Youthforia’s Darkest Foundation Shade Was Criticized by Influencers. Here’s Why.

When Youthforia, a young makeup line that once received a nearly half-a-million-dollar investment from one of the celebrity investors on “Shark Tank,” released its darkest foundation yet, a collective sigh among Black women could be heard across social media. In the past, beauty brands, including many industry heavy-hitters, have fumbled products for darker skin tones, and the quality of new complexion-matching cosmetics remains inconsistent.

Golloria George, a dark-skinned beauty influencer who lives in Texas, was tipped off about the release by her followers, who tagged her on other reviews of the new shade, and she decided to buy the foundation. But when she tried on the shade, she immediately got angry. She drove to her nearest Target and bought a small jar of black acrylic paint.

In a video she posted to TikTok last week, Ms. George applies the jet black paint to one cheek with a brush, then does the same on the other side with Youthforia’s Shade 600 foundation. Stone-faced, she looks directly into the camera and asks, “Enough: Who is that color?” The video, in which Ms. George calls the shade “tar in a bottle,” has been seen over 34 million times, and others have posted similar videos.

After she posted the video, Ms. George said, her anger turned to sadness.

“The beauty industry really does not care about dark-skinned women,” Ms. George said in a phone interview. “We’re not seen as humans, and it’s really freaking sad.”

“Black beauty is already so rough as is,” she added. “The only thing we asked for was to be included. If anybody of a lighter complexion can go into a Sephora and Ulta and get their shade with no problem — foundations, bronzer, contours — why shouldn’t I be able to? Why do I have to then become a cosmetic chemist in my room and start mixing stuff to create my shades instead of just being included on the first time?”

Here’s what we know about the controversy surrounding the brand’s latest release.

Youthforia is a makeup brand that debuted in 2020 with a single product: a shimmering lip gloss that the company’s founder sold out of her apartment during the Covid lockdown. In the vast landscape of makeup lines already on the market, Youthforia has tried to set itself apart by saying that consumers could sleep in its makeup. In a March 2023 episode of “Shark Tank,” Youthforia’s founder, Fiona Co Chan, secured a $400,000 investment from the billionaire Mark Cuban on the strength of her pitch about the company’s “bio-based” beauty products, including a color-changing blush oil that the company claims interacts with the skin’s pH to provide “the perfect flush.”

“I wanted makeup that acted like skin care — that, if I wore it, it would make my skin better,” Ms. Chan said on the show.

Last year, when the brand released its Date Night Skin Tint Serum Foundation, it drew criticism for including only four shades for dark skin. Even the darkest shade, called deep neutral, was not dark enough for Ms. George to be able to use, according to a video she posted at the time.

In a TikTok video that has been deleted, Ms. Chan apologized for the relatively narrow range of shades in the initial batch, adding that more shades were being developed and that the first drop was simply a “proof of concept.”

Ms. Chan and representatives for Youthforia have not responded to numerous requests for comment for this article. But on April 24, the Youthforia TikTok account uploaded a video in which Ms. Chan responds to a comment that reads “so about that last foundation shade…????” In the video, Ms. Chan races around a mall “street casting” to find someone to model the darkest shade of Youthforia foundation.

In a photo booth, she takes pictures of two young men on whom she has applied Shade 600. “Now, our shade grid is finally complete,” Ms. Chan says in a voice-over. “I’m so excited to launch these 10 new shades.”

Javon Ford, a cosmetic chemist in Los Angeles who has worked with popular beauty and skin-care brands like Milani and Youth to the People, was not involved in the formulation of any Youthforia products. But based on his experience with similar brands, he has an idea where Youthforia may have gone wrong.

“What I think happened is that they did not have a color benchmark,” he said. “A color benchmark is basically a reference that the manufacturer or lab has to follow to match.”

According to Mr. Ford, brands will often use competitors’ foundations, such as those manufactured by Nars or Fenty Beauty — whose initial 40-shade drop in 2017 was a game changer in an industry that had often treated shade for dark skin as an afterthought — to make sure that they are at least meeting that standard.

When Mr. Ford inspected the ingredient list for the foundation, he found that the formula contains a small amount of white base in it, which has the effect of making the undertones of the foundation dark gray.

“It is just not a human shade,” Mr. Ford said. “Nobody is gray, nobody is pitch black because there are undertones.”

Yes. The Date Night Skin Tint Serum Foundation — which Youthforia sells in 1.18-ounce bottles for $48 apiece — in Shade 600 is still available on the brand’s website and at Ulta.

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