In January, Almay launched their “Simply American” brand statement featuring their brand ambassador, Carrie Underwood. The advertisement features a radiant Underwood, along with picturesque images of rural landscape. These images are complimented by a voiceover of Underwood saying these words:
“Almay celebrates the true spirit of American beauty, which rises from the heart of our great country.
Dreams are born, hopes fly high,
We love this country with a passion. You can see the pride in our eyes, read the joy in our faces, hear the love on our lips.
We create products that deliver an effortless beauty look; genuine and glowing with confidence.
Almay. Simply American.”
When I look at Carrie Underwood she does seem to embody the best of American Beauty- from the 1950’s. Her blond hair and fair complexion are quite lovely, but are they really still the American ideal of beauty? Before I explore that I’d like to note that the other two people included in this advertisement are two blond children. The only non-blond is the dog which Underwood is holding in her lap. After seeing this ad, my mother quipped, “They should call it Simply Blond.”
While that’s kind of funny, there is something about this ad that I find unsettling. This feeling rises in me when I think of the limited shade selection that Almay has to offer. Their shades, which I will showcase in a bit, run only as deep as a medium skin tone. Keeping that in mind and watching the images of the blond Underwood and the blond children have me realizing what could possibly be the subtext here.
I’m not suggesting that this was intentional, but nevertheless it is still offensive. In reality, true American beauty is a variety of skin tones. Yet companies like Almay and Neutrogena seem to exclude many consumers by offering a limited selection catered solely to Caucasian consumers.
To understand this a bit more, let’s have a look at some of Almay’s deeper skintone offerings.
Those were images taken from their website, but I’ve also included a photo which I’ve shot myself:
As I mentioned before, Neutrogena offers a limited selection as well.
Let’s look at their brand ambassadors:
(Images taken from http://www.neutrogena.com)
Now let’s look at the deepest shade they offer, which is “Tan”:
(Images taken from http://www.neutrogena.com and http://www.cvs.com)
I think this “Tan” shade is a bit deeper than Almay’s shades are, but it is a medium-deep tone at best. As you can see, there are many other skin-tones excluded by this line.
Not all drugstore brands offer such a limited selection. For example, Maybelline and Covergirl have expanded their shade selections with their newer foundation lines, Fit Me and TruBlend.
Here are some examples:
While these lines have more variety, there is always room for improvement.
So if Almay is not the only drugstore brand to offer a limited selection, why am I focusing on them? Well, the Simply American campaign really bothered me, and I wonder if it bothers anyone else. How can they create a commercial about celebrating American beauty when they do not celebrate ALL of American beauty?
If it isn’t clear enough, let’s look at a true representation of skin tones as provided by MAC Cosmetic’s color scale. This company uses undertones and number levels to categorize complexion, and I prefer that as opposed to using marketing terms like alabaster, caramel or espresso.
To help understand the ranges of skin tone as categorized by MAC Cosmetics, I found this handy dandy color chart from the-swatchaholic.com
This gives you an idea of what the full range looks like.
Now, I will insert where I think Almay’s colors fall in…
That brings it to about an NC40, and that’s being generous.
As you can clearly see, Almay leaves out a large section of skin tones with the limited shade range they offer. By having a shade range which extends from light to medium only, Almay has excluded women of color from their business. This is something that can be frustrating and hurtful to those not represented.
These were the thoughts which inspired me to write this piece. Every time I’d see the commercial, I had an uncomfortable feeling. I knew that something was wrong and it needed to be said.
I’d like to note that I am actually a big fan of Almay’s other products, and I’ve reviewed them on my Pretty Fresh Beauty Blog. They were recommended to me when I was a teenager by my dermatologist, and I find they are an excellent brand choice for sensitive skin on a budget. However, it is 2015 and they need to get with the times!
Before I go, I have a sincere request. Almay, please expand your complexion selections. Offer a range of tones which reflect the beautiful varieties of American cultures. And finally, please insert this message of appreciating diversity into your advertisements.
Here are some pictures of amazingly beautiful women I know- just incase you need some inspiration
Till next time…