Clear Sailing

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | October 5, 2011

Issues such as hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation continue to impact ethnic consumers. Industry experts say much work needs to be done to address the needs of Blacks, Asians and Hispanics.

The skin care demands of ethnic consumers are as nearly varied as the skin tones of the consumers themselves. At the same time, the unique needs of this diverse group make it difficult to cross-market skin care solutions for all of them.

Packaged Facts, Rockville, MD, estimates that US retail sales of ethnic hair, makeup and skin care products approached $2.7 billion in 2009, and posted annual growth of about 8% from 2005 to 2009. More specifically, hair care sales totaled $1.5 billion; makeup was next at $961 million and skin care was the smallest of the three categories at $210 million.

“Skin care remains the smallest category because it’s the one that remains semi-mysterious—even in 2011,” explained Timothy Dowd, a senior analyst with Packaged Facts, who noted that women know what they want in makeup and they know what products to use to achieve certain effects in hair care.

“But skin care goals aren’t that distinct,” he observed. “Skin care is the category that needs the most consumer education.”

At the same time, African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians often look elsewhere for their skin care. According to Packaged Facts’ estimates, general market skin care products purchased by these three groups reached $2.3 billion in 2009. Why the discrepancy?

“Sometimes, a general market product works just fine and does solve skin care problems,” suggested Dowd.

Taking a closer look at mass market sales of ethnic skin care products (see chart, next page), SymphonyIRI estimates the category is growing nearly 5% and exceeds $40 million, but that total is for food, drug and mass merchandisers excluding Walmart.

In terms of cosmetics, AC Nielsen estimates sales rose 7.6% to nearly $18 million for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 6, 2011. However, in 2010, total ethnic cosmetics sales fell 4.1% to $16.8 million.

Specific Problems
But no matter where ethnic consumers purchase their products, more often these days they seek solutions for skin aging and pigmentation disorders, according to industry experts.

“They have uneven skin tone and want treatments to treat hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation,” explained Andrew F. Alexis, MD, director, Skin of Color Center, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, New York. “It’s a major part of the ethnic market.”

Clarisa Wilson, president of Fashion Fair, agrees.

“Maintaining skin tone and texture integrity (is the biggest issue in ethnic skin care). At Fashion Fair, our only concern is to address the specific needs of this consumer,” she told Happi. “We exist to provide her with the highest quality products, services and education.”

In instances of hyperpigmentation, Alexis said that hydroquinone remains the gold standard when it comes to skin “bleaching” agents, but at the same time, he is using kojic acid, soy extract and arbutin in his practice. More often these days, he is turning to using chemical peels and laser treatments too.

Unfortunately, hypopigmentation issues are more troublesome to treat—in fact, in some instances, there are no treatments available. Dr. Alexis singled out idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis (IGH) as being especially devastating to patients.

“IGH is something that can affect anybody, but is more striking when it afflicts darker skin.”

Fashion Fair offers a wide range of colors to match myriad skin tones.
He said IGH is most common on female patients of color who are over 40. Often, they have white spots on their lower legs and forearms. Dr. Alexis called IGH an ongoing problem, and one that calls for the use of camouflage cosmetics.

According to the results of a recent poll by Obagi Medical Products, regardless of whether or not she is of African-American, Hispanic, Asian or Middle Eastern descent, respondents have unresolved skin challenges. In fact, 47% of survey respondents said that they see a dermatologist for dark spots, uneven skin tone or hyperpigmentation. However, only 11% of the surveyed women expressed a strong familiarity with hydroquinone and 61% of the women were not at all familiar with hydroquinone.

But perhaps most startling, 58% of surveyed women say they struggle to find skin care products that meet their needs, suggesting an opportunity to further educate consumers about available treatments. Even when they’ve found products they are willing to purchase, less than half of those polled (47%) said their current regimen meets their expectations, despite the fact that most of the women (52%) spent more than $100 on skin care products in the past year.

“Obagi Medical commissioned this poll to help us better understand the needs and concerns of our consumers,” said Jim Hartman, vice president-global marketing and business development in a statement. “The results indicate to us that we have an opportunity and obligation to educate women about the treatments that are available for many of the skin conditions noted; and that partnering with a physician is critical in achieving desired results.”

Hyperpigmentation and genetic dark circles are among the most common of problems facing the ethnic beauty consumer, agreed K. MacDonald Parris, marketing director, Black Radiance. He noted that anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich ingredients are key for balancing and to help ethnic skin to resist inherent problems such as acne and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

“A few notable ingredients that are great for ethnic skin are aloe vera, which soothes, heals and helps to even out skin tone, vitamin E to protect and strengthen the skin’s barrier, and tamanu oil, which is rich in anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties,” he said.

Shea butter, olive oil and an “ultra-hydrating complex” of moisturizing emollients and glycerin are the key ingredients in new Ambi Soft & Even Creamy Oil Lotion. According to Johnson & Johnson, this fast-absorbing and non-greasy formula is perfect for daily use.

What to Buy?
While there’s no doubt a need for ethnic skin care products, economic uncertainty has many consumers rethinking purchases of those creams, lotions and serums, according to industry experts.

“Findings from our recent market research consumer study indicated over half of the respondents decreased spending on beauty products due to the slow economy,” said Parris. “Among those who cut back on spending, most will wait until their current product runs out before repurchasing.”

To entice all those budget-conscious consumers, Parris notes that nearly 90% of Black Radiance cosmetics are priced under $5 and the high quality formulas and packaging are very appealing and user friendly. He cited AC Nielsen data that reports nearly 80% of 2011 ethnic cosmetic dollars are being driven by two key categories: face (up 15.5% to $10.5 million) and lip (up 4.1% to $3.7 million). No wonder that’s where his company is focusing its launch activity.

For the face, Black Radiance recently rolled out Complexion Perfection system featuring Shine Control Primer, Undereye Concealer and Liquid Foundation. The liquid foundation package features a removable and washable brushhead for hygienic application and longer wear, according to Parris. New Artisan Color Baked Blush & Artisan Color Baked Bronzers have tallied sales of more $200,000 since launch and are on pace to become some of Black Radiance’s most successful new products.

For lips, new Ice Angel Refreshing Lipgloss, Black Radiance’s first flavored lip product, has recorded sales of more than $125,000 and new Indelibly Sheer Lip Tint is on pace to exceed the $100,000 milestone. Both are priced at $2.99.

At Fashion Fair, the company is launching True Tone products to address skin discoloration, hyper-pigmentation, blemishes and acne scarring. According to Wilson, these products are designed for women of color who have very sensitive skin.True Tone Dark Spot Corrector evens out dark spots and True Tone Moisturizer with SPF 15 protects the skin.Both contain Indian crest flower and white ginger extract, which have “wonderful results” on brown skin tones, according to Wilson.

What’s Ahead?
Since ethnic consumers purchase skin care products for the general population 11 times more often than ethnic-specific brands, the best opportunities for growth may lie outside the US.

Dowd of Packaged Facts suggested that the biggest potential for bleaching creams is in Asia, where even sales to men are growing. Elsewhere, he predicted that demand for these skin lighteners will grow in Africa as the economies on the continent continue to expand.

There’s certainly a market for safe, effective products. Last month, the European Union consumer safety network RAPEX warned that certain skin whiteners imported from Africa have been blocked from sale in Europe due to illegal use of hydroquinone.

In Portugal, customs officers blocked imports of Democratic Republic of the Congo-made imports of Angel Cosmetics’ Clairmen brand and Caro White cream, plus Ivory Coast-made Skin Light cream; in Austria, retailers pulled Ivory Coast-made Skin Light cream; and French authorities even issued a warning about French-made Fair & White cream.

RAPEX is the EU rapid alert system for all dangerous consumer products, with the exception of food, pharmaceutical and medical devices. Its goal is to allow for the rapid exchange of information between Member States via central contact points and the commission of measures taken to prevent or restrict the marketing or use of products posing a serious risk to the health and safety of consumers. Both measures ordered by national authorities and measures taken voluntarily by producers and distributors are covered by RAPEX. Every Friday, the Commission publishes a weekly overview of the dangerous products reported by the national authorities.

Black Radiance rolled out Complexion Perfection earlier this year.
Prevent and Correct
Back in the US, according to Parris of Black Radiance, during the past few years, as Generation X has moved into their 30s and 40s, there has become a growing need for ethnic cosmetics to provide preventative and correction-based formulas that help to balance maturing ethnic skin and protect from environmental transgressors.

“In addition to the issues of maturing skin, there is also a set of many inherent problems that face ethnic skin that mainstream brands do not strive to respond to,” he told Happi. “As we move into an increasingly polyethnic era, the challenge is to create beauty products with an even deeper shade range and with formulas that provide a multi-purpose benefit.”

Fashion Fair has been meeting the needs of ethnic consumers since 1973. According to Wilson, the major change in the ethnic skin care market is the wealth of information available at her fingertips.

“Word of mouth is now at lightening speed on the internet and the beauty secrets you once received from your girlfriend at work or a family member may now be your girlfriend you have never met thousands of miles away,” she explained. “The result is a well-informed consumer with a clear idea of her needs and a greater understanding of how her body functions and interacts with beauty products.”

More Opportunities
And yet, Wilson insisted that there is not a sufficient variety of options for this woman even as science continues to unveil new findings in the form of new ingredients and applications for women with high melanin skin tones. These new findings provide Fashion Fair new and greater opportunities to address the skin care needs of women of color, she said.

At the same time, other changes are impacting the market, according to Wilson.

“The environment we live in has changed, diets have changed, the way we socialize has changed; therefore consumer needs have changed,” she said. “Our smart phone is our shopping guide. She is aware of the latest laser treatments to the newsworthy ingredients.”

Wilson noted that the consumer cares just as much about the efficacy of the products as the presentation. And now her product commentary is usually not shared with the consumer department but directly to the world of friends all connected via the web.

According to Parris, as the ethnic consumer evolves, so has her look. She may opt for the healthy radiant look and consider a tinted moisturizer with a blushing and bronzing powder for a year-round subtle glow. She is also customizing her lip colors by layering a variety of lipgloss shades over her staple lipstick for added dimension.

“In the future, “he continued, “more natural innovation from ingredient suppliers specifically formulating products that are compatible with ethnic skin tones is key.”

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