Black women are becoming more visible in the beauty world, but the same cannot be said for skincare. Walk into any store or click on a skincare website and you'll see the same type of images, but that doesn't include black women.
While black faces are common in makeup campaigns and hair care ads, it's rare to see them in skin care ads. So, are Black women invisible in the skincare space?
Black consumers are not seen by traditional brands
It's well known that black women spend proportionately more on hair and makeup than our white counterparts. More than a lack of appreciation, perhaps the issue stems from an earlier stage, which according to the skincare influencer, Saleam Singleton aka The Method Male, is lack of recognition.
With such a lack of recognition, it will come as no surprise how black women are viewed when it comes to skincare marketing. Most of the time, you will be presented with the same kind of look. Singleton says, “I see black women. What I don’t see often is a representation of the complexities of Black women.”
Skin care lover and founder of podcast After25, Asha Fundi says: “Growing up and not seeing a version of myself in beauty magazines or campaigns played a huge role in how I viewed my own beauty.”
We also need to establish the difference between recognition and tokenism. Founder of Maeve Hardware, Yvonne Oshodi says, “It’s condescending to just think you can throw in a black celebrity and call it inclusion.” We are not all the same and have different skin care needs and this is simply not reflected in skin care marketing.
Pain points are marketing, research and development
Research and development is a crucial step in the development of any product. Black women need to be included during product development and in clinical trials because “this sets the tone for what the rest of the product's journey will be and who it will be marketed to,” says Asha Fundi.
This would explain why mainstream marketing doesn't seem to appreciate black 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 the beauty marketer, Hafsa Issa-Salwe. “I don’t think these products would be on the market in the first place. Either brands don’t have the ability to test on a wider range of skin tones, or they simply don’t appreciate black consumers.”
Not everything is pigmentation
In fact, the narrative seems to be that all black women suffer from pigmentation, which is simplistic at best. While some black women 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 big problem is that certain skin conditions like eczema and acne look different on black skin. There is an incorrect assumption that black women do not suffer from these issues. Fundi says, “Reducing our stories to just pigmentation and skin lightening is actually very disrespectful.”
Black women are not seen as aspirational consumers
That said, it's no surprise that we feel like brands don't consider Black women as aspirational consumers or viewed as a worthy market to target luxury skincare for which is clearly bizarre considering the purchasing power of black women. Magadalene Lafontant, founder of Nakai Skincare and Cosmetics says: “This may be due 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 is clear from the list above that this is not true, and this lack of recognition of our needs only fuels the feeling of invisibility.
Despite what the statistics say, some brands cling to the negative stereotype that Black women don't have the money or lifestyle to be worthy of luxury skincare. It should go without saying, but when Antonia Burrell launched her own luxury skincare line at Harrods, she witnessed women of all skin tones purchasing luxury skincare. Whether or not brands deem us worthy of luxury skincare, we know we deserve it.
The brands that get it right
But it's not all doom and gloom. There has been more of a push to speak to black women in mainstream marketing thanks to the Fenty effect. Dija Ayodele, beautician and owner of Westroom Aesthetics, says: “I have seen an improvement with inclusive representation as brands emphasize how certain products or ingredients work well for a certain demographic, for example, women of color.”
In addition to gradual improvements, some brands are already getting it right. Take it Barbara Sturm and its line for darker skin tones. “As a black consumer, it is a brand that values me,” says Issa-Salwe.
Other luxury skincare brands with inclusive marketing include Dr Dennis Gross, Paula's Choice, Sunday Riley It is Ren Skincare. If you like K-Beauty, Oshodi recommends Dear Klairs, Neogen, Banilla Co It is Then I Met You.
Burrell and Lafontant decided to resolve the matter with their own lines, Antonia Burrell Holistic Skincare and Nakia Skincare and Cosméticos, respectively.
This article is a translation of Are black women invisible in the skincare space? — brownbeautytalk.