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Skin of Color in the United States

By: Daphne Kasriel-Alexander
Posted: August 23, 2010, from the September 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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In America, ethnic niche consumption and marketing are well-developed. Specialty foodstuffs for Hispanics and Asian-Americans are common and easily found. In the beauty realm, physiological differences between Caucasians and other ethnic groups have created a huge market for specialized skin and hair care products. According to Lola Maja, United Kingdom makeup artist, “In America, brand name cosmetics have now realized what we’ve known for a long time; that there is big business in cosmetics for skin tones of color.” Meanwhile, members of the general population are also becoming interested in drawing upon ethnic heritage to service their own needs, be it traditional Chinese medicine or Indian ayurvedic remedies. Indeed, SpaFinder’s Top 10 Global Spa Trends to Watch in 2010 report highlights, “The spa industry provides an extraordinary, shining example of globalization essentially in reverse: the massive exportation (and promotion) of indigenous therapies and health traditions across the world.”

Age-related aspects and stereotypes

America’s newest generation, the millennials, is in the middle of the coming-of-age phase of its life cycle, with its oldest members heading for age 30, and its youngest approaching adolescence. A February 2009 report by public policy institute and think tank, the New America Foundation, reveals that they are the most ethnically and racially diverse cohort of youth in the history of the United States. Among those aged 13–29, 18.5% are Hispanic, 14.2% are black, 4.3% are Asian, 3.2% are mixed race or other, and 59.8%—a record low—are white.

A summer 2010 national multicultural survey by ad agency GlobalHue finds ethnic boundaries blurring in the new America. After looking at four major population segments—African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and non-Hispanic Whites—the survey, titled Multicultural Nation: Divergence and Convergence in the New America, found consumers from various ethnic groups clustered by degrees of feelings of optimism and pessimism, and by the degree to which they were engaged in their communities.

“The backdrop to many of the decisions made by American consumers today is the degree of optimism or pessimism that they feel,” believes Don Coleman, chairman of GlobalHue, who sees this as having important implications for marketers seeking to understand all American consumers, whether urban or rural, upwardly mobile or downscale, acculturated or newly migrated.

Care for skin of all colors

Erika Dunlap, Miss America 2004; sports stars Venus Williams and Alonzo Mourning; and Alfred C. Liggins, III, president of Radio One, are all regulars at the Cultura Cosmetic Dermatology & Laser Center in Washington, DC. With a tagline of “Skin care for all cultures,” this spa was founded by physicians who are experts in cosmetic treatments for African-Americans, Asians and Latinos. Spas such as Cultura are raising the bar for skin care, drawing attention to the fact that skin of color is often extra delicate, and vulnerable to trauma and scarring from beauty treatments, such as chemical peels and those involving lasers. Today, spa professionals nationwide are becoming more attuned to the needs of non-Caucasian consumers.