By  on June 8, 2007

SoftSheen-Carson is keeping busy this summer with two efforts — one philanthropic, one consumer-oriented — that look to put the L'Oréal USA-owned ethnic beauty company in a stronger position to meet African-American women's needs.

On June 23 in Orlando, Fla., SoftSheen is partnering with Essence magazine and the International Society for Hypertension in Blacks to support heart health for African-American women. The partnership will yield "Optimum Care 'Cares' 3K Walk," named after SoftSheen's leading hair care brand, and is aimed at raising awareness of African-American women's health issues — and also getting women involved in fitness. Event organizers expect between 300 and 500 participants.

SoftSheen's president, Candace Matthews, takes these health issues to heart.

"We have realized that hypertension and heart disease are the number-one health-related causes of death of African-American women. We're very committed to bringing awareness out about this," said Matthews.

According to the American Heart Association Web site, these health issues appear to be the result of a higher proportion of African-American women exhibiting the risk factors for earlier mortality — cigarette smoking, hypertension, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, inadequate physical activity and obesity. Black women also tend to have a higher resting blood pressure, and their chance for heart disease is 72 percent higher than that of Caucasian women of a certain age.

Select Optimum Care relaxer packages this fall will promote the partnership and also contain a "heart bracelet" to bring focus to ISHIB that can tell consumers where to find additional information on heart health. A percentage of proceeds from the sale of these relaxers will go to ISHIB. An advertorial discussing the partnership of SoftSheen, Essence and ISHIB will be in September magazines. Health screenings and tutorials with mass retailers are being hammered out.

The spark to target heart health came from Tricia Green, an assistant marketing manager for relaxers and skin care at SoftSheen. "I challenge my team to touch the community," Matthews said.

SoftSheen also is looking to keep women looking good by way of its annual Style Tour. Past tours visited four to five cities, where stylists camp out in retailer parking lots and at community events to educate consumers on SoftSheen products. This year, SoftSheen will visit 13 cities. The tour will include the usual Style Plex, a tent decked out with stylists and products, as well as two SUVs that have been converted to mini salons. The Style Tour begins Friday in Manhattan at the Times Square Duane Reade and will continue on to mass retailers and beauty supply stores in Memphis; Charlotte, N.C.; Philadelphia; Washington; Atlanta; Jersey City, NJ; Chicago; Baltimore; New Orleans; Oakland, Calif.; Los Angeles, and Houston."Word of mouth is critical to the growth of ethnic hair care," Matthews said, who added that company spokesperson Kelly Rowland will appear at some Style Tour events and also broadcast its radio ad spots.

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