By Rhea Cartwright
et’s get one thing straight right off the bat: I have a long-standing love affair with Chanel. In my eyes, it is the ultimate beauty brand and my earliest memories of beauty are a sensory cascade of Chanel No.5, which my mother has worn for longer than she would probably care to admit.
In my early teens, when I was of an age where Harvey Nichols’ and Selfridges’ vouchers were far more appealing than a Waterstones’ book token for birthdays and Christmas, I remember being giddy with excitement when purchasing a translucent Chanel gloss with delicate flecks of iridescence.
I was 13 years old – 14 tops – but I felt like a goddess whenever I wore that gloss to skulk around indoor shopping centres at the weekend with my glorious babble of girlfriends in the early 2000s.
Over the years, I’ve loved and lost many of the now discontinued Chanel products. Be it the ethereal Pro-Lumière foundation, which was probably the best base of all time, or the Rouge Allure Laque in the perfect shade of red, Dragon, no other brand gives me more joy.
However, as I’m no stranger to addressing the elephant in the powder room, we need to question why it took Chanel a staggering 12 years to create a deeper shade of its best-selling cream bronzer. Whether you know it as Soleil de Tan or its new name, Les Beiges Healthy Bronzing Cream, there was frankly nothing universal about the single shade Bronze Universal.
As a mixed-race woman, I could get away with the original and have purchased several over the years as it became a daily staple in my make-up armoury. But when I was tanned, it didn’t stand a chance and therefore for anyone darker than me, which is a huge amount of the global population, they missed out for over a decade.
‘There are still millions of beauty-obsessed women of colour who cannot use a product that has topped just about every best of beauty list for years.’
Adored by make-up artists, aficionados and amateurs all over the world, after a reformulation last year, Chanel debuted its best-selling bronzer in a second darker shade, Soleil Tan Deep Bronze in May 2021. With the coveted product finally making itself more accessible for darker skin tones, you could almost hear the cries of jubilation.
The unavoidable truth is, the new shade of Chanel’s Les Beige Healthy Bronzing Cream simply isn’t deep enough. It either matches the majority of darker skin tones and is being used as a lightweight base, rather than a bronzer, or is fundamentally too light to be used whatsoever.
Darker-skinned people of colour do, in fact, tan and also want to use bronzer to cheat their way to a sunkissed glow despite the fact they may live in a gloomy London suburb.
Is the new shade darker? Yes. Will it work on a wider spectrum of skin tones? Absolutely. But do we think that a luxury make-up brand with perhaps the most iconic global footprint of all time can do better? Most definitely.
A two-shade product line in 2021 is frankly not good enough. If a new brand so much as even dared to enter the market with such a limiting shade range, it would be publicly chastised, but when esteemed beauty editors write about a powerhouse such as Chanel, it gets nothing more than a “we hope to see more hues in the future”.
I cannot praise or congratulate a brand for launching a second colour that still doesn’t hit the mark after years of having just one available.
I often wonder if the coveted cream bronzer would still be held with such critical acclaim by the predominantly white beauty editors and directors of the world, if Chanel had a best-selling product that was only suitable for darker skin.
In a world of ever-evolving innovation, new product development can take years but adding an extra couple of shades would be well within its grasp.
Chanel is not hand-making a kitchen cream – it has world-renowned chemists, formulators and consultants at its disposal – and yet there are still millions of beauty-obsessed women of colour who cannot use a product that has topped just about every best of beauty list for years.
All of us want to try to fall in love with Les Beiges Healthy Bronzing Cream with its delectable one-of-a-kind texture, which is almost impossible to describe. Its creamy-gel-almost clay-like consistency gives the most velvety-skin-like finish, which can be perfectly buffed into around the perimeters of the face and across the bridge of the nose.
It is the type of hero product that you will most certainly want to buy again, although the generous amount of product given means it will inevitably take close to a year before you get close to finishing it all up.
If your skin tone sits comfortably in the very narrow, just now somewhat wider, spectrum of shades that can use the bronzer, I assure you that you will not be disappointed.
But to my dearest Chanel, with your hypnotic double C logo and intoxicating gold and black packaging, I ask of you what I’d ask of any beauty behemoth that surely has clear sight and understanding of the vast array of skin tones that exist.
Please create products that are genuinely representative of the population. Isn’t it time you had some tangible, primary data on spending habits of people of colour? This new second shade has removed some barriers to entry but there are too many staunch beauty lovers that are still nowhere near within reach and they want, expect and deserve so much more.
Iconic as the brand may be, Chanel’s shade range needs diversifying to stay afloat with global markets and consumer demands for more inclusive beauty.
By Rhea Cartwright