WHEN PRESCRIPTIVES' new line of 115 foundations for skin started arriving at cosmetics counters, minority customers cheered.
That is the word about the "All Skins" line from Susanne Spencer, a Prescriptives counter manager at Neiman Marcus. Such an emotional response may be due to the fact that for years many mainstream and upscale cosmetics companies failed to provide products for women of color.
That finally is changing with lines such as All Skins, which offer possibilities for virtually every complexion. Even the women behind the counters at department stores are saying, "It's about time."
Prescriptives is taking the lead in the upscale market and pushing its 115-shade line with a high-profile ad campaign. New ads focus on women rather than products -- women from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
Courting the ethnic market is catching on. Cosmetics companies say expansion of makeup lines simply makes economic sense. The demographics seem to support that contention: Nearly one in four Americans is of African, Asian, Hispanic or American Indian descent, compared with one in five in 1980, according to the 1990 Census. By 2000, the Census Bureau predicts, one in three will be non-white.
And the cosmetics companies' research shows that black women spend up to $600 million a year on cosmetics.
A few firms have been catering to the ethnic market for years. These companies include Flori Roberts, Fashion Fair and Posner. Door-to-door companies such as Avon and Mary Kay Cosmetics also have offered makeup for ethnic women.
And the competition just got tougher. Companies that have recently entered the ethnic market include Prescriptives, Revlon, Clinique, Maybelline, Ultima II and The Body Shop. Some lines are even skin-specific. Kayla Beverly Hills, a California firm, offers products for Asian-American skin. For information about Kayla call (800) 475-2952.
Some companies also offer foundations that are oil-free, to meet the needs of darker skin, which they say tends to be oily. Others are addressing a complaint by black women with darker complexions, who say their skin becomes ashy when foundations are applied. Clinique, Maybelline and Prescriptives have addressed the problem by removing titanium dioxide from their products andreplacing it with pigment.
One of the most ambitious campaigns is Maybelline's. "Shades Of You," introduced last year, features 12 new foundations and a range of blushes and lipsticks. Testers are available for $1 at displays in supermarkets, drugstores and discount stores where Maybelline products are sold. Maybelline's toll-free number, (800) 282-7423, gives consumers local outlets.
Clinique, available at department stores, introduced chalk-free "Colour Deeps." The six shades are formulated for "black, brown, Hispanic suntanned and dark olive skins," according to the company's brochure.
And Revlon expanded its department store color palette with "The Opulents," eight foundations and a range of powders, lipsticks, blushes and shadows.