Natural Color Cosmetics

By Darrin C. Duber-Smith, MS, MBA

Natural Color Cosmetics

Natural color cosmetics might be the next high growth area of the rapidly expanding $4.6 billion U.S. natural personal care market. San Diego, CA-base Nutrition Business Journal pegs the color cosmetics, or “make-up,” segment at $200 million in 2002. This is hardly a dent in the overall industry as a whole, at 4% of the total, and skin, hair, oral, and aromatherapy categories, among others, all enjoy much larger shares.

A look at naturally positioned color cosmetics as they stand today reveals a category that still begs many questions. Why are there so few major players in the natural channels? Is there adequate consumer demand for these products? Are natural consumers somehow averse to the idea of using beauty enhancing products? Do they have enough choices? Are they aware of these products? Are marketers reaching them in effective ways? Are there opportunities for value-added functional natural ingredients in these products? None of these questions have been adequately answered, and smart marketers know that answers to these and many other questions are indeed long overdue.

Iron Oxide and Other Natural Ingredients

End user products in this category include pigments, foundation products, blushes, mascara, eye shadows, lipsticks, and others, and this article will mainly focus on naturally derived pigments such as the mineral, iron oxide. Iron oxide is an excellent alternative to the artificially-derived FD&C colors.”In working with iron oxide, formulators are able to achieve a variety of color blends and can refrain from using the traditional line up of artificial colors, which are generally not desired by natural products consumers.

In terms of color-producing ingredients, product developers are not limited to iron oxide. A variety of plant-based compounds exist, including Henna, Chlorophyll, Cinnamon, and Beet, as well as Carmine, a pigment derived from beetle shell extract. Many formulators report that these compounds are not as stable as iron oxide and the FD&C pigments, and are therefore more difficult to work with, yet as has been the case with other natural ingredients, the product development learning curve shortens as time progresses. And they do produce wonderful shades.

Natural Brands

Only a few natural brands dominate the marketplace in the natural channels. It is important to distinguish between the natural channel and other mainstream channels due to the fact that there is not yet a formal, agreed-upon definition of “natural,” and many marketers in non-natural channels have been very loose with their definitions. The natural retailer does not allow this to happen, as they have been the traditional gatekeepers of what is considered truly “natural” by the core natural products consumers.

Natural personal care companies Burt’s Bees, Zia, and Alba all offer color cosmetic and other beauty enhancing products in addition to several other personal care categories. These companies realize that health and wellness and beauty are very much related to one another, and offer products to those health and wellness consumers interested in beauty enhancement through color cosmetics. The “channel expansion” award goes to Burt’s Bees, a popular natural channel brand which is now found in the mass market and is reported to be doing rather well at higher price points than competitive offerings.

Some Market Opportunities

Once an adequate external marketing environment analysis has been conducted, many opportunities emerge. Some major ones include:

  • The expansion of products positioned as natural in the mainstream channels
  • The expansion of products positioned as natural in the natural channel
  • Research and development resources put toward enhancing the stability of working with natural pigments as well as the discovery of new pigments
  • The proliferation of brands in all channels will enhance awareness of natural product availability
  • Developing cosmecuetical ingredients in foundations and pigments for multi-functional benefits, including UV protection, anti-aging, and other actives

The Need for More Information

It is clear that more consumer psychographic and demographic research must be conducted and published so that the level of opportunity in the natural channel can be assessed. This type of research, conducted by organizations such as Harleysville, PA-based Natural Marketing Institute, can identify the barriers to using these products and provide credence as to the attractiveness of the naturals market for color cosmetics.

Darrin C. Duber-Smith, MS, MBA, is president of Green Marketing, a Colorado-based strategic planning firm offering marketing planning, marketing plan implementation, and other consulting services to natural products companies in all stages of growth. He has 15 years of specialized expertise in the natural products industry and is currently an adjunct marketing professor at the Metropolitan State College School of Business in Denver, CO. He can be reached at [email protected].

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