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Skincare products often don’t consider people of color. Product lines are typically not clinically tested on darker skin tones, and black chemists may not be involved in the creation process. A new crop of beauty entrepreneurs is starting to change that, making skincare products specifically for melanin-rich skin and capitalizing on an underexplored opportunity.
This summer, tennis star Naomi Osaka launched Kinlò, a skincare brand that focuses on products that protect darker skin tones from the sun.
Osaka said she didn’t like wearing sunscreen since she was a child because it gave her a white shade. “I’ve also heard that dark skin doesn’t burn when I grow up, so I don’t think I need sunscreen,” Osaka says. “I got my first sunburn and learned the hard way, and when I started developing Kinlò, I was exposed to a lot of research.”
For Osaka, the brand is a celebration of her blackness. She is of Asian-African descent, of Japanese and Haitian descent. “Kinlò is an affirmation for all of us black people and a celebration of our beautiful black skin. It’s a way to celebrate and protect it,” she said. Since its launch, the brand has achieved eight-figure sales and has expanded to Walmart stores across the United States.
According to a report titled “Black Representation in the Beauty Industry,” released earlier this year by consulting firm McKinsey & Company, only 13 percent of black consumers in the U.S. say they can find beauty products that meet their needs at mainstream retailers. Meanwhile, according to McKinsey, black-founded or owned brands accounted for just 2.5 percent of beauty revenue, while black consumers accounted for 11.1 percent of total beauty spending. Money on the table: Report finds “fairer beauty market” a $2.6 billion opportunity.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of data on black consumers,” said Tiffany Burns, a senior partner at McKinsey and co-author of the study. “It’s a consumer group that people don’t really know about. Most retailers segment by gender and age. There aren’t many segments based on race.”
A stronger retail presence is helping new brands emerge. Hyperskin founder Desiree Verdejo won some space on Sephora’s shelves last August. Deals with mainstream retailers have been a significant boost for brands, she said. “We’re excited to grow with this partner and make our brand more and more embraced by our community,” Verdejo said.