that space anymore.
If you look Nyma up after reading this (which I really encourage you to do) you HAVE to go to her ‘About’ section on Youtube. It is one of the funniest things I have ever read.
In your ‘About’ section on Youtube you mention a graduation, some stairs, a tumble, a broken heel… care to share the story?!
Yes! It was quite embarrassing! I went to my friends graduation and needed to use the bathroom so I got up and as I was making my way up the stairs I broke one of my heels. My legs gave way and I would have tumbled down some stairs if someone didn’t break my fall! After the graduation was over and we were gathered around to wish the graduates well etc. My other heel decided to break. So now I was standing out there with all these graduates and their families and who knows who else with my pointy heels, looking like Peter Pan!! UGH!
So, while the beauty industry is slowly changing in terms of inclusiveness (or skinclusiveness) and representation, it still has a long way to go. But it’s people like Nyma who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions and call out the industry who make change occur more rapidly. For now, high-end brands are continuing to invest and create shades of makeup that are dark enough for all skin tones. Hopefully in time, this will swing into motion more affordable, darker makeup products being created, giving everyone equal access to all beauty products, no matter what skin tone you are.
‘All the dark-skinned girls out there, I have been where you are,’ ‘Dark skin is not a trend, it’s not popping for the moment. We are not a trend, we are popping forever.’
Thank you so much Nyma for responding to me and helping me write this post!
For anyone interested, follow and subscribe to Nyma on her social media channels:
And below are two awesome articles from where I drew inspiration from!