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Mainstream brands such as Estée Lauder and Lancôme are broadening their scope to cater to ethnic consumers, demonstrating that ethnic beauty is an area that manufacturers are increasingly turning their attention to for future growth. Yves Saint Laurent has launched Le Teint Touche Éclat foundation in 22 different shades, while Lancôme’s Teint Idole Ultra 24H foundations come in 18 different shades to cater for a wider group of ethnic consumers with different skin tones. Ethnic beauty remains an unexplored area and a source of future growth, although it is too early to speculate how it will actually perform going forward. There are, however, strong indications to suggest that ethnic beauty is poised for a boom.
Increasing numbers of ethnic shoppers have made ethnic beauty commercially viable. For example, approximately 15% of the overall population in England and Wales are non-white, up from approximately 8% in 2001, according to the 2012 census. In addition, the number of ethnic tourists in Western markets has been on the rise. For example, the number of tourists travelling from China to the US rose from 400,000 to 1,600,000, while the number of tourists from Brazil to the US rose from 640,000 to 1,800,000 between 2007 and 2012, representing a respective increase of 300% and 180%. One of the charms of such trips includes buying Western brands. Thus, offerings catering to ethnic consumers reach beyond ethnic residents in a given Western market to also include ethnic shopping tourists. Furthermore, trends in ethnic beauty could also be used to inspire offerings designed for mainstream consumers. For example, the currently popular skin brightening concept has been adopted from Asian markets. This further adds to the scope of profitability for ethnic beauty.
Manufacturers now feel it worth investing in R&D to cater for ethnic needs as part of their more targeted beauty offerings to help drive growth in a challenging market. Ethnic products require more complex formulation than regular ones, necessitating greater investment in R&D. Foundation for white skin requires a maximum of three different shades, whereas ethnic skin requires a greater number of shades. In addition, texture needs to be carefully engineered as products can be chalkier on ethnic skin. The issue of ethnicity is made more complex by the fact that there is a wide variety of skin tones and hair types among ethnic consumers. For example, Yves Saint Laurent’s Le Teint Touche Éclat foundation was launched after nine years of research into over 7,000 global skin tones to create the perfect 22 shades to reflect the full range of skin tones from around the world.
Currently, ethnic beauty is dominated by larger manufacturers, given the resources required to develop ethnic products. However, there is also scope for relatively smaller manufacturers such as Elizabeth Arden and Revlon to target ethnic consumers. Instead of focusing on a wide range of ethnic groups, which requires more investment in R&D, smaller manufacturers could target more specific ethnic groups, for example by focusing on foundation for women of Indian origin, but making the products available across a wide number of relevant regional markets so that the scale makes it commercially viable. Products catering for ethnic beauty have been mostly seen in skin care, colour cosmetics, fragrances and hair care, but it could also be worth considering their potential in other areas such as deodorants. Ethnic beauty overall is largely an untapped area with ample scope for growth, and as manufacturers gradually wake up to its immense potential, a significant shake-up can be expected.