IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

A black woman says Ulta worker told her she was 'too dark' for makeup in store

"In a store full of people who didn’t look like me I felt sad and upset," the woman wrote on social media. She said in a later post that a store manager who is biracial contacted her.
/ Source: NBC News

A black woman said she was told by an employee at an Ulta Beauty store in New Jersey that her "skin was too dark for most colors in the store."

Ebony Kankam London wrote in Instagram and Facebook posts that that she had the experience on Dec. 28 at an Ulta store in Holmdel, near the Jersey Shore.

London, who lives in Houston, said she was visiting New Jersey to attend her baby shower and went to Ulta to get her makeup done for the occasion.

"I brought in a picture for reference and was told that my skin tone was too dark for most colors in the store," she said in the posts that featured side-by-side images of her desired look and how she said her makeup was ultimately done by a makeup artist at the store.

"So this was the best she could do," London wrote.

Afterward, London said, the employee asked her if she had ever gotten her makeup done professionally. London said the experience made her feel like she was in 1990, when makeup "was made for one type of skin."

"In a store full of people who didn’t look like me I felt sad and upset," London said. "Like my skin tone was a problem."

Neither Ulta nor the store in Holmdel immediately returned multiple requests for comment Thursday.

London could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday at a number listed for her or via her social media accounts.

As of Thursday morning, London's Facebook post had been shared more than 2,500 times and drew almost 300 comments, the vast majority expressing support.

London provided an update in a separate Facebook post on Monday. She said she was contacted by a manager at the Holmdel store "who is apparently biracial and witnessed the entire situation." "She and the corporate manager were in store," London said.

London said the managers didn't step in because they "didn't want to make a big scene" and that the store manager told her she felt "comfortable doing black makeup" and offered to do her makeup over. London also told the media outlet The Shade Room that when she called the store to complain about the incident a day later, she was offered a bag of sample lotions as compensation.

The availability of makeup appropriate for black women and of stylists trained in applying it has long been in an issue of concern for some in the beauty industry. Sam Fine, who has been in the industry for decades, told The New York Times in 2018 that makeup lines are offering diverse shades but that more needs to be done.

"It’s not just about putting a black model next to Gigi Hadid," Fine said. "The stock needs to be there, and not only 40 shades at your Times Square store. The people at the counter need training.”

Last summer, Ulta was accused by some of its current and former employees of encouraging racial profiling at its stores. Ulta responded: "These accounts are disappointing and contrary to our training and policies. We stand for equality, inclusivity and acceptance and strive to create a space that is welcoming to all."

The company also said that its associates participate in ongoing training on diversity and inclusion.

"This is our responsibility and we take it seriously," Ulta said. "We know it is about daily action and accountability."