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10 Fashion and Beauty Brands Expanding the Definition of 'Nude'

One or two catch-all dark shades are not enough.

Nude (adj.): 2b. b (1) : having a color (as pale beige or tan) that matches the wearer's skin tones <nude pantyhose> <nude lipstick> (2) : giving the appearance of nudity <a nude dress>*

The term nude in fashion and beauty implies a universal skin tone, but has traditionally only existed as a pale pink shade with yellow undertones, like Pantone's "Nude." The shade became popular in the 1920s and 1930s for undergarments, but is still a common term today — just see Maison Margiela's bodysuit and Vera Wang's halter dress for example — and many brands continue to define it under such narrow terms. It is still rare for consumers with deeper hues of orange in their natural composition to find the nude item they want, be it a bodysuit or a shoe, in a shade that comes close to matching their skin.

This isn't only a problem in the fashion world, of course, but in the beauty industry as well. Foundations and concealers are generally available in far more shades for light skin and often only three hues of brown: usually a a tannish brown, a "toffee" (see Maybelline Fit Me! Matte + Poreless Foundation Collection) or a "cappuccino" (see Revlon's 2-in-1 Compact Concealer Collection). Consumers of color have often had to make one of two decisions: purchase two separate colors and try to mix them into a natural hue or resign themselves to the limited options and wear a foundation distinctly darker or lighter than their natural pigment.

Describing any single tone as "nude," which implies the appearance of nudity, is limiting by definition. But a few brands have begun to lead the way when it comes to recognizing a gap in the marketplace and expanding their range of hues in categories meant to match the wearer's skin. Just last week, Christian Louboutin announced an expansion of its nude shoe collection to include darker tones. Of course, as the below list shows, beauty brands have been quicker to cater to those with darker skin. Designers looking to expand their businesses, whether it be in the U.S. or globally, should also expand on their concept of nude. One or two catch-all dark shades are not enough. 

Read on for 10 brands who are getting "nude" right.

Fashion Fair Cosmetics

Founder Eunice Johnson, who with her husband founded Ebony and published Jet, launched this makeup line in 1973 after watching black models mix foundations at the Ebony Fashion Fair. It is now the only major department store cosmetics brand for black women, though the company struggled to stay in stock in 2015 and women were outraged. According to The Washington Post, the inventory shortage issue is being resolved and Fashion Fair Cosmetics will continue to be found at Macy's and Dillards, as well as the brand's own e-commerce shop.

Christian Louboutin’s Nudes Collection

It is rare for luxury fashion brands to accommodate consumers of all skin tones but last week, Christian Louboutin made headlines when the footwear brand announced the addition of two more shades to its nudes collection. The brand now produces its classic styles in seven shades with distinctive names like Nats and Toudou.

Black Opal Beauty

Black Opal is a mass market beauty brand founded in 1994 with the aim of developing products for men and women of color, and now its extensive portfolio of products for everything from hyperpigmentation to acne and blemishes is available in most drugstores and hypermarkets. The brand also has a skin shade directory on its online store so consumers can accurately match with its products. It's so strongly associated with people of color that a recent campaign touting "For Every Shade of Beauty" alongside an image of a white woman sparked controversy online. In response, the company explained in a statement that it wants to address "a wide array of ethnicities, cultures and multihued skins of color."

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Bloch’s “Eric Tan” Ballet Shoes

At dance supply retailers, two neutral-colored options for ballet shoes can usually be found: pale beige and light pink. Dancers of color have used makeup or acrylic paint to coat the shoes to better match their skin. After ballet dancer Eric Underwood posted a video on Instagram demonstrating this process, expressing his frustration and asking ballet shoe companies to produce a wider range of tones, Bloch reached out. They've since collaborated on a new color, "Eric Tan," which the BBC reports will soon be on sale.

Bobbi Brown Cosmetics

Bobbi Brown founded her namesake cosmetic company in 1991 with only 10 lipsticks and the idea to create a makeup line with a "natural approach." It evolved into a global brand that Estee Lauder acquired in 1995. Bobbi Brown is now known for its deep variety of products that emphasize natural beauty. All of the brand’s foundations (such as the Skin Foundation SPF 15) come in 20 different shades (with eight of those catering to dark skin) while its newest Long Wear Eye Collection includes a Long-Wear Brow Gel in eight shades.

Cover FX

Founder Lee Graff was working as a "corrective makeup specialist" in Toronto before she launched Cover FX in 2001 to provide therapeutic foundations for all skin types and colors. The brand's extensive color palette categorizes its natural shades by three undertones: pink, neutral and golden. Its Total Cover Cream Foundation comes in 40 different shades.  

CoverGirl Queen Collection

CoverGirl has enlisted Queen Latifah and Janelle Monae as the faces of its Queen collection, a beauty line meant to cater to every skin tone. Its products include a rich False Lash mascara, waterproof lipsticks in purples and reds and a collection of foundations for women of darker skin tones. The collection's All Day Flawless Foundation contains a formula fusing powder, concealer and foundation in 14 different shades of brown.

Nubian Skin

Former banker and consultant Ade Hassan launched Nubian Skin, a lingerie and hosiery line for women of color with the tagline, "a different kind of nude" in 2014. The British brand is already available through Nordstrom and Asos as well as its own site and comes in four different shades: cafe au lait, caramel, cinnamon and berry. A "curvy" line of hosiery in an expanded range of sizes launched in November. 

MAC Cosmetics

A veteran in the beauty industry, MAC Cosmetics has a reputation for inclusivity in marketing and a diverse range of natural shades and undertones to back it up. For example, the Pro Longwear Foundation is available in 24 shades and its Studio Fix Fluid SPF 15 foundation available in 36. The brand reaffirmed its commitment to inclusion (see above) after a February Instagram post of a black model's lips drew racist comments. 

Makeup Forever

Just like MAC, Makeup Forever is a cult beauty brand that has catered to different skin complexions since its launch in 1984 and since LVMH acquired it in 1999. Though it has steered clear of flashy celebrity-fronted campaigns (Andreja Pejic and Jamie Chung are recent exceptions), the brand's products do all the talking: the Ultra HD Foundation comes in 40 different shades, 20 of which contain orange hues. 

* According to Merriam Webster Dictionary

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