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Youthforia faces backlash over new ‘inclusive’ foundation shade

The makeup brand Youthforia has highlighted the importance of due diligence when it comes to inclusivity and representation. 

Inclusivity has become a paramount issue, particularly in the beauty industry. And as customers place more pressure on brands to practice as they preach, the margin for error has rightly decreased.

Makeup enthusiasts, everyday customers, and industry watchdogs are quick to call out brands that miss the mark, especially when diversity, inclusivity, and representation are part of their ‘ethos.’ And Youthforia, who’s ostensibly ‘inclusive’ foundation shade has sparked controversy online, highlights this point vividly.

Youthforia is a relatively new, clean beauty brand founded by Fiona Co Chan in 2021. Chan’s company is no stranger to controversy, after facing backlash in 2023 over a lack of foundation shades.

Many called the brand out for not being inclusive, but it seems Youthforia’s response has once again missed the mark, highlighting the consequences of lazy and performative inclusivity.

After criticism that its Date Night foundation wasn’t representative of all skin tones, Youthforia expanded the range to include a number of shades including its now darkest tone, 600.

On the surface, the shade looks unassuming. But beauty influencers have shared swatches of the 600 foundation and likened it to ‘jet black’ paint.

Lifestyle content creator Golloria George tested out shade 599 and 600 from the new Youthforia range, two of the darkest shades available. She found 599 to be too warm a brown for her skin, while 600 was a flat, dark black.


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A post shared by Golloria (@golloria)

‘How on earth did we go from this shade to this shade,’ George asks in a TikTok video. ‘There’s no undertone, no depth, no dimension, and that’s a problem.’

George isn’t alone in her concern, either. Other influencers have come out to criticise Youthforia’s lazy attempt at diversity, suggesting the brand has little interest in enforcing substantial, systemic inclusivity, so long as they appear so on the surface and sales aren’t impacted.

‘This is what we get when we ask to be included in the beauty industry,’ said content creator Awuoi Matiop.

‘They just slam it in our face saying ‘you want a darker shade? There you go, here’s some black paint for your face.’

After videos like Matiop’s and George’s blew up online, cosmetic chemist Javon Ford looked into the product, finding that the lighter shades of Youthforia’s foundation use three different colours to make the tone.

However, the darkest shade 600 only has one colour: black iron oxide. This is essentially just pure black pigment. ‘This problem is so avoidable,’ Ford said. ‘This brand does not care about us.’

Now, those in the industry are calling this the ‘biggest inclusivity stain on the beauty community in 2024.’

‘When we say we want you guys to make darker shades for us, we don’t mean to go to the lab and ask for minstrel show black,’ George said in her video. ‘What we mean is to take the browns that you have made, create undertones and do what you need to do in the lab so it’s a darker shade of brown.’

Criticism has not been merely about the shade itself, but about what it represents: a failure on the part of the brand to understand and respect the nuances of Black skin.

Youthforia’s misstep also highlights the importance of structural inclusivity, of bringing Black voices into the conversation and giving them a seat at the table, even when it isn’t customer facing.

Had more Black individuals been involved in the development and marketing of this product, it’s highly unlikely the issue would have arisen at all.

It’s a stark reminder of how lazy, performative inclusivity can backfire massively for brands. Today’s consumers are savvy. They can see through token gestures and demand genuine, meaningful representation – as well as products that actually cater to their needs.

Brands need to prioritise education, for both themselves and their audiences. They should consult with diverse experts when developing new products, and amplify Black voices within the industry to ensure their perspectives and values are integrated at every stage.

Only then can brands hope to avoid the pitfalls of performative inclusivity and truly serve the diverse needs of their consumers.