‘Tar in a bottle’: Makeup brand faces backlash for jet-black foundation

Screengrabs of a TikTok video by Golloria George, showing what the darkest shade of the Youthforia foundation looks like on her skin, compared to black face paint. TikTok/golloria

A U.S. makeup brand is being slammed online by Black beauty influencers for offering an extremely dark black foundation shade that many have likened to black face paint. Critics say the shade is not made for real, human skin tones and is reminiscent of racist “minstrel shows,” a form of 19th-century theatre that involved mostly white actors wearing blackface makeup.

The backlash against Youthforia, a company started in 2021 by founder Fiona Co Chan, isn’t new.

The company came under fire in August 2023 when it first unveiled its foundation, the “Date Night Skin Tint Serum.” The product was launched with only 15 shade options, which prompted customers and beauty enthusiasts to complain about the lack of inclusivity. At the time, the darkest shade in the range was a medium-brown tone — unsuitable for Black customers with darker skin.

In response to the criticism, Chan explained in a now-deleted TikTok video that Youthforia launched limited shades of the foundation to gauge customer interest.

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“After launching my fair share of flops, it was always my intention to launch this as a proof of concept, see if people even liked the base formula,” Chan said, promising to expand the shade range soon.

In March this year, Youthforia made good on that promise. But critics say the company’s purported push for inclusivity has had the opposite impact.

“I promise you this foundation shade is worse than any foundation shade scandal you’ve ever seen…. You are going to feel like you are being hate-crimed,” TikTok creator Wumi Afuye said, showing the jet-black foundation.

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“Black people are not black, we come in shades of brown,” she said. “This is more insulting than not carrying our shade in the first place.”

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@Youthforia are yall okay?!? @golloria I would LOVE to see you try this shade !❤️ #youthforia #makeup #blackgirlmakeup

♬ original sound – Wumi.Afuye

In a viral TikTok video, beauty influencer Golloria George swatched black face paint on one side of her face and shade 600 of the Youthforia foundation on the other side. She asked her audience if they could tell which was which.

“You can’t tell. You know why? Tar in a bottle,” she said.

“Who is that colour?” George questioned. “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 also showed the next darkest shade in the Youthforia range, shade 590, a deep brown colour, and argued there “could be like 10 more shades in between these two shades.”


the darkest shade of the youthforia date night foundation.

♬ original sound – golloria

In particular, George and other influencers, like cosmetic chemist Javon Ford, point out there are no brown undertones in the foundation shade, and it appears to only use black pigment.

Each other shade in Youthforia’s foundation range uses at least three pigments in the ingredients list posted on the company’s website. Much like in painting, using more colours and mixing pigments together helps create deeper, more natural-looking shades.

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In the ingredient list for shade 600, only one pigment is used.

“Black iron oxide. No other colourants. This foundation shade literally uses only pure black pigment,” Ford said.


Stitch @golloria #cosmeticchemist #makeupforwoc #youthforia#greenscreen

♬ original sound – Javon Ford Beauty

“This is what we get when we ask to be included in the beauty industry,” model Awuoi Matiop said. “They just slap it in our face, saying, ‘You want a darker shade? Here you go. Here’s some black paint for your face.’ This is truly a crime.”

Youthforia did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Global News and has not made a public statement on the backlash the company has received.

In a TikTok video posted in March, Youthforia’s founder talked about how she was “stressed” because the company “couldn’t find a model” for its darkest foundation shade. After reaching out to modelling agencies and open casting calls failed, Chan flew to “the other side of the world” to try casting a model on the street.

She ended up meeting two men in a cafe who agreed to model the foundation colour. In an updated version of the video posted last week, Chan included footage of herself applying the shade 600 foundation to the men’s skin with a beauty sponge.

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“She’s barely putting anything on his skin,” Afuye said while reacting to the video, calling into question if shade 600 actually matched the men’s skin tone.


Replying to @niqueywiquey We created our foundation shades for real people. All shades are currently not in store, but all 25 shades are online to shop. Videos of real people wearing our shades are avail on our site and on our TikTok.

♬ original sound – Youthforia

Black social media influencers have long been vocal about the lack of inclusive makeup options for people with darker skin. In 2018, Tarte Cosmetics received backlash online for its hugely popular Shape Tape foundation line, which offered 15 shade options, with only two shades being suitable for people with dark skin.

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