With increased disposable income and urbanization, she wants a high standard and quality of products and services, according to industry experts.
“The average African woman who is interested in her skin care is looking for education, to help with her basic understanding of her skin, a routine and product knowledge to help her navigate her buying options,” says Mathahle Stofile of the thematteproject.com. Stofile is a former beauty editor and the founder of The Matte Project, a community website dedicated to reviewing and educating African women, women and men of color on skin care and skin care products.
Amidst a worldwide global shift in consumer behavior, the African consumer is not being left behind. As one of the fastest growing regions of the cosmetics industry—due to the growing middle class, technological developments and an increase in health and wellness awareness–the African cosmetics market has expanded, on average 8-10% year on year versus 4% average global growth.
Skin care was the third largest category in the Middle East and African Market in 2018, according to Euromonitor International. In South Africa alone, the professional skin care market is expected to top $839 million by 2023, according to Mordor intelligence.
The largest skin care markets are in Sub-Saharan Africa. South Africa, the largest and more developed of the markets, is the leader, followed by Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana and Cameroon. These countries are expected to have a combined spending power of $1.3 trillion. The modern African consumer is demanding more and she has the disposable income to match.
Although there are slight physiological skin differences for the African woman of darker skin tones and women of color, they do not affect how to take care of skin. Dry skin, scarring, ingrown hairs, loss of firmness, clogged pores, signs of aging, sun damage from unprotected sun exposure, uneven skin tone, oily skin, acne and sensitive skin are some common skin care concerns.
Unfortunately, the first entrants into the market sold skin lightening, also known as skin whitening and skin bleaching solutions, as a popular response to acne and its post inflammatory hyperpigmentation and the impact of sun exposure. According to the World Health Organization, in several African countries, between 25% to 80% of women regularly use skin whitening products.
Skin care for some African tribes and their people is an age-old tradition; notably, the popular image of the Himba woman covered in Otjize, a mixture of butterfat, fragrant resin and pigment. This hybrid of color, fragrance and a basic form of skin care and hair care is used to scent, protect and nourish skin and hair from the dry sunny climate of northwestern Namibia.
The African woman has had a long relationship with crafting her beauty ideal and her skin care formulas as well. Some of the most popular formulas include homemade oil concoctions, pigmented powders and soaps. In many instances, there is no distinction between face or body and formulas guided by traditional rites, are popular. Yet, experts agree that facial skin care is the largest skin care segment in South Africa.
Increased regulation and active market participation by regulatory bodies has created an environment with an increasing awareness of the dangers associated with the use of harmful chemicals in women’s skin care. As a result, you won’t find mercury and other harmful ingredients in skin-lightening formulations.
The women’s skin care category on the African continent has long been dominated by multinationals such as Unilever, Avon, Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, L’Oréal and Beiersdorf. To further anchor their position in the market, dedicated research and development facilities are being opened in the region targeting specifically the African consumer and her needs. These R&D efforts also serve to increase differentiation between the market players. For example, BASF opened an application technology laboratory in Lagos and L’Oréal has a research and innovation center in South Africa along with an African beauty brands team.
With the rise of social media, brands are utilizing creative marketing campaigns and strategies to find their ways into the bathroom cabinets of the African women and a place in her regular skin care arsenal.
“The Nigerian skin care market in the past two years shifted in consumer behavior; the more discerning consumer with a higher disposable income is demanding a more natural approach to her skin care as she becomes more conscious about living a healthier lifestyle,” says Bidemi Zakariyau founder of The Luxe Digest and LSF PR, a full service public relations agency with core competencies in corporate communications, consumer and lifestyle brands. There has always been a “borrowing” of natural active ingredients in the marketing and formulation of skin care products with indigenous African botanical ingredients by the mainstream industry players.
The advent of new media and technology has meant that a record-breaking number of Africans are choosing to become their own bosses, and this has led to more opportunities for smaller brands to join the African women’s skin care market and are slowly gaining wider market recognition. These domestic brands are mostly female led and owned, taking advantage of natural home grown ingredients in their formulations and predominantly making use of ingredients familiar to their local consumers.
Brands include Nokware Skincare from Ghana, Skoon Skin in South Africa and Arami Essentials from Nigeria, to name a few. These young, niche, traditionally-rooted and sustainability-focused domestic brands have limited distribution, are priced competitively and are catering to the demand for indigenous, local, safer and healthier alternatives with community empowerment and sustainable practices. Amidst health scares and the possible dangers of synthetic chemicals used in the past, these brands are catering to a learned captive audience.
They are more agile and responsive to trends than multinationals, offering more domestic consumer focused solutions with a deeper understanding of what local consumers really want. No surprise, then, that Africa has one the highest share of “others” in value terms; i.e., any company other than the Big 5 (Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, L’Oréal and Beiersdorf).
Infrastructure remains one of the biggest challenges to growth in the region; supermarkets are the primary outlets based on their national foot print and frequent visitation. Supermarkets are the primary retail outlet for almost everything in Africa for consumers with disposable income. They are usually national with multiple store locations in each city and are a regular destination for everyone.
Pharmacies/chemists (health and beauty stores) are next, especially in areas where stand-alone brand retail stores are paling in comparison to capturing the consumer in a familiar environment where the domestic consumer values the advice of in-store personnel. Pharmacies are even more popular in areas where there are no supermarkets or standalone brand stores in which to compete. Customers value the advice of the sales assistants at pharmacies/chemists so it is a familiar environment for them, thus making them a popular destination.
Major retailers wield considerable purchasing power and often offer a range of private-label brands. Multi-location spas and aesthetic centers, such as Laserderm Aesthetic Centres in South Africa and Oríkì spas in Nigeria, are now part of the high streets in more affluent areas. Specialist beauty retailers like Youtopia Beauty in Nigeria, Metro Cosmetics in South Africa are the newest entrants, targeting the beauty enthusiast looking for a diverse range of luxury skin care products, both local heroes and international luxury brands, in a single location.
Although entry is a challenge for newcomers, due to economic instability, lack of infrastructure and increased import taxes, the potential for women’s skin care in Africa is ripe with opportunity.
Zeze Oriaikhi-Sao is an entrepreneur, influential speaker, sought-after brand consultant and freelance columnist with a focus on Innovation, sustainability and leadership in the cosmetics, luxury goods and start-up industries. As the founder of Malée, Africa’s first global luxury fragrance and body care brand, an advisory board member at Innocos, the world beauty innovations summit, Oriaikhi-Sao has established herself as a leader in the African-made luxury goods market. She has been featured on CNN, The Telegraph and The Daily Mail. She hosts the podcast Third Culture Africans, and inspires a vast audience with entrepreneurial and lifestyle Insights at zezeonline.