Ethnic Skin Care: Facing the Future

November 14, 2005

African-American, Asian and Native American buying power is expected to total $1.5 trillion in 2008 in the U.S., a 231% jump from 1990.

As the ethnic population grows, the need for skin-specific products is widening—a goal that is not always easy to meet. Darker skin shades need different skin care formulas, and marketing strategies used to target these populations are extremely diverse.

“As much as we (African-American women) spend on skin care, I haven’t seen a lot of companies getting into ethnic skin care,” commented Pepper Miller of the Hunter Miller Research Group, Chicago. “The industry is flat, but there is still a lot of opportunity. General market products are usually cherry-picked and repositioned for us, for example a moisturizer with sunscreen using a black model.”

According to Packaged Facts, New York, NY, ethnic spending in the skin care category in 2001 reached $110 million, with a compound annual growth from 1997 to 2001 of 1.4%. Packaged Facts estimates ethnic skin care sales will rise to $121 million by 2006. This growth rate is much lower than the general skin care category, which rose 3.4% in 2002, according to Information Resources Inc., Chicago.

Esolis offers various lightening
products for sensitive Asian skin.
The ethnic skin care category is a challenge in that each ethnic group has particular shopping patterns and preferences. The Hunter Miller Research Group revealed in a study that African-Americans do not consider products as being for them unless they receive a special invitation to try the products, because historically, they have not been included. Hispanic consumers prefer not to be singled out.

African-American women are also brand-centric and believe that brand names indicate quality (63% compared to 59% of Caucasian women) and are more willing to pay more for well-known brands (51% compared to 47% of Caucasian women), according to Hunter Miller. Three times as many African-American women change aspects of their style on a regular basis, such as clothing or hair, compared to Caucasian women.

African-American and other ethnic consumers have been neglected by most skin care companies yet, as the statistics prove, are willing to spend money to look good. But change may be just around the corner. The University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth at Terry College of Business predicts all ethnic markets will grow faster than the Caucasian market at least until 2008.

Spending Power
According to The Selig Center’s “The Multicultural Economy 2003: America’s minority buying power” report, African-American, Asian and Native American buying power is expected to total $1.5 trillion in 2008, a 231% jump from 1990. Of that total, African-Americans will account for 61% of spending, with an annual growth rate of 6.1%. African-Americans will have more spending money due to increased employment across the nation and more black-owned businesses. Despite lower average income levels, African-Americans spend higher portions of their money on groceries, housing, women’s and girl’s clothing and personal care products and services than other minority populations.

Some experts insist that attention to minority populations is not only long overdue, but also closely linked to popular culture. “The media is being impacted by and takes a lot of cues from these cultures, which are younger on average,” insisted Andrew Erlich, Ph.D, cross-cultural psychologist and president of Erlich Trans-Cultural Consultants, North Hollywood, CA.

Jergens entered the ethnic skin care category with Ash Relief.

Banishing Ashy Skin
Andrew Jergens, Melrose Park, IL, recently introduced Jergens Ash Relief, a lightweight moisturizer designed for the skin care needs of African-Americans. This is the company’s debut in the ethnic skin care market. The company entered the ethnic hair care segment a few years ago with John Freida’s Frizz Ease Relax.

“It makes sense—this is a growing demographic, in addition to being a population that has been somewhat neglected,” explained Dr. Mary Lupo, Jergens spokesperson and a New Orleans-based dermatologist and professor of dermatology at Tulane University Medical School. “Ashiness is very curable and very reversible.”

Executives said African-Americans make up 25% of the purchasing power in the lotion category, and 80% of these consumers complain of ashy skin “sometimes,” while 50% have ashy skin “frequently” or “always.”

“Ash Relief is for the unique circumstances of black skin—when dry and dehydrated, the dead skin cells will cause light to hit the skin differently, giving a dull, ashy look. The skin loses its sheen,” insisted Dr. Lupo.

Ash Relief contains a mixture of shea and cocoa butters and beta hydroxy skin smoothers to promote exfoliation and long-lasting moisturization. Experts point out that cocoa and shea butter are ingredients that resonate well with African-American consumers.

