Celebrating Diversity

November 11, 2005

Ethnic skin care is by no means a cookie-cutter market.

Ethnic skin care is no longer a one-size-fits-all term.

According to industry experts contacted by Happi, the industry is catching up to what women have known for a long time-that individuality should be celebrated, not curtailed.

"Ethnic" personal care is a broad term. Given the potential range of this market, it's difficult to determine how many personal care products were actually sold to ethnic consumers during the past year.

According to Information Resources Inc., Chicago, ethnic skin and shaving product sales were on the decline last year. Skin care for the category totaled $26.4 million in food, drug and mass merchandisers (excluding Wal-Mart) for the 52 weeks ended July 21; with ethnic shaving products included, that number reached $34.5 million. This represents a 2.3% decrease in sales as compared to the previous 12-month period.

The economy may be partly to blame, but according to industry experts, there are other factors to consider. For example, consumers do not exclusively purchase personal care products labeled as "ethnic." Most major retailers deliver broad lines that serve a number of demographic segments.

Another reason may be that, far from being a cookie-cutter category, ethnic personal care represents a large group of shoppers in the U.S. and consists of a number of different backgrounds. For example, the Asian market has recently come to the forefront, and Latino music, culture, makeup and style are being embraced by the public in general. This blending of cultures is, of course, a positive step, but from a marketer's perspective, it can sometimes decrease the need for niche or categorized products.

Of course, not all companies experienced a decline last year. For example, Black & Beautiful, makers of Palmer's Skin Success and other brands, were encouraged by last year's sales data, said Rebecca Brown, senior product manager, Black & Beautiful. "Last year, many categories in the personal care industry were flat," Ms. Brown said, "but our company did very well. Based on our data, we're going up, not down."

No matter what her skin type or tone, today's consumer has a lot to choose from. From cleansers to moisturizers to color cosmetics, women can choose from a variety of brands to get the effects they want.

Tell Me What You Want
Getting a handle on the needs of such a diverse group can be tough. Variations are numerous, but marketers insist that certain complaints come up over and over again, and they're working to address them.

For example, the darker the skin tone, the more imperfections, blemishes and scars tend to show up, according to skin care experts. Any complexion will suffer injury from squeezing blemishes, over-exfoliating or harsh scrubbing, but the resultant marks tend to be more visible when there is more pigment in the skin.

Vera Moore, president and chief executive officer, Vera Moore Cosmetics, Woodbury, NY, advocates a good cleansing program as the basis of any skin care routine. "Major conglomerates have essentially told women in the past to use a lot of foundation-to cover up imperfections," she said. "What we believe is that if a woman has $10, she should skip the foundation or powder and get a good cleanser instead."

Vera Moore Cosmetics offers a full range of skin care and color cosmetic products that help women "clean up, not cover up."

This motto of "Clean it up-don't cover it up," has influenced Ms. Moore's skin care creations. Ms. Moore advocates the use of skin-caring, properly applied cosmetics (in fact, a full cosmetic range is among the company's offerings), but for the essentials, she said, nothing beats a good cleansing regimen.

Since African-American facial skin can sometimes be oily, it can be prone to breakouts, too. However, there is a better way to deal with blemishes than pinching them, Ms. Moore pointed out.

Sonya Dakar offers Lightening mask, and will introduce Lightening gel next year.

"We offer Desincrustation lotion to dissolve oil, grease and dirt and aid in the removal of blackheads," she said. "The lotion helps draw blackheads and whiteheads to the surface of the skin, so they can be gently removed, not pinched."

Desincrustation lotion can also help to prevent such skin imperfections from occurring, but a good cleansing routine is essential as the starting-off point, according to Ms. Moore.

"Sometimes, we women tend to abuse our skin," she observed. "We use products that don't contain adequate SPF; we scrub too hard; we exfoliate the skin in a very abrasive way. The skin can get very tight and parched under that kind of negative treatment."

Yet, many African-American women complain of oily skin. So what's the compromise? "People ask me all the time whether oily skin needs to be moisturized," Ms. Moore revealed. "My answer is, yes! All skin must be moisturized after cleansing, and an oil-free moisturizer should be used."

The company offers a range of facial cleansers for combination/oily or dry/sensitive/mature skin. Included in these lines are cleansers, toners, masques and special treatment products, as well as, of course, oil-free moisturizer.

The company is also in the process of introducing a Honey scrub, Ms. Moore said. The scrub will be available in seven scents, such as citrus and lavender fragrances, and will include a lotion, salts, an oil, a scrub, a face and body mist and a bar soap.

