Black female consumers are not seen by mainstream brands
It is widely known that Black women spend proportionately more on hair and makeup than our white counterparts. Rather than being a lack of appreciation, perhaps the issue stems from an earlier stage, which according to skincare influencer, Saleam Singleton AKA The Method Male, is a lack of acknowledgement.
With such a lack of acknowledgement, it will come as no surprise about how Black women are regarded when it comes to skincare marketing. More often than not you will be presented with the same kind of look. Singleton says “I see black women. What I don’t often see is a representation of the complexities of black women.”
Skincare lover and founder of After25 podcast, Asha Fundi says “Growing up and not seeing a version of myself in magazines or beauty campaigns played a big part in how I viewed my own beauty.”
We also need to establish the difference between acknowledgement and tokenism. Founder of Maeve Hardware, Yvonne Oshodi says, “It’s condescending to simply think you could throw in a Black celebrity and call it inclusivity.” We are not all the same and we have different skincare needs and this is just not reflected in skincare marketing.
The pain points are marketing, research and development
Research and development is a crucial stage when developing any product. Black women need to be included during product development and in clinical trials because “this sets the tone to what the rest of that product journey will be and who it will be advertised to,” says Asha Fundi.
This would explain why mainstream marketing doesn’t appear to appreciate Black female consumers and this is particularly prevalent when it comes to sun care. Although improvements are being made in the skincare and sun care space, some formulas still leave a white cast on darker skin tones.
“If they were being tested on Black skin during development this probably wouldn’t happen,” says beauty marketer, Hafsa Issa-Salwe. “I don’t think such products would be on the market in the first place. Either the brands don’t have the capacity to test on a wider range of skin tones, or they just don’t appreciate black female consumers.”
It’s not all about pigmentation
In fact, the narrative seems to be that all Black women suffer from pigmentation which is simplistic at best. Whilst some Black women do want to address pigmentation, we also want to address dryness, visible pores, fine lines, wrinkles, acne, eczema, redness (yes, redness), texture, sensitivity – the list goes on. A major issue is that certain skin conditions such as eczema and acne look different on Black skin. There is an incorrect assumption that Black women don’t suffer from these issues. Fundi says “To reduce our stories just down to pigmentation and skin bleaching is actually quite disrespectful.”
Black women are not seen as aspirational consumers
With that being said, it’s no surprise that we feel brands do not consider Black women to be aspirational consumers or seen as a worthy market to target luxury skincare towards which is clearly bizarre, considering the spending power of Black women. Magadalene Lafontant, founder of Nakai Skincare and Cosmetics says, “This could be down to the misconception that Black skin is tough and can get away with soap and water along with the misuse of the phrase, Black don’t crack.” It’s clear from the list above that this is not true, and this lack of acknowledgement of our needs only fuels the sense of invisibility.
Despite what the statistics say, some brands hang on to the negative stereotype that Black women do not have the money or the lifestyle to be worthy of mainstream luxury skincare. It shouldn’t have to be said but when Antonia Burrell launched her own luxury skincare line in Harrods, she witnessed women of all skin tones shopping for luxury skincare. Whether or not brands consider us worthy of luxury skincare, we know we deserve it.
The brands that get it right
It’s not all doom and gloom though. There has been more of an effort to speak to Black women in mainstream marketing thanks to the Fenty effect. Dija Ayodele, Aesthetician and owner of Westroom Aesthetics, says, “I have seen an improvement with inclusive representation as brands emphasise the way in which certain products or ingredients work well for a particular demographic e.g. Black women.”
As well as the gradual improvements some brands are already getting it right. Take Barbara Sturm and her line for darker skins tones. ”As a Black consumer it’s a brand that values me” says Issa-Salwe.
Other luxury skincare brands with inclusive marketing include Dr Dennis Gross, Paula’s Choice, Sunday Riley and Ren Skincare. If you’re into K-Beauty, Oshodi recommends Dear Klairs, Neogen, Banilla Co and Then I Met You.
Burrell and Lafontant took matters into their own hands with their own lines, Antonia Burrell Holistic Skincare and Nakia Skincare and Cosmetics respectively.