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Lo-res_557475369-SIn a multicultural world, people with widely varying skin tones require products specific to their needs, such as foundation or concealer that come in a range of shades. By and large, popular cosmetic product lines have expanded to reflect the diverse consumer market, but better matching cosmetic colors with natural skin tones is not the end of the story. Rather, people of different ethnicities often require various products to ensure their skin stays hydrated, even in tone, and wrinkle-free—all pressing consumer demands for nearly all consumers, regardless of their heritage.

Women in particular seek products that can help them retain a youthful look, without suffering from overly oily or dry textures or splotchy coloration. For white women, a primary concern is wrinkles, and historically, that challenge has been the focus of mainstream, exclusionary product options. For black women, hyperpigmentation and overproduction of sebum (which makes skin look oily) is more of an issue. Latina, Native American, and Asian women each require different approaches to make their skin look great too.

In response, various cosmetics providers have followed distinct development paths. Companies such as Darker Skin Tones explicitly target their marketing toward women with relatively darker skin. The developed products often contain salicylic acid, which helps balance sebum production, and micro algae extracts that even out skin tone.

Clinique instead asserts that color is an insufficient criterion for segmentation, because skin tones are so diverse and wide ranging. Therefore, it has developed the Clinique iD moisturizer system, which consists of three base compounds, into which consumers can add five different enhancers, each of which targets a particular skin concern. Therefore, if someone has very dry skin with large pores, she can start with the jelly base (rather than the oil-controlling gel), then add a cartridge that contains ingredients designed specifically to reduce the appearance of pores. None of the combinations are designated by skin color; instead, the company encourages consumers to educate themselves about precisely what their individual skin needs.

Beyond the makeup counter, service providers also note the need to customize their services to match individual needs. For example, laser treatments designed to reduce the appearance of wrinkles can quickly cause burns on darker skin, and they tend to make the red tones in Native Americans’ skin tones deeper and more prominent overall. Such varying needs require salons to keep careful track of how much intensity they are applying when offering these types of services—a level of personalization rarely achieved.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the most appropriate way to segment the cosmetic market?
  2. Do you already have a good sense of what kind of skin care product would be best for your individual skin? Is it easy for you to find those products in the market?


Source: Bee Shapiro, “How Skin-Care Companies Are Tackling Issues Faced by Women of Color,” The New York Times, December 26, 2018