Latina Beauty Industry

The  Latina  beauty  industry includes hair care, cosmetics, and fragrance products and  services. The  industry includes mainstream brands and  Latina-owned companies  that  target  U.S.-born and immigrant Latinas as consumers. The  American beauty  industry may target  marketing toward U.S. Latinas in English or Spanish. U.S.-born and  immigrant Latinas are also business owners and  employees of the Latina  beauty  industry.

Latina Identity Defined

Latinas are women of Latin  American heritage. Latinas are a racial mix of indigenous, Spanish or other European, and African roots. Depending on regional lineage and  family histories, Latina  phenotypes represent a wide  range  reflecting indigenous, mestiza  (mixed Spanish/indigenous), European, or African  features. Latina skin tones and hair colors vary from light and blonde to medium tan and brown to black and  in various  combinations. Hair  textures vary widely among Latinas from straight to curly, thick  to thin. Latinas born in the United States  may be predominantly  English speakers or bilinguals whose  lives are shaped by various  degrees  of Latina  and  Latino cultural traditions and  values. Latina  immigrants in the United States  may  be  predominantly Spanish speakers with  strong ethnic cultural ties. The  Latina  beauty  industry includes women from Spain  and Latin America.

Latina and Latino  Market

Latinas and Latinos represent the fastest growing population in the United States. Estimates for 2006  report a Latina  and  Latino total  population of over  44 million.  Those of  Mexican heritage represent 28  million. Puerto Ricans,  Central Americans, and South Americans reflect an estimated 3.9 million, 3.3 million, and 2.4 million  of the U.S. population, respectively.

Latina  and  Latino purchasing power  reached $700  billion  in 2007  and  is expected to  reach  $1  trillion  by 2010.  Marketing research findings  conclude that Latinas make  75  percent of the  product-purchasing  decisions for  their  households. Latinas spend 27 percent more  on cosmetics and 43 percent more  on fragrances than general  consumers. Additionally, Latinas are found to be 37 percent more  likely to spend $300 a year on cosmetics and 43 percent more  on fragrances than general  consumers. Latinas purchase 10 percent more  premium hair  care, 86 percent more  hair color,  and  more  of every different type of hair care product than the general  consumer.

Latina  studies scholars agree  that  cultural upbringing, gender socialization, and  the  influences of Latina  representation in  American popular culture help to explain  their  beauty  product consumption and  usage.  Latinas learn  culturally specific  and  class-specific ideals  of femininity from  their  mothers, peers,  and  the mass  media.  Latina  subjects describe preening and  being  presentable in public, whether or  not  one  leaves  the  house, as a source of pride  and  empowerment. The  hypersexualized, spitfire images embraced by Latina  movie stars and celebrities further influence the kinds  of beauty  products Latina  adolescents and young adults favor.

Recognizing the Latina  consumer growth potential, U.S. cosmetics companies target  Latinas with specific  products and  multicultural advertising. Mainstream brands such  as Unilever, JossClaude Products, Estée Lauder, Revlon, Maybelline, CoverGirl, and  L’Oréal  have created new product lines for women of color and have selected  women of color  celebrities and models to promote products in multimedia outlets.

Unilever initiated an advertising campaign in 2005  geared  toward the Spanish-speaking Latina  audience by working with programs on the Spanish station Telemundo to incorporate segments on beauty featuring Unilever products. JossClaude released  Formula Latina  in 2004, a line of hair products for U.S. Latinas. According to JossClaude surveys,  frizz and  shine  are the  top  two concerns of Latinas, which their  products aim  to  address. JossClaude admit  that  their  products would  suit women of any ethnic/racial background.

Beginning in the 1990s, mainstream cosmetic brands such  as Revlon and Maybelline  have attempted to meet  the needs  of Latinas and  women of color  by adding more  colors  of foundations, concealers, and  powders and  hiring  Latina  and Spanish celebrities, including Penelope Cruz,  Salma  Hayek,  Jennifer  Lopez,  and Eva Mendes as spokeswomen. Additional colors  and  shades reflect  the  light-tomedium skin  tones  and  not  the  dark  skin  tones  common among Latinas with more  indigenous and African features. Darker foundations tend  to be more  challenging   to  create  because of  the  added  opacity  and  heavy  textures  caused by increases in pigment. Thus, darker-skinned women continue to have significantly fewer cosmetic color  choices.

Critics  contend that  the  mainstream beauty  industry has  failed  to  sustain a successful product line for Latinas and  women of color. The  three  challenges for mainstream brands are in the  areas  of product development, retail  strategy,  and advertising. Another point of critique is that beauty  industry spokeswomen reflect the light-skinned to moderately tan Latinas with more  European features, a look that  some  in the industry describe as the universal appeal.

