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The Next Generation in Beauty: Viva Latina

With a cultural predilection for beauty and population figures increasing exponentially, the Hispanic market is a key engine for growth in the U.S.

Buenas noches!” trilled Colombian actress Sofia Vergara, as she bounded on stage with the cast of her hit show, Modern Family, to accept the Golden Globe award for Best TV Series, Comedy or Musical.

Muchas gracias Antonio! Muchos gracias Salma!” She beamed, addressing presenters Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek in the native language they all share. Vergara then delivered the entirety of the show’s acceptance speech in Spanish, rolling every R as crisply as a toreador waves his red cape, while beside her stood the show’s co-creator, Steven Levitan, humorously translating her remarks into English as she finished each sentence.

Vergara’s speech did more than cement Modern Family’s status as must-see TV. It also affirmed the starring role that Latin culture is assuming in the United States as the Hispanic community moves from minority to mainstream.

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The numbers tell the story. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are roughly 50.5 million Hispanics in the U.S., about 16.3 percent of the total population. That number is expected to grow to 66.3 million people by 2020. Moreover, the Hispanic population is younger than the total population, with a median age of 27.7 versus 36.8. Over the next 10 years, the number of Latinas in the 18-to-49 age range is projected to grow by another 3.2 million, while the number of non-Hispanic women in that age group will actually decline by more than one million. In terms of buying power, Hispanics currently control about $1.2 trillion.

Separating out women, the numbers are equally as impressive. “By 2020, we are going to have 23.8 million Hispanic women in this country,” says Ricardo Quintero, senior vice president, global general manager, market development at Clinique. “There will be 10.3 million in the 15-to-34 age range and 9.4 million in the 35-to-59 bracket, and these are the most important groups in terms of consumption. Any company who wants to grow needs to look at the numbers.”

“We have critical mass inside of the United States” agrees Graciela Eleta, senior vice president of the client development group at Univision. “The Hispanic population has grown 40 percent over the last 10 years. For companies looking to grow, it’s going to be difficult to do so in the absence of a focused and targeted plan to reach Latinos.”

These numbers are significant enough to quicken the heartbeat of almost any marketer. But for beauty marketers, the numbers are especially arresting: Not only are there a lot of Latina women in the U.S., but they are extremely involved in beauty. For Latina women, beauty is a cultural imperative that transcends age and income level. “When it comes to spending on yourself, there is no limit, because we consider it an investment. Somehow, we are born with it, the idea of looking good,” says Kika Rocha, the beauty and fashion director of People En Espanol.

Like Vergara, Rocha is from Colombia, where the word chispa encompasses the beauty ideal. “The first thing you see is the attitude of a woman—how she carries herself, the confidence she exudes from the inside. That confidence is tied to the outside,” says Rocha. “We call it chispa, the little sparkle we have, the joy of being Latin, of enjoying our curves, of being beautiful and sexy. It’s a natural thing.”

“From the time I can remember, I would see my mother wearing makeup and taking care of her skin,” agrees Daisy Olivera, editor in chief of, a Web site and blog covering society, style and culture in Miami and Palm Beach that has developed a broad appeal among affluent Latina readers across the country. “It is an integral part of an Hispanic woman’s day-to-day life. It’s not like you save it for a special occasion.

“Do you know how some grandmothers tell you to wear clean underwear every day because you never know when you may end up in the hospital?” Olivera continues. “The Cuban version is to wear good makeup because you never know who you’re going to run into!”

Attitudinally, it’s a world away from Anglo culture. “In English, the word vanity tends to have a somewhat negative connotation in the culture,” says Eleta. “In Spanish, vanidad is a positive attribute. It means taking care of yourself and presenting your best self to the world.”

The numbers back this up. According to a Univision study, 69 percent of Latinas agree that it’s very important to wear makeup to look good, versus 46 percent of non-Latinas. Sixty-five percent are heavy users of fragrance, meaning they spritz it on at least four times a week.

