Amid demographic shifts in the United States and around the globe, now is the time for skin care to reflect on today’s reality. Many individuals remain underrepresented in industry advertising, compounded by a lack of focused product design and testing for specific beauty needs. Today’s consumers are also demanding more earth-friendly and natural, organic solutions that align with their beliefs. Greater diversity and inclusivity within skin care and beauty starts with education, increasing industry awareness, and wider public advocacy.
DIVERSITY & INCLUSIVITY
Everybody hears about diversity and inclusivity in skin care, but how deep does this message really go? Today’s buzzwords have traditionally been thought of in terms of the visible differences between individuals, such as gender and race, and with the goal of eliminating disparities in skin care and broader discriminations. Diversity and inclusivity are about these differences, but such a narrow definition ultimately short-changes any real meaning in skin care. These important goals should ideally reflect what makes each of us unique, including our backgrounds and life experiences. These transcending invisible factors shape points of view, beliefs, and motivations. Skin care professionals must remember that an individual’s social and cultural identity also infuses an influence on standards of skin care, attitudes toward appearance, and treatment choices and expectations.
FOCUSING ON MORE THAN ONE GROUP
Recent reports in the “Journal of Drugs in Dermatology” describe consumers with ethnic skin (including Hispanic and Latinx and African Americans) as the heaviest buyers of skin care and beauty products.1,2 This demographic represents the fastest growing market segment in the United States. Surveys show they spend more money, use more products, and invest more time in their daily personal care routine, compared to other groups.1,2 However, while a positive shift in the cosmetic market for melanin-rich skin has been reported, there remains a lack of focused skin care development, testing, and marketing for individual needs. A recent study found that a majority of older Latinos feel like an afterthought in the beauty industry and underrepresented in advertising. In addition, many do not believe skin care brands create products specifically for their age or skin tone.3 To build and nurture authentic consumer buy-in, all individuals must feel included and valued in skin care today.
Recently, much of the debate has focused on the concept of clean beauty. This burgeoning movement advocates for the use of natural and organic ingredients that are believed to be safer, while still effective. At the same time, it promotes the avoidance in skin care and beauty products of chemicals and harsh compounds that may be potentially toxic. With this logic in mind, heavier use of non-natural, non-organic cosmetic solutions by skin-of-color consumers could lead to disproportionally increased chemical exposure per product per day. Indeed, Hispanic and Latinx and African American women in the United States are reported to have higher levels of certain chemicals that are commonly found in skin care and beauty products (like parabens and phthalates) in their bodies compared to their Caucasian counterparts.1,2 However, to date, conclusions cannot be made regarding systemic absorption of compounds from topical skin care products and any potential health effects. Further research is needed, in addition to investigating any broader health-related disparities that may exist among skin care and beauty consumers.
CLINICAL STUDIES REPRESENTATION
Natural skin care solutions are becoming increasingly popular, now representing the top growth contributor of United States skin care sales. In one survey, almost half of Hispanic and Latinx women expressed a preference for products made with natural, organic ingredients.1 However, a study by si SKIN Organics that was recently presented at the 12th Annual Skin of Color Update found few peer-reviewed clinical studies evaluating the safety and efficacy of natural skin care ingredients (for hyperpigmentation) in this important consumer group.4 This finding reflects the reported low representation of Hispanic and Latinx subjects, even when compared with African American participation, in dermatology studies in general.1 Cosmetic trials and clinical testing of skin care and beauty products must strive to be more representative of today’s changing demography.
A diverse and inclusive culture in skin care and beauty must be a reflex – not a reaction. We must strive for more than a sprinkle of color and a dab of age. The ultimate goal should be safe and effective solutions for all, as a result of consumer-focused product research, development, and testing.
Aileen Dow, the founder of si SKIN Organics, is an entrepreneur, visionary, and dedicated skin care disruptor, creating luxury, affordable, natural, and organic products. Inspired by her own experience to find safe, effective, and transparent skin care solutions, it became apparent that many brands are focused on only a few select demographics. Prior to launching si SKIN Organics, she spent two decades in corporate America working within telecommunications, mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures.