Companies creating bandages and crayons in more colors for different skin tones

Johnson & Johnson decided to expand the colors of Band-Aid

CBS NEWS

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Band-Aid. One appealing feature has always been the product’s flesh-tone finish. But whose flesh tone?

Just this year, manufacturer Johnson & Johnson decided to expand the colors of the product, similar to a line they released over a decade ago and then scrapped. 

It’s just one example of a movement that includes another maker of first-aid products putting racial sensitivity first.

Toby Meisenheimer, a father of six, is the co-founder of Tru-Colour Bandages. He’s made a medical-grade brand to match an array of skin tones, a need he discovered while tending to his adopted son.

“Our acrobatic 3-year-old, Kai, had nicked his forehead, came to me crying,” Meisenheimer said. “And I went into the cabinet and grabbed a Band-Aid and put it on his forehead.”

“And it was kind of like, for the first time, the scales fell from my eyes,” Meisenheimer said. “Thirty-eight years of life. And how have I not noticed this before?”

Toby Meisenheimer’s son, Kai, with the Band-Aid that made Meisenheimer search for more skint ones in bandages.

In 2013, he searched for an alternative. About a year later, he ran into orthopedic hand surgeon Dr. Raymond Wurapa, who had designed a better functioning bandage for knuckles and fingers inspired by his own son, Christian. With that, a team of fathers was made – along with two other members – and Tru-Colour Bandages was born.

“That’s the beauty of it, I think. By combining our efforts we can, you know, accomplish more together and have an offering that I think sends the right message, especially in these times,” Wurapa told CBS This Morning: Saturday’s Michelle Miller. “The bandage helps with healing physically but there’s also an emotional, physiological aspect to what it does. Just seeing that you’re acknowledged for who you are and there are options out there.”

That message was received over 2,000 miles away by Dominique Apollon.

“For the first time in my life, I know what it feels like to have a Band-Aid in my own skin tone,” Apollon said. “You can barely even spot it in the first image. For real, I’m holding back tears.”

He tweeted that feeling and hundreds of thousands of people worldwide liked back, including “Star Wars” actor John Boyega. That started a conversation about race.

“Didn’t expect to have the reaction, and so it just shocked me,” Apollon told Miller. “It really took my breath away. And you know, I felt silly for having that reaction–”

“You’re still having it,” Miller said. “I see it in your eyes.”

“Yeah, there’s a part of me that still does feel silly,” Apollon said. “There are far more important struggles like, again, police brutality, like employment discrimination. To me, this was just– this was part of a broader story of racial exclusion. And it was just a small symbol.”

Doninique Apollon

Even today, products advertised as nude are not nude for everyone. From high heels to undergarments, and athletic tape to even crayons.

“We start off life with images in a coloring book,” Miller said to Mimi Dixon, who manages brand equality and activation for Crayola. “I remember, as a little girl, there was never a color that I could describe or ascribe as me.”

“Same thing. Same exact thing,” Dixon said. “I felt when I saw the drawing, a portrait, that it wasn’t me. And I just didn’t feel complete. I didn’t feel included.”

“And I just didn’t feel like that was me.”

Dixon launched “Colors of the World” this summer – a crayon pack dedicated to just about every skin tone.  

“It was important for us to do it in the right way,” Dixon said.

“Isn’t it just varying the colors of the nude spectrum?” Miller asked.

“It is not,” Dixon said. “We want true colors that represent skin tones, right? So, we’re Crayola and we know color. We don’t necessarily know skin tones.”

They brought in a makeup pro, Victor Casale. The former chief chemist of MAC Cosmetics even co-founded his own beauty line.

“This is going to change things – people can identify with themselves in a box of 24 crayons,” Casale said.

“Okay. So, wait, so how do I find my color?” Miller asked.

“On the box there are panels that you can put up to your wrists.” Dixon said. “You have four colors in your hand. So, now, you just start coloring. You just make a little swatch.”

Crayola’s expansion of skin tone options began in 1992, but this new pack is a first because it’s marketing them as a source of inclusion.

“Why did you choose to market the ‘Colors of the World’ separately?” Miller asked. “Not in the traditional 32-pack or the 16-pack.”

“This is, you know, skin-tone crayons and so we wanted to make sure that, again, that was clear,” Dixon said.

Miller said, “So, 20 years from now, it might be–”

“It could be a bigger pack, right. Most certainly,” Dixon said. “It’s not just a crayon. It is about feeling included, being seen, feeling valued,” Dixon said.

“How do you expect this to impact your bottom line?” Miller asked. 

“It wasn’t necessarily about the bottom line,” Dixon said.

But for any business, money does matter. And the impact of widening the spectrum of inclusive product lines can be profitable, according to Cheryl Grace, a senior vice president with Nielsen Holdings, which tracks African-American and multicultural consumer trends.

“They’re seeing that African Americans’ money is green. And there’s a lot of it,” Grace said. “African Americans’ buying power right now at $1.4 trillion is about the equivalent of the buying power of Mexico or Spain. And the $1.8 trillion that we’re projected to spend in just three and a half years is larger than today’s spending power or GDP of Russia, of Canada.”

“And most of the growth in the United States has actually come from multicultural consumers,” Grace continued. “And the fact that 10% of Blacks, and 10% of Hispanics, and I think 20% of Asian Americans marry outside of their race tells you that that’s only going to continue. And you can’t afford to leave that much money laying on the table.”

And as brands try to connect with the current social climate, consumers will ultimately decide if the companies’ intentions must align with the products they sell.

“When we really want to achieve change in the world, it’s often done at an individual level,” Meisenheimer said. “It’s done in the context of a relationship. It’s Dr. W and I working on a project together despite our differences, despite the fact our skin color doesn’t match. But it’s the beauty of that diversity that is diversity and healing.”