Chew On This: What’s with All the Food-Inspired Labels in the Complexion Segment?

Bottling fantastic formulations is half the battle. Once you’ve given it a name, it can take on a life of its own.

Some of my earliest beauty memories include a cotton candy-flavoured lip balm from Lip Smacker. I recall brandishing the tube to friends at school as a 10-year-old while they wielded their own, flavoured with Coca-Cola, vanilla, and watermelon. By college, I graduated from Lip Smackers to the ubiquitous Too Faced Chocolate Bar eyeshadow palette—and I can still remember what it smelled like.

Fast forward to today and it’s near impossible to evade micro-trends like #LatteMakeup, #VanillaGirlMakeup, and #TomatoGirl, all of which have millions of views on TikTok. Notice what they have in common? Food. It’s cute, harmless fun at best, and another way of peddling products to the masses at worst, which is not the most sinister thing to happen in the world.

Sour Punch

However, there are food labels that leave a bad taste in the mouth. There are multiple ways to address colours across the spectrum. Some brands rely on the numbering system to guide shoppers, while others make use of their creative license and baptise hues with specific names—both of which come with pros and cons.

Over the past few years, we have witnessed multiple accounts of people of colour calling out the format in which their shades are named. But it’s not about labels inspired by nature, such as onyx or mahogany. What is causing their ire are the gastronomically-inspired names.

Take Too Faced’s Born This Way Foundation shade extension, for instance. The brand tapped Nigerian-American influencer Jackie Aina to ensure that they do it justice. One would think that due diligence was done, but on its launch day, the brand received backlash for the names. Once you take a closer look at the issue, you’ll understand where people were–and still are–coming from. One end of the colour spectrum alludes to cherished treasures (like Ivory, Pearl, and Porcelain) while the other is evidently selected from the realm of consumables (Truffle, Spiced Rum, and Brûlée). But they are not the only ones who are guilty of this, so why are they coming under fire?

On the same side of the scale, we have Huda Beauty. Founded by Iraqi-American Huda Kattan, the brand’s #FauxFilter Foundation was launched at the peak of full-coverage Instagram makeup and met instant success. Colours in the range are named after food, even post-reformulation. One point of difference you could make is that she labelled all the shades, from the palest to the richest, after desserts. Despite the internet’s contention, no one can claim that she was discriminating against one over the other—and that could be her only saving grace.

After Fenty Beauty revolutionised the complexion segment, there’s no denying this: finding a moniker for upwards of 60 shades is a tall order for even the best marketer. Could there possibly be a magic formula to this?

Sweet, Sweet Release

If there’s one thing we know about the internet, it is that you can’t please everyone. But what you can certainly do is your best. One prime example is Selena Gomez’s Rare Beauty. Although her complexion range is referenced through numbers and undertones, the rest of her line radiates positivity.

Facing her mental health struggles, the Disney alumni fully understands that words matter. The iconic Soft Pinch Liquid Blush is peppered with empowering names such as Worth, Grace, and Grateful; the Kind Words Matte Lipstick with Strong, Talented, and Wise.

It goes just beyond the names she bestows upon her products; Rare Beauty’s Instagram feed is actively flowing with conversations about mental health. And she’s truly putting her money where her mouth is. The singer-actress is also hoping to raise US$100 million to support communities by helping them access mental health services. As of writing, the Rare Impact Fund has already donated US$3 million to the cause.

Mind Over Matter

For the longest time, the act of naming something has been done with meticulous care. Debates have been had over what to call not only children and pets but also vehicles and musical instruments. To this day, you will still find inquisitive minds waist-deep in the search of what places are named after.

For many cosmetic users, skincare and makeup applications mark one of the final steps before walking out the door to brave the world. Wherever possible, it’s nice to have inspiring reminders of what we could all offer to each other and ourselves. With infinite ways to brand anything, why not give it a sentimental twist?