Sleek MakeUP is no longer aimed at black women.

Posted by on Friday, April 22, 2011

 From Sparklz and Shine's blog post:

My first question to the lovely PR lady was about the brand's focus. I'd seen concern being expressed on twitter about the racial mix or bias of bloggers being invited to the event of a cosmetics company aimed at black ladies. And apparently that was the focus of the original company Sleek Cosmetics, but 5 years ago, along with the re branding to Sleek Makeup, they set a focus of affordable makeup for all. With the spotlight on skin tone not race. For marketing shots, they deliberately choose racially ambiguous models with the aim that we look and simply see beauty not skin colour.
 Am I disappointed? Yeah. I'm disappointed. Perhaps it's irrational to feel this way, but it was pretty good - felt good - to have the one brand that recognised that hey, black people have slightly different makeup needs, let's address that and make products that black women can use, and lets make them easily available and affordable.
I mean, I'm a student, who is broke most of the time, and I could walk into a Superdrug and get myself a foundation that fit my colour, a concealer, and then some pigmented eyeshadow that shows up on my skin tone (dark skin absorbs colour) and a lipstick that *gasp* was a nude on me! A brown lipstick that was probably very unappealing to lighter skinned shoppers. ("Why would you wear that colour? That wouldn't suit anyone!" I heard asked once, directed towards Sleek's "Cocoa" shade. I did hide a chuckle.) I don't see many other high street brands making brown lipstick. Nude lipstick. Lipliners like Cherry Oak/Rich Brown/Soft Brown that actually look decent on our skin. Flattering lip colours on ladies that share my skin tone, like "Perfect Plum" and "Chocolate Kiss" Pout Polishes.

I don't know for how much longer I'll be able to do that. The Eye Dusts are already being discontinued, and the old range of True Colour lipsticks, which contained dark brown nudes such as Cocoa, Blaze, and Earth, has been completely discontinued. I'm hoping to talk directly to their PR person to try and clarify their position, so I'll update this post if/when that happens. Fingers crossed, yeah?

I love England, I really do. It's a great country and people are really accepting of people that aren't of the same skin colour as themselves. It's just that, when you have demographics like what England has, which is that white is obviously the majority (92.14%, from the 2001 census) but there is still a sizeable (compared to many other countries, for example Japan or Korea which are extremely ethnically homogenous) migrant population, and of this, many are black, but what is in the stores still caters to the white majority. Which makes economic sense. Nothing wrong with that. It's just when that happens, it's hard for the minority that still constitutes a portion of the population to find cosmetics that are going to look good on them, and take into account their specific needs, as it were. Which is when Sleek came in, specifically targeted towards us. But they're not any more. Their ethos is the same as what every other high street brand proclaims, which is that it's for "everybody". Which means the majority. Which means lighter skin. Sorry, but I'm calling it out for what it is. Already, with the unreleased Nude collections and what have you, the products being touted as nude simply aren't really, on the skin of many (black) women. I can't judge until I actually swatch it instore - I'm going by the photographs and swatches I've seen online already, but yeah. What would be great is if they released different palettes/collections, with different colours of "nude". After all, nude can come in brown, pink, yellow (no offence intended, at all). All sorts of colours. Why not cater to a slightly wider range of nude? Feel free to shoot me down, people.

What I'm curious about is whether this "everybody" will extend to Sleek's overseas operations. I'm going to take Nigeria as an example, because I am Nigerian :P We have a far less diverse ethnic lineup. As in, the country itself has a very large, diverse amount of ethnic groups. But they're all considered Black African. I can't find any statistics that indicate how many foreigners we have in Nigeria but I'm sure it's not as many as is present in Britain. Will it make economic sense for Sleek to switch their focus from black women in Nigeria? Will the same range of foundation be available in Nigeria as I can find currently in Superdrug? When I visit Nigeria (hopefully) late this year I'll let you guys know what I can find. If I go. It's a bit uncertain because of the house move :/ No monehz.

I've looked over what I've written, and I don't see anything that could be construed as libellous or is incorrect, but if someone does spot something, please tell me off/let me know! I've tried to double check everything that I've written with the information at hand, so yeah.

Ultimately, I'll keep using the Sleek stuff that I have, and I'm sure to purchase more when something comes out that takes my fancy (I still need that concealer. And the Primer Palette. And some more Pout Polishes....*insert wishlist*) They make good products, it's just I'm a little saddened by the change of focus.
Anyway, I'm sure that I'll get over my disappointment, and in the meantime, Sleek are still producers of good quality, affordable makeup. So yeah, continue enjoying their products.
Do you guys still want to see reviews of the stuff I bought, or should I leave it? I'm perfectly happy to review it if you guys want to see it!

