Monday, January 15, 2018

What I'm Not Buying: Tarte Shape Tape Foundation

Image credit: PopSugar

Tarte has announced their latest product, Shape Tape Foundation, which is an unsurprising addition to the "Shape Tape" line following the immense success of the Shape Tape Concealer. 

And I won't be buying. 

As a blogger, I feel like I should be transparent about areas where I don't have a ton of knowledge. And for me, that's foundation. For the first six or so years that I wore makeup/was really "into makeup," I strictly wore powder foundation. I didn't (and still don't) like the look of full-coverage foundation on my skin, and I didn't feel I had skin that was so "problematic" to warrant liquid foundation. And that's basically where I still am now, two or so years later. But now instead of powder foundation, I am drawn to tinted moisturizes and BB/CC creams. I have tried some liquid foundations in the past couple of years, but not nearly as many as most people, and not even close to what's available. 

I settled on one that worked for me about a year or so ago, and I haven't been all that interested in searching for more. 

Base products have never been all that appealing to me, and I typically only have one of each at any given time. It's not an area of excess for me, which is why those products rarely (if ever) appear on my blog. I personally don't find the launch of a new foundation tempting, and I haven't personally tried enough foundations to accurately portray how similar or not a new launch is to existing lines. 

But I want to talk about the Shape Tape Foundation because this is a conversation I feel needs to be had in the beauty community and not ignored. 

Since the Shape Tape Concealer was such a huge success for Tarte, the announcement of a Shape Tape foundation was met with a ton of excitement by a lot of people. (Again, with full transparency here, I was not one of those people.) 

And then the shade range was revealed:

Image credit: PopSugar

It's disappointing that this is so commonplace in the beauty industry, but it's still astonishing in how blatant this example is.

In 15 shades, there are 13 for light skin and 2 for dark skin. And that is, frankly, unacceptable. 

It is truly baffling to me how this was approved by Tarte. How they could look at the shade range, see that it skewed so heavily toward light skin, and think this was inclusive and acceptable is beyond me. With the lighter foundation shades, there gets to be nuance. There gets to be ranges in "lightness," and there gets to be warm, cool, and natural undertones. A light-skinned person can have a "winter shade" and a "summer shade." They can find close to their exact skin tone. And for POC, there are two options. That's it. No nuance. No undertones. No range in depth of color. Just two options. Even for the model in the above photograph, there is not an appropriate shade match. 

This speaks to a much larger problem, which is the racist overtones in the beauty industry. This foundation shade range sends the message that Tarte either thinks that lighter skin is more important and should therefore have these nuanced options, or that Tarte wants their audience to only be people with light skin. People continually give the excuse that "light shades sell more, so this is a business decision," which is a baseless lie. The ONLY reason why light shades of foundation sell more than dark shades in specific lines is because there are more of them available. 

In 2018, this is unacceptable. And as consumers within the beauty community, we need to demand better. 

While the above photo is of swatches provided by PopSugar, here is Tarte's picture of the shade range:

Image credit: PopSugar

With this photo, it appears that there are 3 to 4 shades for POC instead of 2, which is suggested by the swatch photo above. (Frankly, the swatch photo seems less manipulative and more believable.) Nonetheless, in this photo, there are two solid rows of foundations meant for light skin and less than one row meant for dark skin. 

And let's look at the shade names, shall we?

  • Fair Sand
  • Fair Neutral
  • Fair-Light Neutral 

  • Fair-Light Neutral
  • Light Neutral
  • Light Sand
  • Light-Medium Neutral
  • Light-Medium Honey

  • Light-Medium Neutral
  • Light-Medium Honey
  • Medium Honey
  • Medium Sand
  • Medium Neutral 
  • Medium-Tan Honey

  • Medium-Tan Honey
  • Tan Honey

  • Deep Honey

  • Rich Sand

  • Mahogany 

If the photos of the shades don't make enough of an impact, maybe seeing the shades broken down into shade categories will. Once the shades hit "Deep," there is an incredible drop off of shades and variations available. 

Added to this, in Tarte's picture of the shade range, you may notice that there are not many diverse models, and there are noticeably no Asian models. This is especially disappointing considering Tarte's controversy last year (a few months ago) where they reposted a racist meme targeted at Chinese people on their Instagram. The brand botched the apology for a couple of weeks before the CEO stepped in, offered an appropriate apology, and accepted all responsibility. It would have been a positive sign of good faith, if nothing else, for Tarte to showcase Asian models. Instead, it is largely white models. 

