Posted on November 15, 2007

Britain’s Beauty Industry Accused of Ignoring Black and Asian Women

Martin Hickman, Independent (London), November 15, 2007

Black and Asian people are largely ignored by the £3bn-a-year beauty industry which concentrates on selling products to white women, a report says.

Few cosmetics giants produce ethnic ranges and few large retailers stock them, meaning that black and Asian women have to rely on outdated American imports and specialist shops.

Because the market in the US has changed little since the 1980s this leaves the emphasis on white teeth and big hair, a look “out of kilter” with today’s young black and Asian women, says the market research company Mintel.

Overall, the market for black, Asian and other minority make-up, skin and haircare is £65m, 2 per cent of the £3.7bn British beauty industry, despite ethnic minorities comprising 7.9 per cent of the population. Black people trying to buy make-up, haircare and skincare products are being frustrated, the analyst Alexandra Richmond believes. She says: “A lack of new product developments on the part of the manufacturers as well as limited availability has undoubtedly been a major barrier in the ethnic beauty market.

“Although there are luxury beauty ranges for those with darker skin tones, mass-market alternatives on the high street are still few and far between.”

The report also warns that companies are missing out on lucrative business and follows concern that ethnic minorities are under-represented in the visual industries of beauty, fashion and advertising.

Few black or Asian models stride down the fashion catwalk, with the high-profile exception of Naomi Campbell, according to the London Assembly member and former fashion executive Dee Doocey, who has called a summit next year to address the issue.

Non-white people make up more than 20 per cent of the population in London yet only 1 per cent of the models in the capital, according to one estimate.

The last census by the Institute of Advertising Practioners in 2003 found that only 4 per cent of people in adverts came from ethnic minorities. When black people do appear, they are often there to emphasis their ethnicity rather than to represent the general population. Ethnic minorities are also under-represented in creative roles at advertising agencies. Mintel says that interest in looks is universal in a modern media age where women feel compelled to make the best of themselves by investing in clothes and make-up. “However, amongst the black community, it goes much deeper,” the report says.

Ethnic women have very different beauty needs because their complexions require specialist foundation and might also suffer more from pigmentation damage. Yet few major cosmetics companies have ethnic make-up ranges. Clinique, Bobbi Brown and Prescriptives all have foundations for darker skin in their general range. If the industry launched new products, the ethnic minority beauty business could surge in value by 35 per cent to £88m by 2012.

The industry is targeting anti-ageing creams for different age groups and shampoos for specific hair types to the general population. “There is clearly the potential for the industry to apply this approach to the ethnic beauty market, which would undoubtedly be welcomed by ethnic consumers and give the market a much needed boost,” says Ms Richmond.