Universal Request, Unique Requirements

October 5, 2009

Women of color seek efficacious products that address their key concerns and bring out beautiful, even-toned skin.

Universal Requests,
Unique Requirements

Women of color seek efficacious products that address their key concerns and bring out beautiful, even-toned skin.

Christine Esposito
Associate Editor

Every woman wants to look and feel beautiful—and the starting point is usually even-toned, properly moisturized skin.For many women, maintaining a flawless complexion is usually a simple ritual; for many women of color, that process is a more complicated and trying endeavor.

“The most pressing issue is finding a proper skin regimen—one that doesn’t exacerbate the de facto characteristics of their skin,” said Corey Huggins, brand manager for BioCosmetic Research Lab’s Black Opal line.

What Mr. Huggins is referring to is the cycle in which women of color combat oil with products that dry out their skin, only to add lotions that can clog pores and cause acne, which can lead to scarring and hyper pigmentation.

Call It Even

An even complexion is a top request made to dermatologists and is the most-sought after property of any skin care brand—regardless of a consumer’s skin color.

“Traditionally, ethnic consumers have been more susceptible to these dark spots and marks but the desire for clear, even skin on the face as well as the body is universal,” noted Jennifer Leonard, senior product manager for E.T. Browne, maker of the Palmer’s line of skin care products.

Palmer’s has added a new moisturizing gel with SPF 15.
Skin experts who have been addressing the unique needs of ethnic skin continue to hear similar requests from their patients.

“We found that the most common issue for skin of color when a person goes to the dermatologist or a salon is the treatment of discoloration,” said Dr. Cheryl Burgess, a dermatologist who help create the Black Opal brand in the 1980s and who has been on the front line of ethnic skin care needs for decades.

Discoloration issues center around melanin, which makes dark skin more vulnerable to dark marks and scars that result from acne, oral contraceptives and pregnancy, noted Theresa Chen, an R&D associate at Johnson & Johnson, a company that invests considerably in skin care R&D, including the study of ethnic skin.

For example, at the Winter 2009 American Academy of Dermatology, Johnson & Johnson presented news about two recent studies related to ethnic skin. One—which was conducted by J&J Consumer Com-panies at the University of Miami and Massachusetts General Hospital— focused on the biochemical differences of skin in various ethnic groups. In the study, scientists and doctors sought to measure the extent of inflammation in dark complexioned individuals versus light complexioned individuals using non-invasive tape-strip sampling. The study showed that skin of dark complexioned subjects had a greater inflammation level in the skin.

“This finding is important in light of the well-known fact that skin of color is more prone to hyperpigmentation and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Agents that can reduce inflammation and free radicals should help minimize this tendency,” said Ms. Chen, pointing out that ingredients in J&J’s Ambi Even & Clear face line—soy, vitamins C and E— work well on hyperpigmentation to help restore even tone skin.

J&J’s second study focused on how aging, sun exposure and skin color contribute to dryness. By incorporating four common methods to evaluate skin dryness, J&J found that scaling and flaking are less common in African American subjects than Caucasian subjects.Skin moisture measurements also show that African American skin on average has higher moisture content than the skin of age matched Caucasian women.

Dr. Miracle’s My Goodbye Acne System is the company’s first skin care SKU.
“So while African American skin may look drier, or ashy, it’s more a phenomenon of‘dry look’ due to the contrast on their darker skin,” Ms. Chen said. “A woman of color needs a good moisturizer that hydrates the skin and reduces the ashy look, without overdoing.” To that end, Ambi’s newest products include Soft & Even Creamy Oil Lotion, which provides non-greasy, long-lasting moisturization that lasts up to 24 hours, according to J&J.

Also looking to kick ashy skin to the curb is Sheree Elizabeth LLC, the San Diego, CA firm behind Whoop Ash. This new treatment—which features white honey, grape seed oil, organic shea and mango butter and organic coconut oil and is lightly scented with vanilla and warm honey tones—restores the suppleness, soothes and softens, according to the company.

The Hair Care Brigade

Recognizing an opportunity to generate new revenue streams, ethnic hair care companies are migrating into skin care, looking to parlay their expertise in treating tresses to body and facial care. Crème of Nature, which is owned by Colomer, is looking to channel a close connection with its hair care customers—and its parent company’s expertise in skin care—in the body care sector.

“We are connected to our consumer, which enables us to align closely with her to meet her needs. When we’ve discussed those hair care topics that are important to her, migrating into skin care has been a natural transition,” said Anthony Standifer, Crème of Nature brand manager.

Crème of Nature body lotion’s three variants—African violet and chamomile, olive oil and lemon zest and sweet mandarin and lemongrass—will be sold exclusively at barbershops and hair salons.

“For the ethnic consumer, the beauty and barber supply store is a go-to destination for hair and skin care products. Our core consumer base is already accustomed to finding Crème of Nature there, so merchandising the new body lotions there allows us an easy, natural introduction of the new product,” Mr. Standifer said.

Another hair care expert, Alberto-Culver, has moved into body care with new Soft & Beautiful Skin. The range, which bowed over the summer, includes a fast absorbing and non-greasy body lotion, a body butter that includes a combination of almond, cocoa and shea butters, hand cream, and body oil gel made with aloe vera and olive oil.Other Soft & Beautiful Skin SKUs go beyond basic moisturization; there’s an in-shower exfoliating scrub formulated with sugar crystals and sunflower oil as well as a firming lotion infused with ginseng and collagen proteins.

Answers for Acne

Within the ethnic skin care category, acne remains a major concern—and a market with room for growth. In a survey of 753 black women (age 18+) released in August by research company Mintel, 61% of respondents reported never using acne treatments. According to Mintel, low usage stems from the fact that traditional acne treatments can be harsh or over-dying, which in turn can create more blemishes or re-bound breakouts.

A few leading ethnic beauty brands appear to be seizing the opportunity by rolling out products that better address the specific concerns of ethnic skin compromised by acne.

Whoop Ash delivers intense moisturization via white honey and shea butter.
“Manufacturers are focusing not only on the consumer’s de-sire for clear skin, but are targeting more ethnic-specific skin care concerns associated with acne: such as marks, scars, and sensitivity issues,” noted Ms. Leonard of E.T. Browne, which has recently added Palmer’s Skin Success Acne Rescue Kit. Unlike other products that only clear acne blemishes, she said Palmer’s kit works to eliminate the dark marks acne leaves behind after the blemish is gone.

Better known for its hair care treatments, Dr. Miracle’s quickly garnered attention in the skin care market by turning its attention to acne. The company’s My Goodbye Acne System, a three-step preventative acne solution for African American and ethnic skin types, was named a “breakthrough product” of the year in mass skin care by a leading fashion publication soon after its launch last fall. The system is the first SKU in the brand’s SkinMeds Collection, and more products are under development, according to Ollie Johnson, vice president and creative director for Dr. Miracle’s.

Acne expert Rodan + Fields Dermatologists—maker of Proactiv—is targeting ethnic consumers as well—specifically the Hispanic community, through a variety of Spanish language initiatives. The company has tapped Dr. Aliza Lifshitz—better known to the Latino community as la Doctora Aliza—as a spokesperson and ambassador for the U.S. Hispanic market.

Named one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics by Hispanic Business magazine, Dr. Aliza teamed with Proactiv founders Dr. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields to provide the skin care and beauty content for Dr. Aliza’s Spanish-language health and wellness website, VidaySalud.com. The goal was to help provide readers, many of whom never have the opportunity to visit a dermatologist, with sound clinical advice so they can maintain healthy, beautiful skin, according to Rodan + Fields.

But there is another side to the alliance; Rodan + Fields is promoting its direct-selling business to the Hispanic community. Dr. Aliza joined Dr. Rodan and Dr. Fields in August at the Rodan + Fields National Hispanic Market Launch in Chicago, marking the first time the company’s business presentation was held in Spanish. In addition, the firm said it has assembled a business team comprised of several senior executives with extensive experience and expertise in the international and domestic Hispanic market and has beefed up its infrastructure to fully support Spanish language initiatives, including a full Spanish language version of its website.