Producers, Entrepreneurs, And Advocates

Latinas and  women of color  have opened their  own businesses in the beauty  industry  and  produced their  own  lines of cosmetics to address the  lack of choices offered  by mainstream brands. Latinas also act as advocates in support of Latina and  Latino beauty  industry professionals and  students and  the  broader Latina and Latino community.

Zalia  Cosmetics is Latina-owned and  released  its line  of multicultural color cosmetics for  Latinas in  2001,  offering  a selection of foundations, concealers, and  powders in olive and  yellow tones. Founder and  president Monica Ramirez launched Zalia  at shopping malls in Miami,  Los Angeles,  Dallas,  and  New York. Three percent of  Zalia’s  profits   go  to  organizations  that   service  Latinas and entrepreneurs.

The  success of Jennifer  Lopez’s Glow is one  example  of ethnic fragrance marketing. Along with a significant advertising campaign, Lopez’s own popularity and the ubiquitous coverage of her romances in magazines and entertainment news at the time of Glow’s launch in 2005 is said to have facilitated its success.

Latinas are also owners and  employees of small  businesses affiliated  with  the beauty  industry. Out  of every 10 businesses, 1 is Latina  or Latino owned. Latina owned  businesses represent 35 percent of the 2 million  Latina or Latino-owned businesses registered in the  United States;  the  number increased by 121 percent between 1997 and 2006. Research on Latina-owned beauty  parlors demonstrates the  role  that  these  small  businesses, particularly Latina  beauty  parlors, play  in providing support to, educating, and  empowering Latina  communities regarding personal and public  health issues.

The  National Latino Cosmetology Association (NLCA),  a nonprofit founded by CEO  Julie Zepeda in 2006, supports and promotes the businesses and careers of cosmetologists, estheticians, nail technicians, massage therapists, barbers, and beauty  industry students. Beyond  professional support, the  NLCA  supports the development of natural products and eco-friendly packaging.

Health and Safety

Latinas are the  subject of public  health concerns related  to the  beauty  industry. Shampoos, lotions, hair  dyes, fragrances, and  makeup contain chemicals linked to breast  cancer, reproductive problems such  as birth  defects,  and other illnesses.

The  use of toxic chemicals in U.S. beauty  products is traced  back to the inception of the  industry in the  mid 1800s.  Today, only 10 percent of all chemical ingredients  used  in beauty  products are regulated by the U.S. Food  and Drug Administration. In the United States, companies are not required to list chemicals used in their  beauty  products.

Chemicals of  concern include coal  tar,  often  used  in  permanent hair  dyes; formaldehyde and  sodium lauryl  sulfate,  often  used  in shampoos, conditioners, and shower gels; lead acetate, often  used  in red lipstick; nanoparticles, often  used in sunblock lotions and  anti-wrinkle creams; parabens, often  used  in underarm deodorants; and phthalates, often  found in nail polish.

Some products popular among Latinas contain the highest levels of toxic chemicals. These include Vaseline  Intensive Care  Lotion—Aloe and  Naturals, Revlon ColorStay Overtime Liquid  Lipcolor in Ultimate Wine,  and  OPI  Classic  Shades Nail Lacquer in OPI Red. Neurotoxins are also found in red and  wine lip colors made  by L’Oréal,  Christian Dior,  and  CoverGirl. People  in occupations affiliated with the beauty  industry are at a higher risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals. For  instance, breast  cancer rates  for cosmetologists in Los  Angeles  County are nearly twice that of the general  population, and cosmetology is a popular occupation  among Latinas.

The  Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, initiated in 2002,  is a collaboration of organizations including the Breast Cancer Fund, the National Black Environmental Justice  Network, Women’s Voices for the Earth, and  the Environmental Working Group calling  for national and  state-level legislation and  corporate accountability to ensure consumers are informed of all chemicals used  in beauty  products. The  campaign also  publishes reports and  fact  sheets  to  inform women of the toxic chemicals found in specific beauty  products, as well as their  negative  health impacts.

One  legislative  outcome of the  efforts  of the  Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is the  passage  of Senate  Bill 484 in California (CA SB 484), also known as the  Safe Cosmetics Act of 2005.  CA SB 484  implements a regulatory framework for the use of chemicals in beauty  products and mandates that companies report all toxic ingredients used in their products beginning in fall 2008. Companies that lobbied against  CA SB 484 included Estée Lauder, L’Oréal, Procter and Gamble, Avon, Mary  Kay  Cosmetics, Neutrogena, and  Johnson &  Johnson, many  of whom actively promote products for Latinas and  other women of color. A similar  California  bill to outlaw  the use of lead in lipstick  was defeated in June 2008.

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