In my small town Boots Chemist, there they were, alongside the other plasters as if it was normal - like it wasn't a BIG deal. Dark brown plasters, an almost perfect match for my 8 year old son. This was a big deal for me.
A mother of two adorable brown children of different hues and being another shade of brown myself, here in a high street old faithful, my skin is recognised. It is finally deemed normal. Me and my loved ones are fully visible consumers at last!
Over the last 10 years or so I have enjoyed being able to purchase more and more products designed for my medium brown skin tone, but I am acutely aware that for people with skin darker than mine, it’s been a longer time coming.
I’ve only relatively recently had the ‘luxury’ of being able to buy makeup which is an exact match to my skin (it’s all about the undertones!) - courtesy of Bad Gal Riri @fentybeauty . There has been an increase in choice and shades from most brands over the years but this usually still involved taking a trip to London, paying more and having sales people that were unfamiliar with the products.
I still get really frustrated with various items being described as nude. Whose nude? It’s not mine. Not having make up and clothing available in a range of skin tones is more than just annoying. In my first job 20 odd years ago, there was a strict dress code which included tights - I didn’t understand at the time how exclusionary this was. MY skin coloured tights were like trying to find a unicorn and black tights in the summer were not a joy. I remember thinking I’d move jobs ASAP, specifically to eliminate the tights issue, which were pricey (if I could find them) and a daily thing that just should not have been on my list of problems.
It was a non inclusive policy that I can only assume, the policy makers and management were not even aware of as an issue - because it wasn't an issue for them. I was often left wearing an option which made me feel uncomfortable and affected my confidence when liaising with clients. I really liked my job and was very good at it, but tights became a genuine reason for me not wanting to be there!
It may sound extreme but when you break it down, it’s serious. The message I received from society, (not my family and close circle), was that ‘normal’ skin is peach colour. But who chose this norm? White people are c.15% of the world population therefore, c.85% of the world's population have non peach skin?
The lack of representation in my younger years - in TV, media, high profile posts etc. definitely made me feel othered. The situation and narrative reinforces that non white people are in some way secondary, less important and not needing or deserving of things designed for us and our specific needs. Don’t get me started on hair products!
If this isn’t clicking for you, that’s privilege. Privilege is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is something it’s better to be aware of. Understanding our privileges, other people's perspectives and lived experiences is the key to being inclusive and enables good allyship.
So, on seeing those dark brown plasters I bought three packs and excitedly brought them home to my son.
“They’re MY colour”, he said with a huge grin, and as you can imagine, this made my day! It IS a big deal!
You can buy the same brown plasters at Boots UK.
Things are changing. I am here for it. Representation matters and the global majority is growing.