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Are cosmetic companies overlooking black women?

TRAILBLAZER: Supermodel Iman launched her own cosmetics range 20 years ago

IT’S PROBABLY no surprise that black women are big spenders when it comes to hair and beauty.

However the major cosmetics companies continue to ignore the growing marketing opportunities presented by women of African and Caribbean heritage who are often left wanting when it comes to variety and choice.

The market for black or Asian beauty products in the UK is still considered niche, based on a 2009 UK Mintel report which valued it at £70m. However it is predicted to grow beyond £97 million by 2014.

Marketing professional Ronke Adeyemi, who has been a beauty blogger for five years, recently launched a weekly Twitter discussion, #brownbeauty on Sundays to bring to the forefront issues surrounding the limited scope and affordability of products.

She told The Voice: “It is definitely foundations and BB creams which seem to be the issue. A lot of the mainstream brands products only cater for European skin or those with lighter shades.

Although a few high-end brands do try, many of the foundations are just two or three shades too light which doesn’t cover our complexions.”

LIMITATIONS

Further compounding the limitations with variety and choice is the fact that women of colour are more likely to experience hyper-pigmentation, sun spots and uneven skin tone because of increased melanin, making it almost impossible to find a perfect foundation match, especially for darker shades.

And even with former supermodel Iman launching her $25million dollar cosmetics line 20 years ago, the situation has not changed.

With black British women spending on average six times more than their white counterparts on hair and beauty, according to research from the Think Ethnic marketing forum, Adeyemi believes brands are aware there is a ready-made market, but are choosing not to supply the demand.

She said: “I think it might be a slight ignorance or hesitation because they don’t want to take any chances. The fashion and beauty industry works on trends as we have seen with BB creams, for example. It just takes one brand to be brave enough, and then the rest will follow suit.”

Adeyemi referred to other brands such as Fashion Fair and black|Up, as the only brands that had a wide variety of foundations for darker skin.

She said: “People think of Fashion Fair as an old brand your mum or aunt used that is sold in the market, so it’s a lack of awareness on the customer side and on the brand side.

“The problem with black|Up is they do the most gorgeous colours, but a lot of people are put off with the name and don’t want to be associated with that, but the quality is amazing.”

Another key issue is affordability. A wide range of products on the high street just isn’t there, forcing black women to pay over the odds for concealers or skin perfectors.


FRUSTRATION: Many black women say products rarely cater for their skin shades

Make-up artist Teresa Reynolds, 26, said: “The range of foundation shades currently available does not suit everybody’s skin. I tend to custom blend with Mac and Bobbi Brown which is fine for me as I am a make-up artist, but it can be difficult for people to do at home and there’s a lot of cost involved.”

Reynolds, however, thinks that a shift has begun: “Brands are waking up to the demand and the need to expand.”

WATERSHED

In 2012, for example, when luxury line YSL launched its Touche Éclat shades for darker skins, with black model Jourdan Dunn as the face, it was a watershed moment.

But most critics believe the gap remains with the absence in the market of a range equivalent to that offered by the iconic budget brand, Rimmel.

Tosin Adeniji, a 25-year-old music publicist from east London, is hoping to provide a solution with the setting up of Be Box, a company aimed at black women who are frustrated with the range of beauty products available on the market. Be Box deliver beauty boxes to their customers - parcels that contain a range of new products to sample.

She said: “I love trying new products, but when I ordered beauty boxes, I could literally only use one or two of the products – usually the lip balm. I searched around for a box that caters more to my brown skin, but they were mostly US-based which was frustrating. 

“An even more frustrating experience was heading to my local high street department store and seeing my shade on display, yet hearing consistent cries of ‘sorry, not in stock’. The counter girls would be unable to give me advice on hyper-pigmentation as, like many black women, I come in different shades throughout my body.”

IGNORED

Adeniji hopes that Be Box will entice UK make-up brands to get involved.

She added: “Some of our favourite products that are going in the box are from other black women who were so tired of being ignored they took it upon themselves to create their own brand in their kitchen. I’m really encouraged by their initiative and their focus to make a change inthe UK beauty industry, it’s important.”

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