"The skin can be oily in some places and dry in others," she said. "Often, women will complain of oily skin on the face but dry and ashy skin on the elbows and knees, or of combination facial skin. No matter what a woman's skin type, she needs to cleanse effectively but gently. Afterward, she can add the high-quality, skin-caring makeup and any special treatments her skin needs."

All-Over Clean
Industry experts agree that the skin of the entire body should receive as much attention as that of the face.

Get Fresh Spa, Santa Monica, CA, caters to the entire body with the company's new Salt Scrub Soufflé, a dead sea mineral body scrub with rosemary and eucalyptus.

Get Fresh Spa also introduced Soy Body facial, a "mask and body wash in one," according to company executives. The dual-action body mask can be applied 10 minutes prior to the bath or shower. As the cream dries, it draws out impurities and unclogs pores, then lathers and rinses away for all-over body cleansing.

Other Get Fresh Spa offerings include Hydrating Body facial and the Try Me spa kit, which includes Soy Body facial, Salt Scrub Soufflé, Soy and Algae Body oil, Soy and Oatmeal Bath soak and Soy and Shea Butter hand crème. Used together, the in-home spa treatments work to exfoliate and detoxify as well as moisturize, according to Get Fresh company executives.

Evening Things Out

Another common concern in the ethnic skin care market is uneven skin tone or dark spots. Historically, these have been treated with hydroquinone, a name that has become suspect in the beauty industry. That reputation isn't entirely accurate, according to some skin care marketers.

"Hydroquinone is still one of the most effective skin lighteners available, though it does have somewhat of a bad reputation right now," said Ms. Brown of Black & Beautiful Inc. "Unfortunately, some companies misused hydroquinone in the past; they added it in concentrations that were too high."

Now that hydroquinone has come under scrutiny, the dangers are no longer there, she said. "In the current U.S. market, you don't see dangerous concentrations. Marketers are able use this ingredient much more safely than ever before."

Becca offers a full range of foundations in stick and SPF-containing forms. The company also offers powders and color cosmetics.

However, consumers are curious about alternative lightening options, Ms. Brown said. At the same time, natural ingredients are in high demand. As a result, Palmer's Skin Success has developed hydroquinone-free products.

Palmer's Even Tone Daily skin brightener and Even Tone brightening facial masque are companion products designed to help women even out skin tone, perk up dull complexions and fight discoloration for a brighter, younger skin tone, Ms. Brown said.

The company also offers Fade cream. The cream contains optical light diffusers to "give an instantly brighter look to the complexion," according to company executives.

Fade cream contains vitamins C and E and licorice extract, purported to lighten skin naturally and gradually. It also contains SPF 15 for daily protection from the sun.

I-Iman, the makeup line that is created to be as versatile as its supermodel and celebrity personality namesake, offers I-Girl Treatment, a fast-absorbing gel infused with vitamins A, C and E for a clearer, more even-toned complexion, company executives said.

Sonya Dakar Skin Clinic, North Hollywood, CA, offers pigment-lightening products as well. The company's Complexion Corrector contains mulberry, which helps lighten discolorations naturally, according to Ms. Dakar. "Mulberry doesn't harm the skin, and it evens and brightens the skin naturally," she said.

Also included in the product's formulation is licorice extract. "The product helps remove 'ashiness' and restores a bright, firm appearance," Ms. Dakar said.

A Lightening skin mask is also available, and Lightening gel will be introduced early next year. "Lightening gel contains kojic acid, licorice and mulberry extracts," she said. The product also incorporates ginkgo biloba extract, which is said to stimulate skin cells and deliver oxygen to the skin.

Ms. Dakar agrees with the current consensus on ethnic skin care: "Women don't want to cover up the natural glow of their skin," she said. "A light foundation is important, but women want to see real healing and changes to the skin beneath that makeup. They want to make the most of the natural beauty in their own skin."

Care and Repair
Once the skin has been properly cleansed, evened and brightened, special treatments are usually next on a woman's skin care list. Luckily for today's consumer, more ethnic skin treatment choices, foundations and color cosmetics are available than ever before.

I-Iman's Undercover Agent is a silicate-based formula that can be used either beneath or over makeup without streaking or discoloring, according to Kim Scarborough, director of marketing, Color Me Beautiful Brands, Chantilly, VA. "Undercover Agent works like a powder, but it's in the form of a liquid," Ms. Scarborough said. "It helps control oil and minimize pores."

Flori Roberts, also a Color Me Beautiful brand, introduced Shine Control blotting tissues. "These tissues are for women who need a quick fix on the go," Ms. Scarborough said. "They're very effective and convenient." The tissues are made of a rice-paper-type substrate and retail for about $10 for 75 tissues, making them economical as well, Ms. Scarborough said.

