Meet the Instagrammers Testing Makeup for Women of Color – ELLE.com

When all you see is an online photo of a makeup palette, it doesn’t tell you much. It’s impossible to know if a new shade of eye shadow or lipstick will really look good IRL, especially since most websites use digitally-rendered swatches for darker skin tones. That’s why women are taking matters into their own hands on Instagram, swatching makeup so women of color find their matches.

“I wanted to create a resource to have all swatches on complexions that were more like mine in one place,” says Ofunne Amaka, the woman who runs @cocoaswatches and its app, “Some people don’t even buy anything before they see it on my page.” Since launching two years ago, she’s amassed nearly 88,000 followers eager to see how the latest launches look on deep skin and discover new brands.

“Even on so many of the brand pages, I always would wonder: Where are the swatches for people who look like me?” Osase Emokpae, who founded @browngirlfriendly in April 2016, tells ELLE.com, “Why should brown girls and boys be forced to use their imaginations to figure out how a makeup product might look on us?” There’s clearly a need for these online spaces–back in April when Forbes released its first-ever list of Top Beauty Influencers, of the 10 named, nine were fair-skinned.

People of color matter, our opinions matter, our money matters.

“It’s definitely difficult. Sometimes I feel left out of the conversation because I’m catering to a certain market,” Amaka says in regards to brand partnership opportunities, “The people that I’m helping is what helps me keep going, and validates me to keep going. To relieve that frustration for some people so makeup can be fun is a really good feeling.”

From color payoff, to texture, to different price ranges–these swatch Instagrams cover it all. They, along with other women of color-focused accounts like @darkskinnedmakeupdaily, @indiemakeup4coloredgirls and @makeupforwomenofcolor, don’t only provide a service but build a community. Every post has comments full of tips, suggestions, and all-around positive feedback.

@bhcosmetics Spotlight Highlight palette is so unique and gorge!😍 #CocoaSwatches #BHcosmetics

A post shared by Cocoa Swatches (@cocoaswatches) on Jun 15, 2017 at 3:19pm PDT

“I wanted to show that these products could look amazing on real brown skin and not a computer-generated image,” Emokpae says, “People of color matter, our opinions matter, our money matters. We have a seat at the table and if nobody includes us, we have to find a way to include ourselves.”