“Shea and cocoa butter have been in the arsenal of home remedies for a long time,” insisted Dr. Lupo. “In addition to shea and cocoa butter, the silicone-derived ingredients such as dimethicone act as a skin lubricant and improve the sheen of the skin.”

If You Shea So
Black & Beautiful, a division of ET Browne Drug & Co., has launched Black & Beautiful Shea Butter spray for skin and hair. This multipurpose product saves money, executives insisted. It also provides consumers, especially African-Americans, with a naturally-derived emollient.

“There is always a high priority placed on good moisturizers with humectant properties that last on the skin,” explained Rebecca Brown, product manager, ET Brown & Drug, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

Executives said shea nuts have historical significance in Africa. Today, shea is known to help reduce skin ashiness.

“Part of the appeal of the spray oil is that is leaves the skin with a healthy glow and gleam,” Ms. Brown insisted. “This is the opposite of ashy skin, a culmination of dead skin cells which is more evident on dark skin and gives a grayish cast.”

Executives added that the product’s lavender bottle helps to communicate the glow that the product delivers.

Clear Essence Cosmetics, a division of Bluefield Associates, Ontario, CA, introduced a series of lightweight body oils to keep skin soft and moisturized: Tea Tree Moisturizing Oil plus Vitamin E; Aloe Vera Moisturizing Body Oil plus Vitamin E and Moisturizing Body Oil plus Vitamin E. The oils can also be applied to bath water.

Oil Patrol
Experts said despite the fact that most African-American body skin tends to be dry, the face and bust can be oily. Color Me Beautiful distributes the Iman Undercover Agent Oil Control lotion. The silicate-based lotion helps to control sebum, minimize pores, eliminate shine and create a matte finish on the skin without creating a masked look.

“Women of color tend to be oilier on the whole, especially as they age, whereas other women complain of dry skin,” explained Kim Scarborough, director of marketing, Color Me Beautiful brands, Chantilly, VA. “Most of the products out there that address oily skin are talc-based and make dark skin appear ashy.”

Color Me Beautiful executives have also seen a recent rise in skin care systems that use various products in a step-by-step regimen.

“People are really getting into regimens such as cleaning, toning, renewing and moisturizing,” said Ms. Scarborough. “Masks and exfoliation in particular have become more prevalent with ethnic consumers.”

The company offers three star skin care products: the Flori Roberts My Everything Papaya Enzyme cleanser with gently exfoliating and deep-pore cleansing papaya enzymes; the Interface Beneath the Surface Exfoliating scrub with dead skin cell sloughing microbeads and Interface Pore Management Pore Clarifying Sea Clay mask with algae, eucalyptus oil and sea clay to cleanse and minimize pores.

Oily skin can often instigate acne breakouts as well. Dermablend Corrective Cosmetics, a division of L’Oréal, launched Acne results last month. The salicylic acid-based product line helps to combat acne and cover up blemishes. The system uses three products: Acne Treatment cleansing gel with 2% salicylic acid, Acne Treatment foundation with 0.5% salicylic acid and Acne Treatment Spot gel with 2% salicylic acid. They are sold in six kits that range from ivory to brown.

The main cause of acne is the buildup of oils and dead skin in a pore, according to Dermablend executives. Executives said acne is also thought to be influenced by a variety of factors such as natural hormones, plugged skin, bacteria and genetics. Other potential factors include diet, stress and tight clothing.

The good news about oily facial skin is that it resists wrinkling. But the skin care segment today largely promotes anti-aging items, which are of little use to some ethnic consumers.

“There is less wrinkling in dark skin, due to the advantageous amount of melanin in the skin,” explained Jergen’s Dr. Lupo. “It filters out some of the rays that cause aging. Wrinkles, then, only appear from the movement of skin,” she added.

But the same is not necessarily true for all ethnic skin types. Asian skin is quite sensitive to the sun, while Hispanic consumers may not notice sun damage until later in life.