And this isn't new for Tarte. Their Shape Tape Concealer has similar shade range issues:

Yet its launch was met with praise for including a deep shade in the first place. 

Several of their palettes have been geared toward light skin, such as the Rainforest of the Sea palettes:

When you see the success of eyeshadows and palettes from brands like Coloured Raine, Juvia's Place, Colourpop, Kat Von D, and Anastasia Beverly Hills, it makes it pretty obvious that being inclusive is not difficult and is celebrated. 

And for foundation, let's look at brands that have inclusive shade ranges.

There's, of course, Fenty Beauty:

Fenty had an explosive debut last year because of one major reason: INCLUSIVITY. They launched with 40 shades of foundation and gave equal nuance to a range of skin tones. 

There's also Make Up For Ever:

MAC Cosmetics:

And Bobbi Brown:

At the drugstore, there's Milani Conceal + Perfect:

Finding the absolute perfect shade of foundation can be very challenging for most people. But there's a major difference between having to buy a shade that isn't exactly perfect (but is close) and flat out not having any options available. And this is something that I often see with white people in the beauty community who don't recognize the privilege of choice that they have.

This is a conversation that needs to take place. Christine from Temptalia wrote a post recently addressing the Shape Tape Foundation's abysmal shade range as well as opening up a dialogue on why brands resist diversifying their shade range. If you have not read it, I highly recommend doing so. I think it's incredibly important for everyone who has a platform to bring attention to this, and consumers should leave feedback for brands stating that a blatantly non-diverse shade range is unacceptable. 

Personally, Tarte is not a brand that I feel comfortable supporting. Over the years, I have purchased a number of Tarte products, but most have been decluttered from my collection. All that remains is the blush in Exposed and the Sephora birthday gift blush in Paaarty. They have not released anything in recent months that has interested or tempted me, and with the incredibly poor judgement on the Instagram controversy as well as this most recent launch, I don't see much that's worth supporting. 

I don't see this latest launch as anything other than a calculated decision. I imagine they saw the success of their Shape Tape Concealer with the limited shade range and figured the foundation would produce similar sales numbers. And that means that they are literally banking on people with light skin to buy this foundation despite it having a terrible shade range for anyone other than themselves. They are betting that people with light skin will think "well, there's a shade for me, so that's all that matters" and give them money. 

And the truth is that many, many people will do that. They won't care that the shade range is not inclusive because there will be a shade that matches them, and it will be more important to them to try the new "likely-to-be-hyped" foundation than it is to demand better for all consumers. And that's equally disappointing. 

My hope is that this launch will bomb and that Tarte will see how poor of a decision they made. I also hope that brands like Fenty and Make Up For Ever will continue to make headlines and be celebrated to the point where other brands will be forced to diversify in order to keep up. Of course, it would be great if all brands just recognized the worth of all consumers and acted accordingly by producing products for everyone. Until then, I can't see myself buying from Tarte, and I certainly won't be buying the Shape Tape Foundation.  

Edited to add: Tarte confirmed today, January 15, 2018, that they will release 10 additional shades of the Shape Tape Foundation. They have not yet announced what those shades will be, but my guess is that this is damage control due to all of the bad press. Despite Tarte's actions, I stand by my original post since they launched with 13 shades for light skin and 2 for dark skin. 


  1. Hi there!

    I am really glad you wrote this post, because anti-hauling is not just in order to "purge" ourselves from excessive buying, but also to send a message to the industry itself. This is a two-way discussion.

    As white women, it is important to know when to listen to POC voices, and give them platform to have their voices heard. If brands care only about their white demographic, then it is our burden to let them know that we disagree, we see the faults, even when they don't affect us directly.
    While one can argue that it is just makeup... It really isn't. First of all, in many work places women are required to wear makeup, and the small number of options for POC, in some cases even the complete lack of options (not everybody can afford Fenty or MUFE, and brands like Milani aren't available worldwide) translates to an indirect exclusion of POC from job opportunities.
    Second, it is the message that this sends. That POC don't matter, or they matter less. And we should show that such message will not be tolerated.

  2. Interesting.. Especially when Tarte is an internationally appreciated brand which means there should be more than three different skinshades looking upto and for their products. Not only is it unfair to have this little shades for everyone equally, are they thinking of the impact on the money flow? If they had a wider range of shades = wider range of customers = $$$