Wednesday, October 24, 2007
The Style Page interviews Lubna Khalid of Real Cosmetics
The Style Page recently spoke with Lubna Khalid, founder and CEO of Real Cosmetics. The Real Cosmetics product line currently consists of foundations, pressed powders, and lipsticks designed to flatter all women.
Real Cosmetics foundation and pressed powder shades are grouped into four “families”: Olive, Golden, Red-Gold, and Red-Brown. These shades were developed and tested by trial and error on women of all skin tones in the Berkeley, CA area, where Lubna studied at the University of California. She said that this approach was opposite of how many cosmetics companies develop makeup shades, by first taking an existing shade and deepening it.
Pressed powder compacts from Real Cosmetics
When Lubna founded Real Cosmetics in 1999, she started with the concept of real beauty for real women – years before Dove instituted the concept for its marketing campaign. One challenge in starting a new cosmetics line was finding investors: not many investors wanted to invest in tangible products during the dot.com boom. Another challenge was finding retailers, but Lubna succeeded in getting Sephora and select Nordstrom stores to sell Real Cosmetics.
Lubna says that her lifetime goal is to “revolutionize the way that society views beauty and to connect and empower women globally.” She seeks societal acceptance of women of all skin tones and body types. Women should be viewed holistically, with beauty coming from within.
I asked Lubna why she thought that many people in Latin America, the Middle East, and South Asia have a prejudice for fair complexions. As a graduate of UC-Berkeley with a degree in marketing and ethnic studies, Lubna had researched that topic and had definite views. She noted that beauty was a construction of media. In many countries, the prejudice for fair complexions was part of the colonial legacy. It is also a class issue, as dark skin is associated with laborers who are exposed to the sun. For slaves, “passing for white” was a ticket to freedom, which is also why practices such as “relaxing” hair evolved. In short, the prejudice for fair complexions is tied to the historical, social, and political context.
At the same, many women with light skin tones want to be tanned. This can also be tied to social context, as it conveys the idea that they have the leisure to go on vacation to sunny places. Here is another example how women want to change their natural skin tone.
My conversation with Lubna segued into a discussion on skin-lightening cream, which is a best-selling cosmetic in many parts of the world. An ad for Fair & Lovely, the best-selling skin lightening cream in Pakistan and India, promised “a fairer skin in days, and more than that, a perfect life: a sure-shot at a husband, a super job and instant acceptance” – for more, see the article The White Complex from Little India. Lubna said that she doesn’t believe in skin lightening creams, as it conveys the idea a woman’s natural skin tone is not beautiful. More specifically, she objects to fear-based marketing, such as that employed by Fair & Lovely. She conceded that skin lightening creams do serve a purpose for making the complexion more even: in that case, the creams should be marketed to treat hyperpigmentation.
Lubna is excited about a projected relaunch of the Real brand. She has a new partner with over 30 years of experience in the cosmetics industry who complements her vision. The relaunch will feature not only an expanded makeup and color range, but also fragrance and skin and body care, for a total of 300 products. Currently, Lubna is seeking capitol to roll out franchise stores featuring the expanded line, using the same retail concept as The Body Shop (the late Anita Roddick is a major inspiration).
Real Cosmetics lipsticks come in sheer, semi-matte, and frost formulas
In the meantime, you may buy Real Cosmetics makeup, pressed powder, and lipstick through the Real Cosmetics web site at www.realcosmetics.com. Lubna is extending a 20% discount to readers of The Style Page good through October 31. To take advantage of this offer, mention "The Style Page" in the notes section of the shopping cart.