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The buying power of the ethnic market is increasing according to reports. In 2006, the US market for ethnic hair, beauty and cosmetic products reached US$1.9 billion, according to a Packaged Facts report. Ethnic skin and hair care is a growing niche market, but in comparison to hair care, skin care falls short, according to Patrick Obukowho, president and principal consulting chemist at Advantage Research Lab. Although he has seen the ethnic skin care market grow, he still sees room for improvement.
Biologically and functionally, all skin types are the same, according to Obukowho; the main difference, to him, lies in formulating for the factors related to ethnicity such as regional diets, genetic dispositions, pollution and weather. He therefore believes that formulating products for populations with ethnic skin is necessary. Obukowho consults primarily in the formulation of black skin care; therefore, this article will focus on that population within the ethnic market. One reason Obukowho believes that black skin care has not caught up with black hair care is the lack of research in regional skin care needs.
“I think the awareness of the need is there, but I don’t think this awareness is fully realized or that formulations are properly designed. There is still a lack of understanding of the technology that relates to the formulation of ethnic skin care products,” said Obukowho.
A primary focus in black skin care, according to Obukowho, is moisturization. “Moisturization is key in the black community because black skin is often dry,” he said. Although Obukowho concedes that the skin care research has not given cosmetic chemists all the answers as to why black skin is dry, he has observed that it is due to genetic makeup and environmental factors. According to Obukowho, for years people with black skin have relied on general skin care that promises extra moisturization. General skin care, however, is only a temporary dry skin fix for the black population, according to Obukowho.
“Long-lasting results are the key here. General products are not specifically addressing the ethnic population. They provide temporary moisturization, but the problem is not addressed over the long-term,” said Obukowho.