“Anti-aging concerns are the same for Hispanics as Anglos,” explained South Miami, FL-based dermatologist Dr. Flor Mayoral. “Once women have messed up their skin, it is going to need tender loving care with sunscreens and moisturizers.”

Hispanics Are on the Rise
The Hispanic population leads the U.S. in terms of population growth, the Selig Center reported, due to higher birth rates and strong immigration. Between 1990 and 2008 the Hispanic population is expected to increase 137%, compared to 13.7% for the non-Hispanic population. This population is relatively young and as they move up the career ladder, their spending power will increase 8.8% annually to top $1 trillion in 2008.

Dr. Erlich predicts Hispanics will account for 25% of the U.S. population by 2050.

Experts agree that the Hispanic population in the U.S. is very brand loyal. According to a recent report by New York-based consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail, second-generation Hispanics are very much in the cultural mainstream, but have cut shopping back much more than other consumers in this troubled economy. They actively search out trusted low-price and generic brands. However, recent immigrants often look for the same products they used in their homelands.

“Part of the reason is that in Latin America, you don’t see the diversity of brands that you see here,” said Patricia Morrison, project manager, Hispan Direct, Reseda, CA.

They may also have difficulty understanding English as well as feel nostalgic about products they used in their homelands.

“There are many Hispanic consumers who have not joined the whole American lifestyle yet, and they live with relatives and speak only Spanish,” Ms. Morrison said. “Only when they become more integrated will they start buying American brands, but until that point, they will buy products only in ethnic stores.”

Mild Formula 103 gently removes hair on the face.

Ms. Morrison insisted the most successful brands with Hispanic women, such as Estée Lauder and Clinique, do not offer Spanish-only products; they simply add products to their tried-and-true lines. This strategy works well due to word-of-mouth among Hispanic women.

Datamonitor USA, New York, said that although minority populations are growing, individual spending power is not. Experts said that in 2007, a Hispanic consumer will have half the purchasing power of a Caucasian consumer. To capture an ethnic audience, Datamonitor insists marketers should focus on group aggregate buying power and relative individual buying power.

Some experts believe the way to gain brand loyalty in Hispanic women is to start in Latin countries. In fact, Luis Garcia, president of San Antonio, TX-based communications agency Garcia 360°, noted that the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the reduction of trade barriers and tariffs between the U.S. and Mexico will make American goods easier to access. Many Mexicans travel over the borders to do back-to-school shopping in California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico. Most of these travelers are between the ages of 18 and 39.

Spanish for Beginners
Dr. Erlich said Hispanic women are looking for feminine products. “In this population, femininity is very important and lines are more clearly drawn in terms of role behavior,” Dr. Erlich commented.

He insisted that the recent failure of Hispanic-geared personal care lines, such as Belleza Latina and Ella Cosmetics, were largely based on poor advertising.

“Only 2% of advertising dollars are spent toward the Hispanic market,” said Dr. Erlich. “Other reasons for product failure could have included the quality of the products, the production, channels of distribution and the marketing communications behind them. A long-term commitment would ensure success, instead of leaving the advertising as an afterthought.”

Family values are also very strong in the Hispanic population. Direct-selling company BeautiControl started an initiative a year ago to expand into Latin America. The company said the market potential is huge, especially since the Latino culture stresses family life, and working from home satisfies that need.

Feeling Blotchy
Many experts agree Hispanic skin care concerns include poorly matched skin tones in makeup and discoloration. The latter is also true for African-Americans, which is often instigated by skin inflammation.

“True discoloration actually physically increases or decreases the amount of pigment in the skin, due to inflammatory incidents, such as pimples, burns and bug bites,” explained Dr. Lupo of Jergens.

Darker skin also naturally occurs on the underarms, elbows and knees.

Light spots too are a problem for Hispanic consumers. South Miami, FL-based dermatologist Dr. Flor Mayoral said, “A lot of people have very mild pigment changes. Consumers could address these problems themselves and not spend a lot of money on doctors.” Dr. Mayoral is working on launching a cleanser and a daytime and nighttime bleaching cream. She suggested people with Hispanic backgrounds should avoid harsh, high concentrations of benzoyl peroxide, glycolic acid and hydroquinone.