“We are significantly more biased towards beauty and less concerned about price,” says Eleta. “We don’t mind doing and as opposed to or. I want the lipstick and the lip gloss. I wear the eye shadow and the eyeliner and the mascara. We are not afraid of layering and piling on and the same goes with fashion.”



Latina women are also not afraid to wear color. “There is a greater level of freedom and playfulness in makeup, and a cultural heritage that passes from mother to daughter” says Christine Dagousset, executive vice president of fragrance and beauté of Chanel. “They are adventurous with color. They love opulent, deep colors and they love newness. Each time there is a new collection, they embrace it.”

When it comes to skin care, skin tone is top of mind—particularly eradicating las manchas, or dark spots, more prevalent among Latinas than Caucasians because their skin tends to have higher levels of melanin. “Latinas have different skin care priorities than Caucasians and Asian women, some of which they share with African American women,” says Gillian Gorman Round, senior vice president of marketing at Lancôme. “Because their skin is typically thicker and more oily, Latinas are less concerned with common aging issues such as wrinkles and excessive dryness leading to loss of radiance. Instead,” she continues, “they’re looking for solutions to pigmentation and loss of firmness.”

Not coincidentally, products targeting these concerns, such as Clinique’s Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector, Estée Lauder’s Idealist Even Skintone Illuminator and Lancôme’s Visionnaire Advanced Skin Corrector, have become runaway successes in the prestige market in the last 16 months. Natural products overindex in popularity as well, particularly because ingredients like mayonnaise, aloe, eggs, oatmeal and lemon are commonly used remedies in many Latin American countries.

Fragrance is extraordinarily popular, among men and women. “There is a culture of wearing several,” says Dagousset. “They wear one for day, one for evening, one for sport.”

When it comes to the hair care category, Latina hair is multitextural, ranging from the very straight to the very curly. But style-wise, the culture tends to follow one beauty ideal. “When you look at the African American perception of beauty, African American women come in all shapes and sizes, and as a culture, that is embraced. You can be considered beautiful whether you wear your hair as an Afro, in braids or relaxed,” says Eleta. “In the Latina culture, everyone wants to have the same thing. In the Eighties, it was all about big hair. Today, it is all about long, straight hair,” she continues. “We are less generous and tolerant of people deviating.”

To that end, products that promise straightening, smoothing and moisturizing properties are especially popular, particularly among Mexican Americans, whose hair tends to be coarse and frizzy. Best-selling brands, according to Mintel, are Head & Shoulders, Pantene and TRESemmé.

What these brands have in common is their inclusion of Latina concerns into their general brand lineup, and the inclusion of such products at retail, rather than segregated in a separate ethnic beauty aisle. “For a long time, there was a feeling that there were general market products and ethnic products,” says Charisse Ford, senior vice president of global marketing at Estée Lauder, “but we found that consumers of diverse backgrounds want to purchase more in the general market than specific products.”

When you look at where Latinas are buying products, it is very much in trend with the general population, agrees Karen Grant, vice president and senior global industry analyst of The NPD Group. Mass is first, followed by drugstores, grocery, specialty stores and beauty supply stores. Dollar stores rank number six, and department stores are next, clocking in at 15 percent.

Department stores may rank seventh, however, they have a competitive advantage when it comes to Hispanic consumers: beauty advisers. “Part of what Latinas look for more than the general population is advice and consultation to help them differentiate between products,” says Grant. “They tend to be less loyal to a brand but more loyal to a store that can offer them the kind of service they are looking for.”

“She is looking for an experience that allows her to talk to people in a store, which is different than the general consumer,” agrees Alexandra Vegas, director of the multicultural business development organization at Procter & Gamble. “The general consumer has the attitude, ‘Don’t talk to me. I want to go in the store, grab what I need and run out.’ The Latina consumer sees the store clerks as consultants to her, people who can help her navigate the shelves and find what is right for her.”

In-store service is a cultural issue for Latinas, whose home countries often have beauty advisers in all channels, even the mass market. “In Puerto Rico, every Walgreens has a beauty counter with an adviser,” points out Eleta.

