- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 17, 2007


With hundreds of new beauty products introduced each year, one has to wonder if there’s a woman left who still has any room left in her cosmetics case. Yet women of all ages and all skin tones still feel they are missing products that are right for them.

“More than anything, what we hear from consumers is that there is a frustration with trying to find products that work for them,” says Karen Grant, a senior beauty analyst at the consumer research firm NPD.

According to NPD, in an online study of 5,657 women, 84 percent between the ages of 18 and 64 said they had worn makeup in the past year.

Black women are the least likely to use both makeup and skin care products, Miss Grant reports, and that might be because they probably have the hardest time matching these products to their skin color and treatment needs. They are, however, the biggest users of fragrance.

Overall, Hispanic women are the most likely to use makeup. The number hovers between 86 percent and 87 percent across all age groups. “I think it relates to a cultural point of view about femininity and dressing up,” Miss Grant says.

Among younger white women, between ages 18 and 34, 85 percent wear makeup, but that decreases to 77 percent of women 55 and older. Conversely, older Asian women — 85 percent — say they wear makeup versus 82 percent of the younger group.

Younger black women, at 61 percent, were the least likely to wear makeup, while 71 percent of black women older than 55 reported wearing it.

There is a similar pattern in skin care, Miss Grant says.

Less than 20 percent of black women say they use anti-aging products for their face.

“It’s not that they always age well; they just age differently,” Miss Grant says. “You’re more likely to see moles or blotchiness than lines and wrinkles.”

Direct-to-consumer sellers Mary Kay and Avon do well with black women because this way of selling provides an opportunity to see the brands’ full range of colors and products instead of a limited group preselected by a retailer.

Poll participants were asked, “Who offers products for someone like me?” A name that showed up in the top 10 in makeup across almost all ethnic groups was Bare Escentuals. Otherwise, black women chose Fashion Fair and MAC as their top two, Asian women Shiseido and MAC, and white and Hispanic women both said CoverGirl and Maybelline.

It’s become an increasingly conscious decision at Bare Escentuals to offer products that work for women of all skin types, says Staci Wilson, senior vice president of brand awareness, who noted that three darker shades of foundation were introduced last year with black women in mind.

The unique challenge for the company’s BareMinerals’ products is that they all start with a white titanium dioxide power, so it took some time to figure out how to make darker pigments stick, she explains. The company is paying attention to the lightness and darkness of its color cosmetics, too.

For example, there are 10 shades of plum lipstick, to complement the fairest skin to the darkest skin, Miss Wilson says. The packaging for a new collection of lip glosses features women of all different races, she adds.

Also, major mass cosmetics companies such as CoverGirl and Revlon have made an effort to include models of different skin tones in their advertising. For celebrity spokeswomen, Revlon has Halle Berry, Eva Mendes, Kate Bosworth and Susan Sarandon, and CoverGirl has Keri Russell and Queen Latifah.

Queen Latifah recently started her own collection under the CoverGirl umbrella that targets dark-skinned women. It was tested in 18 markets, mostly the country’s biggest cities, but it has been so successful that it recently was distributed nationwide — including suburban and more rural areas.

However, NPD’s Miss Grant adds, there isn’t much in the way of consumer loyalty when you look at beauty habits. For example, in prestige skin care, products on the counter more than one year decline in sales almost as fast as new ones are adding sales volume to the category.

“Women try a whole bunch, especially anything new…. People will try just about anything if they think it will make them look better. Hello, Botox? [It’s] actually one of the most poisonous naturally occurring substances in the world. The quest for the fountain of youth has never ended.”

A breakdown of beauty-product preferences by ethnicity, according to the NPD online poll:

Asian: The most likely to use sunscreen and after-sun products. They also are most likely to use facial moisturizers, cleansers and lip care products.

In color cosmetics, Asians are the most likely to use bronzers and shimmer sticks every day.

Hispanic: The leaders in everyday use of mascara, blush, eye liner and lipstick.

Black: The most frequent wearers of lip gloss and fragrance.

White : The most frequent users of foundation, with 43 percent of Caucasian makeup wearers using foundation every day.

But, Miss Grant notes, there is an overall change among women of all skin types in the forms of foundation they are choosing and they way they use it. Increasingly, women are shifting away from liquids — although that does remain the most popular form — toward powder forms and those with mineral bases. Foundation also is being used to accentuate features on the face for a more natural look instead of covering up flaws.

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