Raquel of Beverly Hills, a Beverly Hills, CA-based division of Xynergy Corp., offers a wide range of cosmetics for olive or sallow skin, as well as fragrance and skin care items. The company recently introduced Feminomena, a nutritional product line consisting of nutritional supplements, weight-loss and body sculpting products.

Xynergy chief executive officer Raquel Zepeda said taking care of skin is something that is ingrained early in life in the Hispanic culture.

“Right from the day we (Hispanic women) are born, we are taught to take care of our skin,” explained Ms. Zepeda. “We are raised to be that way. That’s why I have a regimen for each skin type.” Most of Ms. Zepeda’s products contain glycolic acid to help even out skin tone.

Asian Influences
The Asian-American skin care market presents a golden opportunity to companies. In 1997, Simmons/MRI reported 22% of Asian-Americans spent $100 or more on skin care products, compared to 11% of Americans. The figures may be even higher today.

By 2008, the Selig Center reported more than 4% of the U.S. population will be able to claim Asian ancestry. Dr. Erlich estimates this number will grow to 10% by 2050. Because Asians are, on average, better educated than the general population, their spending power will more than quadruple from $118 billion in 1990 to $526 billion in 2008, according to data from the Selig Center.

“Asian-Americans are better educated and have luxurious tastes and gravitate to more expensive products,” added Julie Byun, account supervisor, AdAsia Communications, New York, NY. “They are also very trendy. Word of mouth is very important in this community.”

Ms. Byun noted that trends that start in Asia quickly make their way to the U.S. She cited an increased emphasis on beauty from the inside-out using antioxidants such as tomato and green tea extracts, and a new focus on celebrating individuality in Asia.

Karen Robinson of Insight Works, New York, said Asia-Americans have the softest and most transparent skin type. This makes blemishes and sun damage extremely apparent, often resulting in brown spots. Ms. Robinson noted Asian women value porcelain-like skin and look for products with natural lightening ingredients such as songyi mushroom extract, beta-glucan, goat milk, kinetin and beta-sitosterol. Asian-Americans also look for hypoallergenic and dermatologist-tested products for sensitive skin.

Executives at Zhen Cosmetics, Minneapolis, MN, said its entire skin care range was developed for sensitive skin. The company recently added a Tea Tree skin care collection. The Zhen color collection is also designed to work with yellow undertones. Recent introductions include Element Mineral foundation with SPF 8 (no oil, talc or fragrance) and powder blush; Yin Yang face powders, Glow cream sticks, Split lipsticks and eyeshadows, and Sister Lip Glaze brush pen.

Executives at Esolis, a Chicago-based division of Alticor’s Pyxis, said Asian-Americans have four general skin care problems: high sensitivity to certain ingredients such as preservatives, fragrance and alcohol; hyperpigmentation; large, acne-prone pores and skin that needs products with light viscosities and fast adsorption. Esolis, which only recently debuted in the U.S., offers brightening, specialty, anti-aging, spa and daily skin care products, said company president Tari Reinik.

DHC USA, San Francisco, also known as the No. 1 mail-order skin care company in Japan, recently introduced the new Olive Leaf series, a collection of Olive Leaf soap, lotion, milk and cream using the free radical fighting antioxidant properties of olive leaf. Executives said the Alpha Arbutin skin care set, made from stable and effective lab-synthesized alpha arbutin, is popular.

Where to Go?
Ms. Byun of AdAsia noted many Asian-Americans rely on catalogs and websites because there are few stores that sell actually Asian skin care products in the U.S.

The Selig Center suggested that because the term “Asian-American” includes so many ancestries, targeting specific subgroups with niche markets could be very rewarding, such as Chinese- and Filipino-geared products. California in particular accounts for more than a third of the Asian consumer market today. Texas and New Jersey are also expected to have a booming Asian population in a few years.

“If you isolate those populations, which tend to be bi-coastal, you can really narrow down your focus and target these populations,” insisted Dr. Erlich of Erlich Trans-Cultural Consultants.

Just last month, Esolis launched brochures in Chinese and Vietnamese. The company hopes to add more language capabilities as it grows.

“The Asian-American community is growing and these are great consumers who are very well educated and computer savvy,” insisted Esolis’ Ms. Reinik.

DHC offers Asian whitening products with trusted alpha-arbutin.

Cosmetic Wonders
Besides skin care, color cosmetics is an area of potential growth in the ethnic market. Color Me Beautiful distributes an extensive color collection under the Iman line. Executives insist the best-selling product is Second to None cream-to-powder foundation. It overcomes many of the obstacles faced by both formulators and consumers.

“From a shade standpoint, it is very difficult for companies to offer shades for ethnic skin,” Ms. Scarborough said. “The higher levels of pigments cause a lot of processing problems. Our pigment-friendly shades have always been designed, produced and made by women of color. So they know what women need.”

Second to None is offered in 18 shades classified in three categories: sand, clay and earth. The foundations do not contain titanium dioxide, as it can make dark skin appear gray, according to the company.

“Eighty-five percent of Caucasian women fall into four or five categories of skin shades,” said Ms. Scarborough. “There are so many hues and tones in ethnic skin that nobody could fit women of color into just four or five boxes.”

The Hunter Miller Research Group said African-American women are highly attuned to fashion and believe it’s important to look their best at all times and to have their own individual style. Thus, 35% of African-American women are always looking for new products and services that help them develop their own individual style, compared to 14% of Caucasian women.

For all shades of skin, BeautiControl has launched the Duets 2003 fall limited collection of Lip crèmes and Lip glaces. The Lip glace can be worn alone as a lip gloss or together with the Lip crème for a bold color. The Lip crème alone gives the lips subtle color with a creamy formula. Collection shades include Dare, Bon Bon, Moulin Rouge, Mademoiselle, L’amour, Chocolat and Rendezvous.

For Asian skin, DHC USA launched Cheek color in August. Following in the company’s heritage of olive oil-based products, the Cheek colors consist of micro-refined powders and olive oil. The four shades available, Pink, Dark Red, Beige and Orange, glide softly on the skin due to an olive oil base. Orange gives warmth to olive tones, while the Dark Red enhances darker skin, according to executives.

Ethnic cosmetic products must overcome many in-store obstacles too. Even with the popularity of sampling, shade ranges in stores are limited and finding the right shade is difficult.

“Women of color are definitely going out there and playing with products, but what has not changed is that women need to be validated where foundation is concerned,” insisted Color Me Beautiful’s Ms. Scarborough. “It is very personal, very specific to undertones and hue.”

The Ravages of Razors
Shaving irritation is a concern for all consumers. However, because some ethnic hair is coarse, this irritation can be compounded with ingrown hairs. Ms. Miller of the Hunter Miller Research Group said women’s ingrown hairs in the bikini area are extremely difficult to overcome.

For men, Halsik Ltd., Wilmette, IL, offers four versions of Formula 103, a depilatory cream that helps remove coarse and sensitive facial hair. Executives said African-American men often suffer from ingrown hairs when shaving. In August, a Mild version was introduced. All formulas contain Herbazine, a proprietary herbal blend of skin softening agents such as chamomile, matricaria, calendula, linden and hypericum.

The products dissolve hair without damaging the roots and use calcium hydroxide, calcium thioglycolate and lithium hydroxide to eliminate razor bumps or pseudofolliculitis. In December, Halsik will launch Formula 103 Sports/Smooth for men who want to achieve the bald look.

Piecemeal Products
Though there are ethnic skin care products in the marketplace, they only seem to appear piecemeal. With the forecasted explosion of many of the ethnic populations, marketers have a bounty of opportunity ahead. But why wait for the explosion? It’s much easier to win brand loyalty in a less crowded field. But first, marketers must get into the minds of consumers to find out what they really want and provide the technology to achieve results. In the end, industry experts insist all that work will be well worth it.