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Room to Grow



The ethnic hair care industry has potential, but growth is still slow.



Published April 11, 2006
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Photo Courtesy of Luster products
It just doesn’t add up.  Ethnic consumers represent a growing consumer base with more buying power, or so states Chicago-based Euromonitor International. With more jobs available, ethnic consumers, particularly in urban centers, have had both an incentive and the financial means to purchase more expensive ethnic hair care products.

Yet sales were up only slightly in 2005, and only for African American hair care products. According to Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), Chicago, IL, ethnic hair care sales for the year ending Feb. 19, 2006 hit $225 million, as opposed to $224 million for the same time period in 2005. African American hair care sales jumped to $172 million, up from almost $170 million the year before. Hispanic and other ethnic hair care sales slipped to almost $7.7 million from over $8.8 million the year before, according to IRI.

According to a  report from Euromonitor, several major multinationals, most notably L’Oréal, Unilever and P&G, have invested significantly in research to target ethnic consumers through a better understanding of their hair types. This has led to the introduction of a variety of products for ethnic consumers under mass market brands such as Pantene, Elsève and Seda, as well as the more specialized Dark & Lovely and African Pride.

Natural Look, Natural Products



According to Johnathan C. Carthon, general manager, Beauty Genesis International, a 100% minority-owned developer, marketer and distributor of  “healthy-lifestyle focused” hair, skin and body care products, the ethnic hair care industry has made a significant shift over the past few years, from heavily styled, hard, stiff, distressed styles, such as razor cuts, to smoother, fuller, more healthy styles that won’t cause as much damage and stress to the hair. Consumers want products that give their hair fullness and body, without compromising hair movement and agility.  


Pantene Pro-V’s latest in the Relaxed and Natural line includes the Breakage Defense deep conditioning mask.
Chicago-based Beauty Genesis recently launched the Simply Healthy Hair line with grapeseed oil, a hydrating, protecting and lightweight natural oil designed to help hair resist breakage and split-ends. The four-part program consists of five advanced formulas: Hydrating shampoo and conditioner, Leave-In conditioner and body booster, Hydrating and Nurturing Shine crème and Sparkling Shine hair polish. A starter kit, including trial sizes of all five products, retails for $19.99.

The line is not just for African Americans. Explained Mr. Carthon, “Simply Healthy Hair is exceptional on any hair that is dry, damaged or chemically treated. Many Latinas are heavy users of hair color, which can lead to dry, brittle lifeless hair. Simply Healthy Hair helps to bring the life and vitality back to chemically stressed hair, while helping to protect and prevent future damage.”

According to Mahisha Dellinger, founder and chief executive officer of Curls, Elk Grove, CA, natural hair care products are very popular right now with African American consumers.

“There are a lot of African American women who are embracing their natural hair and are looking for quality products that encourage this change. Most commercial products marketed to African American women are created for straightening their hair and not embracing the kinks,” she said. “Ethnic consumers are becoming much more selective when purchasing hair care products. Today’s ethnic consumers are educated and technically savvy. They read the back of the product labels, scrutinize the ingredient declaration and make their purchasing decisions accordingly.”


The You line is Luster Products’ first new product launch in 15 years.
Curls was one of the first ethnic hair care companies to offer products created specifically for bi/multi-racial women and girls. “Ethnic consumers want what non-ethnic consumers have had at their disposal for years: quality hair care products that meet their needs. Fortunately, there has been a recent emergence of quality hair care lines created especially for this market and its unique needs,” added Ms. Dellinger.

Products in the Curls collection include Whipped Cream and Curl Soufflé, rich stylers that define and defrizz curls while leaving a soft hold. Key ingredients consist of Monoi de Tahiti, a mixture of rich Tahitian coconut oil and gardenia essential oil; avocado, palm kernel, grapeseed and safflower seed oils, shea and mango butters; panthenol and aloe vera gel. Other products include Truly Hydrated shampoo, Coconut Cream Moisture 2 The Max! conditioner, Curls Ecstasy Asian Hair Tea conditioner, Essential Element  moisturizer and Curl Enhancer Styling lotion. Prices range from $8-$18.