Omega 3 Repair complex is new from Sonya Dakar. It contains vitamins and omega 3, 6, 9 and 12 fatty acids. The company also introduced Retinol Renewal. "Retin-A can be very irritating to the skin," Ms. Dakar said. "We use a unique retinol formulation that works very well, yet is extremely gentle. It makes a tremendous change in the look and feel of the skin, without negative side effects."

Actress Debbie Allen introduced her own skin care line this summer. The line, Debbie Allen's 5-Step Skin Care collection, includes a skin cleanser, an eye makeup remover, a gel toner, a moisturizer and a clay mask for three different skin types and regimens, a spokesperson said.
The three skin types addressed by the Ms. Allen's Skin Care collection include dry, acne-prone/oily and normal skin. The line debuted in select Wal-Mart stores across the country.

"In my travels, I realize there are so many women who have no clue about how to take care of their skin needs," said Ms. Allen in a statement. "I'm excited about the education we can help provide women about skin care."

Vera Moore is interested in educating women as well. "Companies need to have more of an awareness of what consumers require, and consumers need to know how to gently and effectively take care of their skin," she said.

The company's website, www.veramoore. com, will soon include skin care education and tips, Ms. Moore added.

"Women need to understand how to treat the skin gently and effectively," she said. "We're contending with the ozone layer, the environment and the natural aging process. If a woman cleanses properly, tones, moisturizes and exfoliates gently, she can have healthier skin for a long time to come."

Cocoa Butter's Competition
Among the many new trends, cocoa butter remains a staple in ethnic skin care, as well as across the board. Cocoa butter has long been touted for its moisturizing, protective and anti-stretch mark qualities.

In recent years, shea butter, an age-old beauty care ingredient, has been coupled with modern technology to create a host of new products.

According to marketers, shea butter imparts similar benefits as cocoa butter, and its easy absorption into the skin makes it applicable for both face and body.

Palmer's Skin Success has introduced the Shea Butter Formula line. Shea butter absorbs easily into the skin, has good emolliency and helps calm irritated skin, according to Ms. Brown of Black & Beautiful Inc.

"Shea butter has been used since written history to heal a variety of skin ailments," Ms. Brown pointed out.

She added that the ingredient can help moisturize areas of the body that tend to look ashy due to dryness. "When skin is dry and there are dead skin cells on the surface, the skin not only feels dry, but looks it," she said. "Any skin will react this way, but generally, the dryness shows up more on darker-toned skin."

The shea nut has been used for centuries, according to Ms. Brown. "The shea tree is also called the 'tree of life,'" she said. "The reason for this is that the butter has historically been used for a number of complaints. In today's formulations, it makes for a lasting, lightweight, non-watery product that is extremely beneficial to the skin."

The Shea Butter Formula line includes the Original jar, an intensive moisturizer and Shea Butter swivel stick, "the first-ever shea butter stick," according to company executives.

The stick is portable, convenient and moisturizes and nourishes dry, chapped or irritated skin. The product can also be used to hydrate and soften lips.

"Utilizing shea butter as a multi-purpose ingredient is a definite trend," Ms. Brown said. "More and more companies are researching the benefits of this ingredient. It's a more natural but extremely effective way to address common skin concerns. Shea butter products are going to be around for a long, long time."

Skin Brightener is a discoloration-correcting product from Astarté Cosmetics Inc.
A Polished Palette
Once a woman's basic skin care concerns have been addressed, she should choose foundations and cosmetics that enhance her individuality rather than covering it up, marketers say.

Astarté Cosmetics Inc. markets cosmetics for every skin tone and type. In order to accommodate different skin types, "all of our cosmetics are oil-free and allergy-free," said J. Terry Lesher M.D., chief operating officer, Astarté. "We also incorporate oil and moisture blotters in order to make the products last longer."

With its selection of foundations, the company is able to custom-blend the perfect color, Dr. Lesher said. "We recognize that ethnic lines might be geared toward darker skin," he said, "but there are so many variations. Our product really covers the full range of skin tones."

This includes Asian, African-American, Latin, Caucasian and any other category, Dr. Lesher said, as well as combination skin.

"Many women are concerned about unevenness," he said. "Matching skin tones with foundation can be a challenge. That's something we really pride ourselves in. We cater to every woman."

The company has been operational since 1982, and has spread from the New York City metropolitan area to various locations across the east coast. "We've decided to become national now," Dr. Lesher said. "Eventually, we will be both a national and global player."

As an upscale line, primary areas of focus for the company will be department stores and sales boutiques, he added.

Astarté offers powders, foundations, concealers, color cosmetics and tools. Recently the company introduced Skin Brightener "in answer to the many requests for a safe lightening agent," according to company executives. The product contains botanical extracts and vitamin C and is dispensed in an airless pump container to keep it free of contaminants.