The imperative to provide meaningful service is part of the cultural fluency that more marketers and retailers are looking to develop as they target the Hispanic market. Psychographically, it’s an extraordinarily complicated group, comprised of people who are often both bilingual and bicultural, perhaps American by birth, perhaps not, who hail from a number of countries, including Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Colombia. “Fifteen years ago, Hispanics constituted about 8 percent of the population and the majority of the people were unacculturated—recent immigrants who had been in the country for less than seven years,” says Vegas. “Fast forward to today, the people who were immigrants have started to acculturate and their kids have become the core of the base. It’s a demographic shift.”

Vegas says today, about 69 percent of the Hispanic population is biculturate, comfortably toggling between Spanish and English in terms of language and culture; 16 percent are acculturated and speak primarily English and 15 percent are unacculturated and communicate primarily in Spanish.

Those figures raise as many questions as they answer: Do you market to them in English? Spanish? Or both? When is one language preferred versus the other? “Depending on the circumstances, she will become more or less acculturated,” Vegas says. “When the Hispanic consumer is a teenager, she wants to be socially accepted and blend in, so acculturation accelerates. When she gets married and has her first child, she retro-acculturates, because she wants her child to grow up and be educated as she was by her mother.

“At work, she’ll probably look as acculturated as possible and will dress differently than if she were home with the kids,” continues Vegas. “She has different behaviors depending on where she is.”

One thing is for certain: When it comes to beauty, she wants to see faces and products that speak directly to her. “She is looking for cues that we are relevant to her— through the faces at the counter, by seeing models who represent her ethnicity and by making sure we have the right shades for her,” says Ford.

“We are very literal,” Eleta agrees. “If I go to a shelf and a brand has photos of white-faced redheads, I am going to think that brand is not for me.”

To that end, last year Lauder added Puerto Rican–born model Joan Smalls to its roster of spokesmodels, while Chanel featured mocha-skinned beauty Alyssah Ali in ads for its Perfection Lumière foundation line, which features 23 shades from the very fair to the very dark. In the mass market, Cover Girl tapped Vergara as a face, while L’Oréal Paris’ True Match foundation brand reached 33 shades.

For its part, Clinique spun off its wildly popular Even Better Clinical serum with foundation, Even Better Makeup, in 30 shades. “Makeup is a very important gate into a brand,” says Clinique’s Quintero. “Mascara and lip are the first gates and foundation is hugely important, particularly when it comes to shade range and benefits like mattification and oil control,” he continues, adding that as Latina consumers trade up from the mass market, they often start with a brand’s “hero” products. To that end, Clinique has designed towers that feature bestselling items, while Estée Lauder has place mats that feature the benefits of its top-selling products in five different languages, including, of course, Spanish.

“Marketing is not about putting up a sign in Spanish, but engaging her in her language,” says Quintera.

Celebrity is a huge influencer when it comes to beauty. While some brands do create campaigns especially for Spanish language television and magazines, that trend is slowing down as more and more Latinas, like Jennifer Lopez, Sofia Vergara and Eva Mendes, solidify their mainstream appeal. “In the beauty world, that has been magic,” says Vegas. “Someone like Eva Mendes [who appears in ads for Pantene hair care] is very relevant to both the Hispanic market and the general market, and allows us to move from Univision to ABC or Fox naturally. We shoot the same campaign with her in both English and Spanish and it’s natural. Identifying the right celebrities has allowed us to make it relevant across the board.”

Word of mouth and family recommendations are also extraordinarily important, as is social media and blogging. (To that end, Estée Lauder will be featuring its guest blogger, Emily Schuman, on both its English and Spanish language sites.)

Community is key. “The influence they have with their friends and family surpasses anything else,” says Grant. “If you look at the general population, TV is almost 30 percent. For the Hispanic market, that is equal to the overall influence of the family. Mother and daughter are influencing each other, so you really have to talk to both,” she continues. “The daughter is looking to mom to see what she should trust, and mom is looking to the daughter to see what’s cool. The age barrier is gone. There is an extremely close bond when they’re shopping.”

