In a moment marked by frank cultural conversations about race, identity, and representation, cosmetic companies have responded by revamping their approaches to address audiences that the industry has for too long ignored and underserved. In 2017, Lancôme expanded its Teint Idole Ultra Range to 40 shades, famously followed by Fenty Beauty—and that number has now become a benchmark. But creating makeup in a greater diversity of skin tones is just the tip of the iceberg in an industry-wide transformation that’s been more than a decade in the making.
The real story lies in part with Balanda Atis, a Black cosmetic chemist and head of L’Oréal USA’s Multicultural Beauty Lab. In 2007, Atis knew that the foundation category for women of color was lacking, so she and her team set out on an international tour of 57 countries to collect data on the tonal composition of skin of color. “We used