EDIT: Follow up here. 
Sleek's Response here.


  1. Great post, I find it ridiculous about this, because despite being very pale/caucasian/jewish in appearance, I do notice that it goes from pale orange *ahem, sorry* skin to dark orange, most ranges don't cater for people with very pale skin either! I'd never heard of sleek before they became so popular, maybe because as you said, it was aimed at people with darker skin, and the fact that they're now scrapping their original target audience because of their new-found wealth and success makes me sad! :{ I'd never wear a brown lipstick, as a nude, like you'd never wear a peachy orange and claim it nude on you, and it's so wrong that people are ignorant to the fact skin tones vary from pale to dark, not just in between! Good luck with the contact :] xx

  2. Thank you for the positive feedback, Jenny! That's something I've noticed while in the blogosphere - many, many makeup brands don't cater to either end of the spectrum, and pale people ARE ignored, and the orange oxidisation problem is rampant. Which sucks for the reasons I've listed above. And thanks for understanding, there is no universal nude, lol. It's all relative to skintone.

  3. There is obviously a place for the kind of range Sleek once was. Otherwise it wouldn't have prospered. Maybe it was a bit "niche" (I don't know that much about Sleek)? But companies do sometimes sell out on their original values in search of greater market penetration and profit. It's a shame. Is that what has happened here?

    You should review anything you feel like. Your blog is always a damned good read.

    I hope you get to Nigeria this year and I'm betting the cosmetics there have to be worth a punt.

  4. Yeah, that's basically what happened, or that's how I see it, anyway.

    Aha, thanks for the compliment :P Yours is as well, just saying.

  5. That is so damn annoying.
    Cosmetics take so much fun out of being black, I tell you. -____-

  6. I wondered about this, too. I mean, I'm white and I still bought stuff from Sleek when it was focused 'old' Sleek so its not like it was unappealing or making the brand less accessible or anything. I guess it doesn't make economic sense but everyone has trouble finding foundation, for example, and if they were the one high street brand that did it well for black girls surely that's a good economic decision? I dunno, it'll suck if they forget their roots.

  7. Quote of the week comes from ChaosButterfly :P PREACH.

    I agree. I didn't feel like the old Sleek was exclusionist (though I'm not white so maybe I miss things) and it made a range of products that could suit everyone not just black women. Plus, it wasn't just in the UK, they sold/sell in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria as well so it's not like there's a sortage of black women which would make the operation financially unfruitful, you know?

    I still find this "everybody" malarky funny when they only had white bloggers at their event, but whatever.

  8. Sorry, second part of comment above was in reply to Robyn :)

  9. I agree with you totally, generally you get foundations in 5 or 6 shades. For example Rimmels 25hr one, the shade range is awful.

    Even if Sleek were aimed a certain way I wouldn't feel like they were excluding me from there range because specific skin types and tones come with there own benefits and draw backs.

    Sleek was originally aimed at women of colour and that was fantastic, its a shame that now they seem to be forgetting about their original target market when clearly the need for those type of products havent gone anywhere. x

  10. This is a really good post! I think sleek will loose a lot of customers for changing their original intentions and direction as a company. As i am sure another company will take the opportunity to appeal to the dark skinned audience.

    Fair enough people have commented saying that lighter skin tones find it hard to find colours that suit their shade but there are a lot more potential brands that you can buy from. There are not enough brands in the uk that are affordable that cater for dark skin.

    It is a shame really that Sleek have done so well but now are going to change what made them so good in the first place.


  11. You can't expect a makeup company to forever be non-commercial. They know they're losing out on sales when they see brands like Covergirl make tons of moola from everyone whereas they're making just enough to continue their business. If they're saying they need to cater to everyone's needs, well, ALL the million and two brands out there are doing that. Sleek just want to sneak out moola from everyone's pockets now.

    There may be another side to the story though. What about reverse racism? What if people were charging Sleek of being "black" instead of equal? What if there really was too much demand for products for "all colors" from them? On the contrary, I don't think so!

    I do believe every skin tone is beautiful, but with all the pastels and garish colors out there who really needs more of those for fair skin? The world really needs more focus towards dark skin colors instead of all skin colors, which most companies do anyway. And, they produce more "white" colors instead of "black", which Sleek will probably start doing soon. Get back on your feet Sleek!

  12. Exactly, Enigma. Spot on.

    I'm not even sure that they will, ForeverSweet89. As long as their African consumerbase remains unaware of the focus change (because the products that they purchase will be different to the ones we can purchase here) they'll get the best of both worlds.

