What does the color ‘nude’ mean now in an increasingly diverse world?
There’s a “nude” revolution going on. The colors “nude” and “flesh” used to be synonymous with lighter skin shades. But as the world’s population gets more diverse, those definitions continue to change, especially because of the strong consumer demand for fashion and beauty products for darker skin colors.
During the last decade, fashion and beauty brands have responded to this audience, going beyond pale pinks and beiges to include products in a rich palette of browns and other skin tones — like the colors of people seen in a diverse city like Los Angeles and around the globe.
Footwear designer Christian Louboutin, for example, debuted the Nude Collection of flats and heels, ranging from pale to deep, in 2013. Shoes in this collection include the flats called Solasofia and heels named Pigalle Follies, Senora, Iriza and So Kate.
“The Nude Collection is dedicated to people who want to have great legs, to have a great silhouette,” said Louboutin via email. As style rules go, nude-colored shoes tend to make a person’s legs appear longer.
Louboutin is part of the growing trend as brands offer more collections and products designed for consumers of color. Label Nude Barre, whose taglines includes “Discover Your Nude,” sells women’s undergarments and hosiery for a range of skin tones, while Nubian Skin offers nude hosiery and lingerie for women of color.
“Jane the Virgin” star Gina Rodriguez and business partner Catalina Girald co-founded Naja lingerie featuring a Nude For All collection, which launched this year. And also this year, underwear brand Björn Borg introduced a line of nude undergarments in six skin tones for women and men.
“There isn’t just one ‘nude’ anymore,” says Shannon Romanowski, a category manager for research firm Mintel, which has headquarters in Chicago and London. “Brands are recognizing that women [and men] come in all shades, and there’s been a huge expansion in tones and foundations.”
Offering a wider range of product colors also has touched classical ballet. In London, Royal Ballet soloist Eric Underwood, who’s African American and a British citizen, posted a video on Instagram last year showing the hassle of having to color his ballet shoes to match his skin color before a performance.
“I simply wanted to have a flesh-tone shoe that reflected my skin color. Therefore, I wouldn’t need to apply makeup to my ballet shoes because it’s a long and messy process,” Underwood said.
In response, Australian company Bloch, which primarily sells dancewear including Pointe and ballet shoes, announced it would make a ballet shoe in a color called “Eric Tan” — named for Underwood — this fall.
However, the largest color expansion for various skin tones has been in the beauty segment. Mass-market and prestige makeup brands such as L’Oreal Paris and Lancôme have more color offerings for a global range of skin tones.
They join new and legacy beauty lines dedicated to women with deeper and multiethnic complexions, including Iman Cosmetics, black|Up Cosmetics (If you try it, consider the brand’s Nude Nail Lacquer and Perfect Nude Lip Balm, $12.50 and $27 respectively), Fashion Fair and Mixed Chicks, which sells makeup and hair-care products.
Last year, actress Eva Mendes introduced Circa Beauty makeup because she found it difficult to find a foundation color to match her skin, particularly during the early days of her career.
“I’m Cuban American,” Mendes says. “And under the Latin umbrella, a lot of people don’t realize the diversity among us.” She says it was important for her to be able to have beauty products to serve this diverse community.
Romanowski cites Lancôme’s line of foundations including foundation sticks, creams and liquids such as the brand’s Nude Miracle Weightless Foundation and L’Oréal Paris True Match makeup as standouts from larger brands for their color range and the brands themselves for using diverse spokesmodels in their marketing campaigns.
Cosmetic chemist Balanda Atis, manager of L’Oréal’s Women of Color Lab, also has been examining color and the expanding beauty landscape.
“As a woman of color myself – and speaking for friends and family … for many years we were challenged with finding the right foundation shade,” says Atis, who has collected skin-tone data from more than 57 countries of origin. L’Oréal’s products are available in more than 140 countries.
“Almost everyone has their own unique skin-tone [identification],” says Atis, mentioning an October 2013 National Geographic article about the growing U.S. multiethnic demographics and what Americans will look like in 2050.
“Every day new skin tones are born,” she says.