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Skincare is typically not made with people of colour in mind. Product lines are often not clinically tested on darker skin tones, while Black chemists may not be part of the creation process. A new crop of beauty entrepreneurs have set out to change that, making skincare specifically with melanin-rich skin in mind and tapping into an underexplored opportunity.
This summer, tennis star Naomi Osaka launched a skincare brand, Kinlò, which focuses on providing skincare products that protect darker skin tones from the sun.
Osaka says she never liked wearing sunscreen growing up because of the white cast it would give her. “I also heard growing up that black skin didn’t burn, so I didn’t think I needed sunscreen,” says Osaka. “I got my first sunburn and learned the hard way, and as I started developing Kinlò there was so much research I was exposed to.”
For Osaka, the brand is a celebration of her Blackness. She is Afro-Asian, of Japanese and Haitian descent. “Kinlò is an affirmation of all of our Blackness and a celebration of our beautiful melanated skin. It’s a way to celebrate and protect it,” she says. Since its launch, the brand has hit eight figures in sales and has expanded into Walmart stores across the US.
A report published earlier this year by consultancy McKinsey & Company titled Black representation in the beauty industry noted that only 13 per cent of Black consumers in America say they can find beauty products at mainstream retailers that meet their needs. Meanwhile, Black-founded or Black-owned brands make up only 2.5 percent of beauty revenue, while Black consumers are responsible for 11.1 percent of total beauty spending, according to McKinsey. There’s money on the table: the report found that a “more equitable beauty market” is a $2.6 billion opportunity.
“I think there hasn’t been a lot of data about Black consumers,” says Tiffany Burns, a co-author of the study and senior partner at McKinsey. “It’s a consumer group that people don’t really understand. Most retailers do segmentation based on gender and age. There are not a lot of segments based on race.”
A stronger retail presence is helping new brands to emerge. Desiree Verdejo, founder of Hyperskin, won some space on Sephora shelves this past August. A deal with a mainstream retailer is a significant boost for the brand, she says. “We’re so excited to grow with this partner and to have our brand be more and more accessible to our community,” says Verdejo.