Black & Beautiful, Engelwood Cliffs, NJ, a division of E.T. Browne Drug Co., Inc., created an organic hair care line designed to keep hair soft and beautiful during the warm summer months. Black & Beautiful Tea Tree shampoo and conditioner are formulated with tea tree oil, known for its healing and anti-bacterial properties to help prevent dry, itchy scalp. The rejuvenating formula contains vitamin E and menthol to create a refreshing tingling sensation.

Organic Carrot Gro Oil moisturizer, formulated with natural carrot extract, helps to prevent breakage by conditioning dry hair and scalp. The special formula not only nourishes each strand of hair, but also helps hair to grow longer by providing protection and elasticity to weak, distressed locks. Vitamins A, D and E strengthen, while antioxidating properties and soy protein nourish the scalp and roots.

Black & Beautiful Shea Butter spray keeps hair conditioned, soft, shiny and protected, and can be used on skin to moisturize, eliminate ashiness and provide a natural sheen.

According to Jennifer Leonard, product manager, E.T. Browne Drug Co., natural ingredients with reparative benefits continue to be a big trend for the ethnic consumer.

“Right now, damage defense and damage repair hair care products are hot. Other popular trends include products that help with hair breakage and brittle hair concerns,” she said. “Replenishing lost moisture and maintaining healthy looking hair is always a top priority for African American hair. Since ethnic hair is often manipulated, whether through heat styling, coloring or relaxing, products that work to minimize the damage and improve hair’s condition continue to dominate.”

From the Salon to the Home



While previously confined almost exclusively to the salon, the transferal of ethnic brands to store shelves is seen as an effective solution to grow the hair care market, particularly given the relative immaturity of the sector, according to Euromonitor International. This is especially true in markets with diverse ethnic demographics such as the U.S., Western Europe and Australasia, where there are also an increasing number of interracial families. Almost all of the leading hair care manufacturers now have at least one product aimed at the ethnic market.

“Ethnic consumers are demanding products that deliver the same performance as salon quality items without the cost,” insisted Marcia Sewell, education manager, Luster Products Company.


Black & Beautiful’s new organic line uses tea tree oil and carrot extract to soothe the scalp and protect hair.
African Pride, a division of Colomer USA, Jacksonville, FL, launched Sensitive Scalp No-Lye Relaxer with rosemary and jasmine for the “ultimate experience in relaxation.” The two natural ingredients help provide the assurance that women get silky, straight, well-conditioned hair while aromatherapy technology invigorates and soothes the scalp.

Anthony Standifer, African Pride brand manager, explained, “The new sensitive scalp formula speaks to women who want relaxed hair but want to minimize skin irritation.”  

Dr. Miracle’s introduced its Thermalceutical Intensive No-Lye Relaxer System in regular and super strengths, allowing women to achieve the “straight look” safely at home while making their hair stronger, healthier, more manageable and ready for a variety of today’s popular hairstyles. The new relaxer system, which straightens hair while maintaining bounce, body and shine, has the famous Dr. Miracle’s “tingle” to let users know it’s working. The company’s proprietary Thermalceutical Complex “Feel It” formula contains antioxidants, amino acids, proteins and anti-inflammatories to stimulate blood flow to the scalp, promoting strong hair while preventing any itching or irritation on the scalp.

According to Euromonitor, relaxants are used by African-Americans to straighten their naturally curly hair. However, it is currently popular for African-Americans to express ethnic pride by wearing their hair in an unstraightened, “natural” style. As a result, sales of perms and relaxants slid to $99.6 million in 2005, from $108 million in 2002 and $140 million in 1997. Sales are projected to reach $103 million in the next two years, before dropping again.

Multipurpose Products



What’s the latest in ethnic hair care products? According to Ms. Sewell, products offering versatility and healthy hair are in high demand.

