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Initial studies carried out by the company in the late 1980s identified the physical and biological characteristics of African hair that explain its great fragility. To build on this knowledge, L’Oréal opened The L’Oréal Institute for Ethnic Hair and Skin Research in the U.S. in 2003, a center entirely dedicated to studying ethnic skin and hair. Additionally, a center in South Africa enables the group to evaluate formulas for the specific needs of consumers in the region.
This expertise allows L’Oréal to offer tailor-made products that are adapted to different lifestyles, habits and levels of purchasing power. Softsheen Carson is one of the leading hair care brands in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2013, L’Oréal acquired Interconsumer Products Limited’s beauty portfolio, whose Nice & Lovely brand is a body care market leader in East Africa. L’Oréal Paris, Maybelline and Mixa, among other L’Oréal brands, are also present on the African market.
Geoff Skingsley, executive vice President for Africa and the Middle East, stated of this new strategy, “The beauty market in Africa is very promising for the group. We aim to make L’Oréal the number one beauty company in sub-Saharan Africa thanks to our expertise, which enables us to offer consumers in the region innovative, affordable, high-quality products that match their expectations and needs.”
Sub-Saharan Africa’s middle class includes more than 300 million people, which represents 34% of the population, and could reach more than 1 billion people in 2060, according to the African Development Bank. L’Oréal has three commercial hubs in the region—South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, which also cover neighboring markets. With 650 employees and two plants in South Africa and Kenya, L’Oréal sold almost 120 million units in sub-Saharan Africa in 2013 (+52% on 2012).
In February 2014, the company inaugurated The L’Oréal Professional African Salon Institute in Johannesburg, ones of the first hairdressing institutes of its kind in South Africa, bringing specific know-how of ethnic hair coupled with the latest global hairstyle trends from around the world. The L’Oréal Professional African Salon Institute will contribute to the development of services offered to a new clientele, as well as to the creation of jobs for local talents in the hairdressing industry by responding to a shortage of professionally-trained stylists for ethnic hair. Students will be also trained in business management to enable them to open their own hair salons when they complete their training.