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Youthforia's foundation backlash, explained: Why beauty influencers are calling the new shade 'tar in a bottle'

This isn't the first time the beauty brand's shade range has been critiqued.
/ Source: Today.com

Makeup company Youthforia’s darkest new shade of foundation is being called “tar in a bottle” by critics.

The brand launched in 2021 and landed a “Shark Tank” investment from Mark Cuban last year, with the pitch that the company offers “makeup you can sleep in.”

Golloria George, a beauty influencer, was one of multiple TikTokers to critique the makeup company’s shade rollout. She tested out the darkest shade of Youthforia’s Date Night foundation in a now viral video, which has over 19 million views.

On one side of her face is the product; on the other is black face paint. “You can’t tell the difference,” George said in the video, which also included the “tar in a bottle” descriptor.

George said the foundation “lacks color and is flat” in a separate TikTok with about 8 million views.

By the end of the makeup tutorial, George called for the shade to be “pulled off the shelves” and for the company to add more diverse shades to what it currently offers.

This isn't the first time the brand has come under fire for its shade range.

Youthforia did not immediately respond to TODAY.com’s requests for comment.

Here’s everything to know about the company and the controversy.

What is Youthforia?

Youthforia is a “clean and sustainable makeup company with skin-friendly ingredients,” its website reads. The company prides itself in testing its products by sleeping in them to prove “they’re high-quality treatments for your skin.” In 2023, the company received a $400,000 investment from Cuban on "Shark Tank" in exchange for 8% equity.

The makeup line is carried at Ulta. Ulta did not immediately respond to TODAY.com’s request for comment.

As of April that year, the company offered Date Night Skin Tint Serum Foundation in 15 shades,according to a blog post it released at the time. 

When the line dropped, beauty creators admonished Youthforia for not having more options for darker complexions. Only four of the 15 shades were dark or deep colors. George, in an October 2023 TikTok, tested the darkest shade offered at the time, 495 Deep, and noticed discrepancies between the color of the product out of the bottle and the darker tone in advertising on the website.

Youthforia founder Fiona Co Chan said in a now-deleted initial response at the time that it was a limited launch as “proof of concept” that the product would succeed, NBC News reported.

The foundation selections expanded to 25 shades as of March 2, a separate blog post said.

When the line first dropped, Shade 600, the darkest offered, did not have a photo. Youthforia posted a TikTok video of founder Chan’s quest to find a model. 

“I’m super stressed because I need to find a model for our darkest shade of Youthforia foundation,” Chan says in the video.

She eventually found a subject for Shade 600 at a mall in Dubai, posting a photo to the site.

Why is Youthforia receiving backlash right now?

For many, Youthforia’s way of addressing its limited shade palette is unsatisfactory.

“When we say that we want you guys to make shades for us, we don’t mean to go to the lab and ask for minstrel show black,” George said in her video. “What we mean is to take the browns that you have made, create undertones and do what you need to do in the lab so it’s a darker shade of brown.”

George’s video is one of several to call out the lack of diversity within darker shades available.

Another is from Javon Ford, fellow beauty influencer, who took a look at the pigment in the shades available in a TikTok with more than four million views.

The ingredient lists for other foundations have multiple colors. In comparison, the ingredient list on the darkest shade has only one pigment: CI 77499, which is black iron oxide. TODAY.com can confirm the colors and ingredients are as Ford presented them.

“This foundation literally only has pure black pigment,” Ford said in the video, not allowing for undertones.

Awuoi Matiop, a makeup influencer from South Sudan, often tries on makeup to see if their shades are “dark skin inclusive.” She found Youthforia’s lacking.

“This should be a crime,” Matiop said while trying on the product. “This is what we get when we ask to be included in the beauty industry.”