Buying Black

Mainstream companies are cashing in on African-American consumers

Cosmetics companies usually promote their products as miracle cures that will make users look younger or more alluring. But Estee Lauder's Prescriptives had something else in mind when it introduced All Skins, a line of 115 foundation shades spanning the color spectrum from antelope to mahogany. Its foundation, the company promised in a blatant appeal to African Americans and other women of color, "matches your skin tone exactly." The message hit home: All Skins now adds 4,000 new black customers a month, and overall foundation sales are up 50%. This fall, rival Revlon will also offer a line of makeup specifically...

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