    They're hardly non-commercial, Rizzie, and I wouldn't expect them to BE non-commercial - business is business, after all. I haven't seen their books, obviously, but I'd say they were making a tidy amount because catering to black women certainly isn't niche in Nigeria/South Africa/Kenya/Ghana, which are countries in which they work. Over in the UK, people of all colours bought the makeup as well, so I don't see how they were losing out.

  13. I actually had no idea Sleek was for women of color. Like Jenny, I am paler than pale (and Jewish!) so I have difficulty, but on the exact opposite end of the spectrum. There are a lot shades of pale skin, but in America pale isn't beautiful, so you don't see a lot of makeup options.

    I understand why Sleek would want a wider audience, but I also see why this upsets people. I imagine it is a lot easier to use a line of makeup that is designed to generally flatter you/

  14. Cool coincidence, mk!

    I personally think pale skin is really interesting. It's a shame that society forces beauty ideals on certain groups of people.

  15. They told me at Facebook that the Eye Dusts won't totally disappear but sold online only. I hope they didn't lie to me as I want some more shades. The pigments are AMAZING. As for the conumer issue, I have to admit that the fact that it was dedicated to WOC attracted me to buy 2 Sleek palettes. Although I'm pale like a cheese but I have many Asians in my family (I'm half Asian but I'm a damn albino, I guess) I know that the standard European make up (always very decent, tbh) won't turn out to be bold on darker skin. So, Sleek is my 1st choice to do my cousin's make up. But just a quessie: Is ist bad that Sleek opens up the topic "all races" now. Don't they try to follow in MAC's footsteps, which might not be too bad in the end?

  16. Thanks Mylanqolia. They still haven't got back to me yet :P

    I don't think it's bad if they're truly trying to cater to everyone, but they've lost the uniqueness that made them so popular in the first place. Every mainstream makeup company caters to "everyone". We already have a MAC :P

  17. Just catching up here, it's interesting to read everybody’s view points. One thing I may not have been clear on is that from what I was told, it was Sleek Makeup (for everyone) who won the contract into Superdrug. So if you purchased from Superdrug that's the new Sleek not the old....

    The economics behind diversifying must have been compelling, but also it’s what bought them to a mainstream shop and got them noticed by a whole lot more people in this country. For me, the impression is not one of turning their back on old values but making a push towards a wider diversity of models being acceptable to the UK population. Too many people still say ‘Oh she’s black’, before they say ’Oh she’s beautiful’. I kind of think they haven’t taken the focus off makeup for black skin, but used the ‘for everyone’, to get what they do have, out there to a wider population.

    On the other hand, I’m also aware that when you tie up with a large retailer you are beholden to them and the hoops they provide for you to jump through….. The decisions they take now could be a lot more directed by their contractual obligations than they would like. But it’s the story all over, do you stay niche or ‘get into bed’ with a big company…..

    It’s interesting what you said about the nude palette as I thought it was more aimed at darker skin. So what do I know. What I can honestly say was that they definitely didn’t only have white bloggers at their event, I was too focussed on their products to give you a breakdown of who was there though.

    I don’t know why I defend them, they don’t make it easy. Lovely to talk to if you meet them, but ridiculously hard to speak to otherwise...

  18. @Mylanqolia - My assumption on the Eye Dusts is that they don't perform economically enough against the Barry M Dazzle Dusts to justify shelf space. There are Barry M stands in every Superdrug versus Sleek in just some, which slews the odds of people buying DDs over Eds. I've never tried an ED so I can't compare quality, but do know the DDs have a reputation it would be hard to go up against.

  19. Thank you so much for contributing your insight, Sparklz and Shine! I actually recieved an email from Sleek today, which I'll be posting up here soon. I agree with a lot of your post, sadly beauty is judged on race lines a lot and it's really annoying in a supposedly post racial world.

    I was only judging from the picture, I hadn't seen it in person like you had, but to me it appeared that at least the entire first row was dedicated to lighter skin.

    I see what you mean, it's entirely possible that they can't stock some of the products aimed towards darker skin in Superdrug but I would have thought they would have let some of those shades (mainly the lipstick ones) remain on the website. Unfortunately that entire line seems to have been discontinued, now, which is a shame. I'm tempted to buy backups of Cocoa!

    As an aside, I prefer the Eye Dusts over Dazzle Dusts, the packaging is better and it's cheaper. The Dazzle Dusts are almost a fiver for this teeny, hard to use and easy to spill pot...
    It's still a shame that they're going though, even though it's necessary. The website colours aren't that accurate, it's always nice to swatch them instore.

    Once again, thanks for stopping by, your imput is always valuable!


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