In fact, the most successful skin products are marketed as a tool to help you carve your own niche, achieve the complexion nature’s higher powers ordained for you in the pre-life.
The makers sell you on the ability of their product to unearth some unique potential of your skin, help your deeper beauty emerge, restore the natural vibrancy and vitality of your skin, help assert your individuality, and indeed find for you: a golden niche.
No product that I have seen – and in preparing to write this I did see a tonne – announces an offer to turn you into some random sample of another race, gender, or age-group. Even anti-ageing creams promise to arrest deterioration due, not to natural aging, but hostile influences of the environment, such as that vile ‘oxidation’. And truth be told, each individual’s skin is different, and its health therefore requires deliberate interventions.
That some of this skin stuff is made by snakes-oil salesmen who exploit their customers’ search for a niche is to be expected; that’s the reality of all commerce. The extremes of the trade should of course be dealt with by the appropriate laws and regulations. For example, certain substances, such as hydroquinone, are banned from use in topical products because they are dangerous. It is a simple matter of enforcing those bans.
As for the rise in the skin-care industry on the back of the individual aspirations of Black women and men alike, we have only scratched the surface.
Companies like Tiossan, Tara International, Ghandour, and Natura Sarl are a few players in a fast-emerging African home-grown skin-care industry with global ambitions that do not so much as whisper ‘lighter skin’ in their marketing campaigns.
Clearly, these nimble, well-run, companies have seen beyond the $10 billion skin-lightening trade and are happier targeting a healthier chunk of the more than $170 billion spent globally on cosmetics.
And what have they seen? That the deeper need that skin-care customers of all backgrounds are trying to serve is to heighten their belief in their own inner uniqueness, a yearning for a golden niche.
These emerging African brands sell themselves by emphasising rare attributes of dark skin and proclaim themselves as uniquely able to serve it. Far it be from them to offer some generic ‘ethnic stranger’ as the model for these special, unique, customers they are aiming to engage.
But thinking about it critically, shouldn’t this African skin-care marketing approach – of flattering the human ego’s yearning to be unique – become the benchmark of all marketing in a post-industrial age?
Bright Simons is a Social Entrepreneur and Public Interest Researcher. He invented the mPedigree anti-fake drugs system (www.mPedigree.Net), and is a Fellow at IMANI, a think tank in Ghana.