If you look at any Internet roundup of "Best Drugstore Products For Women Of Color," there is one thing notably missing from the lists: Skin care for people of color. There are foundation, shampoo, and lipstick recommendations, but cleansers, toners, and moisturizers are almost always absent. What gives, beauty industry?
According to dermatologist Dr. Mara Weinstein of Schweiger Dermatology in NYC, "Skin care regiments differ based on skin type, not necessarily skin color." So no matter what your ethnic background is, all of our dry/oily/combination skin basically has the same needs. However, there are certain concerns that are more prevalent in skin of color than in unpigmented skin. "The most common concern in skin of color is dyspigmentation (light spots and dark spots)," says Dr. Weinstein. "The African American population is mainly concerned about post inflammatory hyperpigmentation and acne, and hair loss, and the Hispanic population I see has been concerned about cosmetics, aging changes and acne. These concerns aren’t unique necessarily but are common in certain skin types."
So where are the products geared toward these problems? Even though the industry has made some steps in the right direction in the last two years — L’Oréal started its Women of Color Lab in 2013 and Neutrogena and Maybelline have each expressed commitment to diversity — as far as mainstream beauty goes, skin care for women and men of color still feels like an afterthought.
As Refinery 29's Taylor Bryant put it in a poignant essay titled "How The Beauty Industry Has Failed Black Women" (which, by the way, is definitely worth a read) "Black women, in particular, spend an estimated $7.5 billion annually on beauty products, shelling out 80 percent more on cosmetics and twice as much on skin care as their non-Black counterparts. Yet, they've been grossly underserved by the cosmetics industry throughout history."
Miami-based skin care brand Eben Naturals is trying to change that. The brand is specially formulated to treat the skin of men and women of color, and designed, marketed and branded with them in mind. "I’d like my customers to feel proud of using a product that was designed with them in mind from A to Z, but more importantly I’d like them to feel empowered to take over the world with the self-confidence that comes when feeling good in your skin," says founder Milain David.
Eben Bundle, $45, EbenNaturals.com
David was inspired to start the brand after visiting his home country of Congo. He saw uninformed consumers using bleaching products, and felt that they were being fed a message by local beauty brands that beauty is represented by a lighter complexion. "I thought to myself, if African themselves can’t embrace the beauty of deep skin tone who will?" he says. When he returned to the US, he started researching what sort of skin care options are available for people of color, and found that it was a disappointingly underserved category so decided to take things into his own hands.
Purifying Tonic Lotion, $12.99, EbenNaturals.com
Through his research, David found that even though there are universal basic needs for all skin types regardless of ethnic background or skin color (so, the same conclusion that Dr. Weinstein came to as well), there are certain issues in skin of color that products need to address. For example, dry skin, oily face, uneven skin tone, black spots and specific types of stubborn marks. "In order to effectively tackle those issues, you need formulations that are engineered with them in mind," he tells me.
Facial Cream, $19.99, EbenNaturals.com
More than anything, David wants to change the way brands speak to people of color. "People of color have more purchasing power than ever, yet it is still hard to recognize ourselves in brands sold on the shelves of major retailers," says David. "The few who have acknowledged the issue have segregated brands like Eben in so-called 'ethnic' sections." His goal is to break barriers to have products geared toward people of color placed among other major brand labels.
"Other mainstream beauty products may offer individual products that may help with some of our needs but they are not marketed at us, so not only is it hard to understand their potential benefits but chances are they don’t offer a one-stop shop for all our skincare needs, which is ultimately our goal."
Body Lotion, $15.99, EbenNaturals.com
Hopefully, brands like Eben Naturals will help the industry take another step (or 10-15 steps) in the right direction towards inclusivity.
Images: Ebennaturals/Instagram; Courtesy of Eben Naturals