Rico Nasty makeup collaboration with Il Makiage

It’s no secret the Latinx consumer is vital for the beauty business. 

At more than 60 million people, 18 percent of the total U.S. population identified as Hispanic or Latinx in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And it’s a growing group — by 2060, individuals with origins in Spain and Latin America are expected to make up more than 27 percent of the population, according to the Census Bureau. Latinx buying power is projected to increase from $1.5 trillion in 2019 to $2.3 trillion by 2024, according to Nielsen.

It’s also a group that outspends its peers when it comes to buying beauty by about 30 percent, according to Nielsen. 

WHAT THE LATINX CONSUMER IS BUYING

Latinx shoppers make up roughly 14.1 percent of select beauty consumers, meaning those who buy brands that are available at drugstores or big-box chains, but account for 18.5 percent of select beauty spending, according to Stacie de Armas, senior vice president of diverse insights and initiatives at Nielsen, who noted that Latinx consumers tend to spend more on beauty. The group also spends more than $167 per year, on average, compared to the general population’s $135, and makes more shopping trips where beauty items are purchased, according to Nielsen. 

According to Mintel, Latinx women alone spent more than $2 billion on makeup products in the U.S. in 2019, accounting for 18 percent of total spend. The demographic group tends to use more products — 60 percent of women use nine or more makeup products, Mintel noted. 

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“Due to their sheer size and youth, Hispanic women are a critical target for most brands competing in color cosmetics,” said Juan Ruiz, Mintel’s director of Hispanic Insights. “Hispanic women over-index for using most makeup categories.” 

SPENDING AND THE PANDEMIC

The demographic’s outsized spending in beauty has been well established, but the Latinx consumer’s relationship to beauty is evolving in ways that will require brands and retailers to evolve, too. There are temporary shifts as a result of the coronavirus pandemic to contend with, as well as long-term generational moves toward self-expression and conscious spending. 

During the pandemic, for example, makeup spending from Latinx women decreased, in line with the broader market. 

“A limited social life has resulted in 40 [percent] of Hispanic women reporting that spending on beauty products is less of a priority,” Mintel said in a recent report. The market research group predicts that makeup usage will return, especially with a focus on eye makeup, as people go back to work, and that in the COVID-19 recovery period, which Mintel predicts for 2022 to 2025, makeup usage will return to pre-pandemic levels, with price continuing to be a major factor in purchasing decisions. In the period through 2021, Mintel expects moderate use of eye makeup and products with long-lasting results.

According to Nielsen, consumer spending dipped in March, but started ticking back up in May. Latinx shoppers spent 6.5 percent more between March and August on select beauty versus the year-ago period, compared to the total U.S., which spent 0.5 percent less. And while some spending may have dipped at the onset of the pandemic, Latinx beauty shoppers still spent 2.8 percent more on beauty between August 2019 and 2020 than they had the prior year, Nielsen research shows. 

That rebound comes despite the Latinx community being disproportionately affected by unemployment related to COVID-19. Between March and April, when the pandemic shuttered many nonessential businesses across the U.S., Latinx unemployment went from 6 to 18.9 percent, compared to the national unemployment rate, which went from 4.4 to 14.7 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate among the Latinx community is around 10.5 percent, while the national unemployment rate is around 8.4 percent.

The mass-market channels, which have historically been key for Latinx beauty shoppers, are likely to continue to play a big role, said Ruiz. 

“The impact of COVID-19 on the usage of color cosmetics signals that retailers such as Walmart and drugstores will remain the undisputed top destinations for Hispanic women for makeup products,” he said. 

FUTURE FOCUS, FUTURE GROWTH

Mintel predicts makeup’s return will center around the eyes in the near term, as people head back to work. Between May and June, as lockdowns eased, eye makeup growth averaged 6 percent week-over-week, according to The NPD Group. False lashes, mascara, brow products and eyeliner were top sellers.

In the longer term, beauty ideals for younger Latinx consumers, especially Gen Z, are shifting. Young Latinx-ers are interested in self expression and self care, and are intentionally deviating away from stereotypical ideals of beauty — straight hair, red lips, gold hoops and curves — experts from Juv, a Gen Z marketing agency that has worked with Unilever, Procter & Gamble and other companies, said.

Gen Z is, and will increasingly be, an important generation for the beauty community to pay attention to. 