“The cohesion of the Latin family is much stronger than that of the Anglo family,” agrees Paco Underhill, the founding president of Envirosell. “You’re much more likely to find families that shop in multigenerational groups. And there is cohesion in the decision-making process, meaning someone is being asked for opinions: ‘How do I look? Does this dress or this color flatter me?’”

In terms of retail, there is still much work to be done (the lighting in many stores is terrible, moans Underhill, who notes that “what makes peaches and cream look good doesn’t necessarily mean someone with an olive complexion looks good”), but some chains are starting to make strides. “In the olden days—less than five years ago—we probably had lovely Caucasian models at every single beauty counter,” admitted Linda Levy, Macy’s vice president of merchandise marketing for cosmetics and fragrances, at a recent CEW event on marketing to Hispanics. Now, however, Macy’s is able to pinpoint exactly where and what the Latina consumer is buying, allowing it to tweak its product mix accordingly. “A few years ago, we had the same assortment everywhere, and we all prayed it would sell and a lot of it did,” she said. “Now we have to have the assortment that is right for the consumer. We continually are looking at the sell-through and can react to it very quickly. A store can just hold so much, but we have to know that the range is out there.”

Target, too, has become more expert at focusing the product mix. “We regularly conduct and review guest and market research to learn more,” says José Barra, senior vice president of health and beauty at Target. “We do a lot to understand our guests and provide the appropriate beauty products. For example, this can include a variation in body wash or soap such as Dove Rosa bar soap or different shade and formulation offerings in cosmetics.

“We know our guests appreciate the one-stop shopping convenience,” Barra continues, “as well as the expanded assortment of unique Hispanic items, which includes a large range of brands currently available in Mexico and across other Latin American countries as well as domestic favorites.”

Going forward, staying highly attuned to the Hispanic market is only going to become more important. By 2050, it is estimated that Hispanics will constitute the majority of the U.S. population, and the cultural evolution is continuing apace. “Hispanic women are going to college at a much higher rate than Hispanic men, and in much higher rates than ever before,” says Leyla Ahuile, senior analyst of multicultural reports at Mintel. “These young women are going to be entering the professional work force, making more money and making more purchasing decisions.

“We’re going through the independence that many Anglo women went through in the Seventies,” she continues, “where women want to be seen as beautiful and sexy, but also as smart people who can achieve things.”

Underhill notes young Latina women often have more disposable income because they tend to live at home longer and thus don’t have expenses like rent. “If I look across my office, all of the Anglo women live in their own apartments,” he says. “Over half of the Latina women who work for me still live at home. Many of them have much more disposable income, and whether it’s spent on makeup or other things, their relationship to money through their 20s is different than someone who is paying 40 percent of her income in rent.”

Quintera puts it succinctly: “You have a generation of young Latina women where emancipation and individuality are two key drivers.”

Be that as it may, the Latina connection with looking good is not expected to change. “I had my daughter at the same time as an American friend, a beautiful girl. But after she had her child, she made less effort on herself, saying ‘I don’t have time to look good,’” says Rocha. “Whereas you see me, running after my daughter everywhere, but I always have my lipstick on. Beauty is a priority I will not give up.”   

Hot, Hot, Hot: The Latina Beauty Market

The Numbers Tell the Story: There are roughly 50.5 Hispanics in the U.S., a number expected to grow to 66.3 million by 2020.

Ka-Ching!: Hispanics control about $1.2 trillion in spending power.

Latinas LOVE Beauty: For Latina women (and men), looking good is a cultural imperative. Most women wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without lipstick.

Best of Both Worlds: As Hispanics assimilate, many toggle between Anglo and Latina cultures; savvy brands and retailers reach out in English and Spanish, with models, shades and messages that resonate.

Are You Being Served?: Latinas expect expert service across all retail channels (even mass.) Whereas general consumers often shun sales associates, Latinas view consultants as an ally who can help her navigate to what’s right for her.