Keeping Up Appearances

As niche firms with unique products and companies with proven success in other personal care categories enter the market, long-time players in ethnic beauty can’t sit idle.

Following a packaging redesign in 2008, Fashion Fair—which has served prestige customer’s needs since 1973—is rolling out an updated skin care line broken down to three skin-type specific collection. Unveiled in late September, the revamped regimens include the Shine and Texture Control regimen (designed to reduce the effects of excessive oil production), Balance and Refine Regimen (which balance an oily t-zone and without disturbing the more dry and sensitive cheek area) and Hydrate and Smooth (a dry skin regimen with ingredients like aloe and avocado).

Clinique is also addressing ethnic skin with its new Even Better Makeup SPF 15 range. This oil-free liquid foundation harnesses the technology of Clinique’s Even Better Skin Tone Corrector to immediately create smooth, even looking skin tone, while a targeted blend of ingredients helps correct the appearance of discoloration over time.Ingredients such as vitamin C complex, vitamin E, mushroom yeast extract, natural grapefruit peel and white birch extract help break up and banish the appearance of existing uneven skin tone, while helping to prevent future discoloration, according to the company. There are 20 different shades of this lightweight foundation, each of which features broad-spectrum sun protection through a blend of octinoxate, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

Clinique’s addition of physical and chemical sunscreens is a nod to the growing importance of sun protection across the entire skin care category. It is a message that dermatologists and sun exposure experts are pushing to everyone, even those with darker skin—a population that in past has believed their skin had “natural SPF.”

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, while melanoma is less common in African Americans, it is more frequently fatal. In addition, African American melanoma patients are more likely to present with advanced disease at the time of diagnosis and the overall survival rate for African Americans is only 77% compared to 91% for Caucasians.

“There should be no difference between what we emphasize for any one in sun protection, whether you are fair skin Irish or darker skinned. Everyone should be wearing sunscreen,” said Dr. Mona Gohara, a dermatologist in Danbury, CT and assistant professor at Yale.

“Consumers are now more aware that sun damage can exacerbate dark spots and marks and realize that a sun protection product is a critical part of skin care defense. An SPF product can help protect skin from hyperpigmentation issues in the short and long-term,” added Ms. Leonard, noting Palmer’s has added sun protection (SPF 15) in its new Cocoa Butter Formula Moisturizing Gel Oil.

Like SPF, anti-aging is another trend driving the general skin care market. For the ethnic market, however, there are differences in how skin of color ages compared to Caucasian skin.

“Ethnic skin ages well,” added Dr. Burgess, noting that anti-aging products that address fine lines and wrinkles usually aren’t necessary. Instead, ethnic consumers are more likely to gravitate to skin tightening preparations. “The major concerns are a sagging or laxity of the skin,” she concluded.

Playing Favorites

Whether prestige or mass, a company that wants to win over ethnic consumers must answer their call for products that address their specific needs. And while so-called “general market” beauty companies like M.A.C., Chanel and Bobbi Brown are color cosmetic favorites because they tout shades suited for a wide range of skin tones, ethnic beauty brand executives insist that their experience and expertise affords them a distinct advantage when it comes to skin care solutions.

“Science is the ‘DNA’ of the Ambi skin care brand and allows us to deliver clinically proven products infused with formulations that are specially designed to meet the skin care needs of women with melanin rich skin tones,” said Denna Singleton, Ambi brand product director.

For Mr. Huggins, over the years, Black Opal has proven its value as a go-to product that ethnic consumers can trust.

“The issues of women with color are so exacting, that they come to us with their specific issue,” he said, noting that his firm is “concentrating on the next wave” of skin ethnic problems with a big launch planned for later this quarter. “They may date a lipstick brand or nail polish,” he said, “but when it comes to issues of their skin, they are only going out with their steady Eddie.”