According to Nielsen’s de Armas, the U.S. is in the middle of a demographic revolution. It’s similar to what the country saw with the Baby Boomers, but now, it’s among the Latinx community. In the last 10 years, the group has made up 52 percent of all U.S. population growth, Nielsen data shows. In the next 40 years, the community is expected to contribute 68 percent of total population growth. 

In the last 52 weeks, Latinx consumers under the age of 35 spent $663 million on select beauty, with hair care, color and nail products as key areas of focus, according to Nielsen.

In order to reach young Latinx consumers, beauty brands, retailers and marketers need to “renovate their tool kit[s],”, according to Juan José Amaya, senior partner at Juv. 

“We are slowly shifting that idea that Latinas have nice hazel or green eyes or look ‘exotic’ — as a generation we hate the word exotic, that’s a big ‘no’ — it’s starting to become a little more…inclusive and accepting of natural features, such as curly hair,” Amaya said. 

Younger generations are moving on from the idea that curly or coily hair equals “pelo malo” (bad hair) and must be straightened, or that certain styles of makeup give off the wrong idea, Amaya explained. 

Historically, young women had avoided bright colors or too much makeup “because then ‘you look like a whore,’ frankly speaking, is what our mothers had told us growing up,” Amaya said. “We’re now seeing that makeup doesn’t make you a whore, makeup is more of an act of self-expression, a creative outlet, making you feel good, an extension of self-esteem and who you are.” 

Gradually, that is starting to go for men and gender-nonconforming consumers, too. In cultures long dominated by machismo, queer Latinx consumers are more often experimenting with makeup online in TikTok videos. The shift is happening in mainstream music culture, too — Puerto Rican music sensation Bad Bunny dressed in full drag in his 2020 music video for ‘Yo Perrero Sola’ — and drag queen Valentina and late astrologer Walter Mercado are looked up to as boundary-pushing icons, Amaya and Juv colleague Victoria Arguelles said. 

Beauty ideals, especially among younger generations, are shifting to become more inclusive and embrace people across the full range of the Latinx community, which includes 26 countries and people with many shapes, colors and hair textures.

MARKETING WITH THE RIGHT MESSAGE

Juv advises those looking to market to the group to recognize the diversity within the Latinx community and avoid approaching the consumer cohort like a monolith.

Nielsen research suggests, for example, that differences in people’s roots can affect purchasing decisions. U.S.-born Latinx people tend to outspend on beauty, which Nielsen owes to higher incomes.

Younger generations are more “liberated to feel happy with who they are,” said Kika Rocha, fashion and beauty editor at People En Español. For years, “you had to try to look like the model,” Rocha said. “It was a struggle, especially if you weren’t genetically built for it. You would do everything from change your hair color — not for fun, but because it was a certain look you had to have.”

When Rocha first moved to the U.S. from Colombia 20 years ago, she had to bring her foundation from home. Today, she said shade ranges are more inclusive, and beauty icons span from Salma Hayek to singers Diana Danelys De Los Santos, known professionally as Amala La Negra, and Celia Cruz.

“It’s wonderful to see how the space has opened, but we’re still not there yet. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still more to do,” Rocha said. A People en Español Afro-Latina Study from 2018 showed that 77 percent of Afro-Latinas agreed they don’t have adequate representation in beauty ads. 

In addition to wanting advertising to feature different types of Latinx models, Gen Z is looking for companies to support the community beyond marketing, with a seat (or several) at the table.

“We don’t want you to go off with these metrics that you get from Nielsen or that you got from some data pull and assume that’s going to work to market to us, or that’s what’s going to shine through in your campaign,” said Arguelles. “Data can only get you so far, the people need to be in the room to make those decisions.” 

For brands willing to take the time to understand the nuances of the Latinx community, the payoff can be big.

Il Makiage, for example, recently partnered with Rico Nasty for an eye shadow collection that industry sources said was successful. On TikTok, the collaboration caught the attention of Gen Z. 

“We will hype up if something is good,” Amaya said. “Her latest palette with Il Makiage was raved about because of how well the shimmers shined and how they lay on darker skin tones — we’ll notice that. We’ll notice those efforts of companies being more inclusive, not just in their advertising but in their products and practices.” 

For more from WWD.com, see: 

Racism at Retail: Beauty Segment Needs to Revamp, and Fast 

Walmart’s New Beauty VP Musab Balbale Wants to Redefine E-commerce

By the Numbers: Fenty Skin’s Meteoric Pre-Launch Rise

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