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Markets & trends

Brazilian industry still fails to cater to black women’s beauty needs

The lack of products for black skin and hair inspired black female entrepreneurs to develop customized brands and services for this audience.

Makeda Cosméticos

Makeda Cosméticos

In Brazil, over half of the population is black and dark-skinned who, as much as any ethnic group, have their unique skin and hair features. If on the one hand black skin has more elasticity and is more resistant to aging, on the other hand it is more prone to pigmentation and oiliness. Curly and afro-textured hair also tends to be dryer and more prone to breakage, thus requiring special care.

The black population in Brazil currently accounts for around 104 million people, but they still represent a small niche in the beauty industry. It was not until the mid-1990s that black men and women started to have access to beauty products that cater to their specific needs in the domestic market. Before that, the only options were to purchase them overseas or try “homemade recipes”.

In 1996, Brazil began to promote the so-called affirmative action policies, which no longer sought the integration of black people in the society, but reinforced their identity from a positive perspective. “That’s when we saw the appearance of the first ethnic salons, cosmetics for black skin and print media dedicated to this audience,” says linguist Amanda Braga, who has just released the book ‘History of Black Beauty in Brazil.’

Based on their difficulty finding cosmetics for their skin and hair, a black family from Sao Paulo decided it was time to take on a new endeavor. Sisters Sheila and Shirley and their mother Sandra Dourado used to work for a U.S.-based hair care company when, in 1994, they opened a hair salon for women who – just like them – had trouble taming their hair.

Chemical straightening used to be very popular at the salon until 2006, when I decided to wear my naturally curly hair down. Many clients loved my new style and started to show interest in this segment,” says Sheila Dourado. The trio jumped on the opportunity to take a bigger step and launched, in 2012, their own cosmetic company – Makeda Cosméticos. According to Sheila, the brand’s active ingredients are its main point of difference as they provide the nourishment needed by curly and tightly curled hair on a daily basis.

The products are there, but consumers not always find it easy to buy them. Journalist Carolina Lima used to purchase cosmetics online, but had difficulty in finding products for wavy and curly hair. “They hardly ever appear on the homepage of websites and information on their use and formulation are often missing,” she says. In partnership with her friend Alana Lourenço, Lima created the e-commerce PraPreta, in 2013. The website brings together shampoos, conditioners, moisturizing hair masks, styling and finishing products from Brazil and overseas. The cosmetics cater to black women of all hair types – afro-textured, curly and chemically treated, as well as hair extensions.

Alana Lourenço and Carolina Lima, founders of the PraPreta e-commerce

Alana Lourenço and Carolina Lima, founders of the PraPreta e-commerce

Both Makeda and PraPreta plan to increase their product portfolios. “We will continue to grow our range, with skin care and body care products, moisturizers for dry skin, a BB Cream and a kid’s line,” says Dourado. Lima also pointed that making a makeup range available on PraPreta is in her plans.

Although cosmetic giants like Avon and Natura already have shades that cater to black skin in their portfolio, few Brazilian brands have exclusive lines in this category. One of them is Muene, founded over 25 years ago by Maria do Carmo Valério Nicolau. The company highlights its collection of wet foundation with nine tones, from light beige to dark brown. Nicolau has also taken special care to ensure the quality of the product so that it reduces the appearance of skin spots and imperfections and helps control oily skin.

The market for products designed for black skin and hair has a huge potential, and the industry is growing slowly but surely. “We make purchases and move the economy forward as any other segment of the population. Black women want and need to be recognized as an important consumer group,” says Lima.

Renata Martins

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