Becca Cosmetics, headquartered in Perth, Australia but available internationally, also offers foundations that are good for the skin while matching tones with precision. Becca Luminous Skin Colour Sheer Makeup SPF 20 comes in 11 colors suitable for all skin types, according to company executives. Options include Toast, Olive, Tan, Nut, Tobacco and Sepia, among others.

Becca executives said Luminous Skin Colour is a multi-purpose base that protects against UV rays and pollution, contains antioxidant vitamins A, B, D and E, is non-greasy and helps soothe inflamed skin while repairing the skin.

Also available from the company are Fine Loose Finishing powders in 10 matte colors, as well as a full line of color cosmetics.

The company also introduced Skin Perfecting and stick foundations that are designed to deliver a flawless complexion, executives said.

Era Face Spray-on foundation is a new product that delivers customized coverage, according to professionals at Era, Malibu, CA.

Era foundation is lightweight, and each molecule of the formulation is "wrapped" inside a bubble of water containing light-diffusing pigments to enhance the skin's own natural glow.

Era Face is long-lasting and can be used on the body as well as the face, helping to conceal freckles, moles, birthmarks, scars, veins and other skin discolorations and imperfections.

Professional makeup artist Yolanda Halston created Era Face and caters to such clients as Whoopi Goldberg, Bridget Fonda, Kelly Hu, Denzel Washington and Barbara Carrera, to name just a few.

Black Radiance, a Color Me Beautiful line, offers a bold palette for fall.

Black Radiance Face Frost gel is a vibrant highlight for the face. Fast Frost is oil-free and includes Copper Kiss and Sunset Plum. Shimmer Pump will also be unveiled for fall; available in Eclaire and Artsy, it can be applied anywhere on the face to add sparkling gold or red tones.

Black Radiance's fall colors include Satin & Shine lip color and gloss in such bold names as Blazen Vixen, Midnight Red and Fine Bordeaux. Nail colors include Fire Red, Red Hot, Red Satin and Red Sensation.

To pull things all together, executives at Vera Moore Cosmetics recommend a loose powder. "Powder helps 'set' a finished makeup look," Ms. Moore said.

Unfortunately, "loose powders can be messy," said Ms. Moore. So the company created a brush and powder in one.

"The powder brush is like a pen," Ms. Moore said. "It's hollow, and the powder goes inside. The consumer pumps the brush, and the powder comes through the brush hairs."
This makes the product portable without being messy. The convenience factor represents a breakthrough in powders, said Ms. Moore.

"You can take the product with you and not worry about it spilling in your purse," she pointed out. "It's a great product for today's woman, who is looking for both beauty and convenience."

The ethnic skin care market is being explored more than ever before, but much remains to be tapped, industry experts insist.

One of the basic tenets that marketers must keep in mind is that in today's world, there is no longer such a thing as "the norm."

"As the country's population becomes more diverse, marketers are being challenged to reevaluate the way they approach ethnic and mainstream audiences," said Angela Johnson, editor, in Marketing to the Emerging Majorities, a newsletter. She added that rather than singling out consumers by race or ethnicity, marketers need to understand that "'mainstream' marketing no longer necessarily means using a message that was originally created for a predominantly (Caucasian) audience."

This philosophy is shared by several cosmetic and personal care companies. For example, AM Cosmetics, marketer of Wet 'N Wild, Black Radiance and Sweet Georgia Brown cosmetics, touts its products as "cosmetics designed to give all women attainable beauty."

And Color Me Beautiful, originally an outgrowth of Carole Jackson's Color Me Beautiful seasonal color theory, now includes Iman, Flori Roberts and Adrien Arpel in addition to its namesake line.

A Good Fit
Where does ethnic skin care fit into all of these changes, mergers and an ever-broadening outlook on the needs of consumers across the U.S.?

According to most skin care and cosmetics marketers, the basic needs of women the world over remain the same. Currently, education is the primary goal, no matter what the type or shade of the consumer's skin.

"With a proper skin care regimen, women can go through each life phase beautifully," said Vera Moore. "But since no two women have an identical skin type, a woman has to pay attention to her own skins needs and reactions. She needs to educate herself and use common sense." For instance, "If the consumer is instructed to use a mask or peel twice a week, but it's irritating to her, she should try it once a week instead. She needs to adapt the good advice of skin care professionals to her skin's own requirements."

Ms. Dakar of Sonya Dakar agreed. "I always tell my clients, 'you have to do your homework,'" she said. "When it comes to skin care, a woman has to be consistent and diligent. She has to take it seriously."

And with numerous growth opportunities still available, marketers are taking the ethnic skin care category seriously, too.