The ethnic makeup of our country is changing markedly. In the U.S., the combined buying power of Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians now exceeds one trillion dollars and this trend is expected to keep growing. By 2050, almost half of our population will be non-white and nearly a quarter of it will be Hispanic if current trends continue—according to projections from the Census Bureau.

These demographic trends add up to a great opportunity for spas to become more educated about skincare for blacks, Asians and Latinos, and consider offering specialties services for these important demographic groups. A small but growing number of prominent physicians and skincare specialists are specializing in treatments for patients of color.

Pioneers in this field include dermatologist Dr. Eliot Battle and facial surgeon Dr. Monte Harris—founders of Cultura Cosmetic Medical Spa. Other specialists in ethnic skincare include Dr. Jeanine Downie of Montclair, N.J., Dr. Fran E. Cook-Bolden of New York City, and Dr. Susan Taylor of Philadelphia, and Dr. Amy Paller of Chicago.

Dr. Paller is the chairwoman of the dermatology department at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, which has just opened the Center for Ethnic Skin. In 1998, Dr. Taylor opened the Skin of Color Center at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in Manhattan, a clinic that specializes in medical and cosmetic treatments. The Web site of the American Academy of Dermatology has a physician locator, which lists doctors who identify their specialty as 'skin of color.'

The few medical spas around the country specializing in ethnic skincare have developed a loyal following. Dr. Battle and Dr. Harris and a few others are experts on how acid peels, lasers and other cosmetic treatments can be best performed on people with non-Caucasian skin. These doctors have become masters at fixing the scarring that can occur from improper procedures. Cultura's celebrity clientele includes Venus Williams, basketball star Alonzo Mourning, and former Miss America Erika Dunlap 2004—who flies from her home in Nashville to Washington for acne treatments.

For more information on marketing to the ethnic market, join Nina Curtis, Principal, Curtis Communications, for her seminar "Catering to Minority Business" Monday 2:00 pm — 3:00 pm at the American Spa Expo—in conjunction with the International Beauty Show—May 1st-2nd, Javits Center NYC.