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.