Luster has recently launched You, a styling and maintenance line targeted specifically to African American and Latino men and women; it’s also the first major launch for Luster in over 15 years. The line was created to address the needs of all hair types and textures including curly, wavy, coarse or straight. You provides frizz control, moisture, shine, hold and superior detangling abilities. Products include You Grow, which stimulates growth and protects hair from sun damage and other abuse; You Smooth lightweight smoothing gel; You Gloss spray with shea butter, jojoba and wheat germ to provide hair with a healthy shine; You Control mousse; You Straight non-chemical thermal straightening crème; You Repair Deep Therapy repair treatment; and You 2-N-1 shampoo and conditioner, enriched with collagen and panthenol.


African Pride offers hair deodorizers in fresh scents such as coconut rum and citrus fruit.
Mizani, a Professional Products Division of L’Oréal USA, launched Spradiance High Gloss serum, an alcohol-free styling aid that delivers the radiance of a spray in a gloss. With a silicone base, Spradiance coats and seals the hair cuticle for a soft, smooth finish without any build up. It controls flyaways and unruly frizz while protecting hair against damage caused by heat styling and environmental stress. Spradience retails for $20 for 5oz.

African Pride has launched African Pride Hair Deodorizers, a line of six new hair fragrances for use by anyone who is “in-between” shampoos and wants to maintain fresh smelling hair that is void of cigarette smoke, perspiration or that “after-club” smell.

“This is the ultimate product of convenience and usefulness for African Americans,” said Mr. Standifer. “The Hair Deodorizers are effective on all hair types and textures such as relaxed, natural, weaved and braided styles. The weightless formula will not weigh hair down or disturb styles.”

The 2oz. bottle retails for $3.99 and comes in Strawberry Floral, Fresh Floral, Cucumber Melon, Coconut Rum, Sweet Amber and Citrus Fruit.

New from Zotos International is Bone Marrow, a deep conditioner designed to treat dry, damaged or coarse hair. Primary conditioning agents include hydrolyzed collagen, panthenol and lecithin, which reconstruct and strengthen hair by adding essential proteins and a lipid layer to provide moisturization, softening, an increase in elasticity and reduced breakage. Bone Marrow is available in 1-, 5.1- and 16oz. packettes.

Dr. Miracle’s unveiled its new Hair Meds Collection, which includes 2-in-1 Dandruff shampoo and conditioner, Intensive Healing Oil, Intensive Spot Serum and Relaxed Hair Potion. The products impart a strong tingling sensation, which assists with specific scalp and slow growth problems, according to the company.

“These four exciting new products are formulated with the exclusive Dr. Miracle’s Feel It formula to protect, strengthen, repair and nourish the hair,” said Brian K. Marks, president of Dr. Miracle’s. “We understand our consumers wanted a product that actually works to address particular hair care issues, such as slow growth, dandruff and chronic breakage. Our new Hair Meds collection gets to the root of many problems, and promises to be as popular as our other products.”

Pantene’s Pro-V Relaxed & Natural collection is designed to meet the unique needs of women of color. Created to work on chemically relaxed, color-treated or natural hair, Relaxed & Natural products combine Pro-Vitamin technology with essential oils such as jojoba seed oil and coconut oil to help keep hair strong, healthy and shiny.

New Relaxed & Natural products include Intensive Moisturizing shampoo and conditioner, Anti-Dandruff shampoo, Color Radiance shampoo and conditioner, Breakage Defense shampoo and conditioner, Conditioning Wrap & Set lotion, Daily Oil Cream moisturizer, Intensive Oil Sheen spray and Breakage Defense mask. All products range in price from $3.99 to $4.99.

Just for Girls



Children’s ethnic hair care is also expanding, as more and more marketers want to cash in on this demographic and get kids to develop healthy hair care habits early on. Curls’ Mahisha Dellinger provides hair care tips for non-ethnic parents adopting African American or biracial children, and her Curly Qs line was created specifically for multiracial girls with naturally curly hair.


Tamer Smoothing Gel from ISO fights frizz in naturally textured or curly hair.
According to Ms. Dellinger, Curly Qs products contain a blend of natural oils and quality ingredients, such as aloe leaf juice, panthenol, mango, shea and murmur butters. The line includes 8oz. Hydrating Shampoo ($7), 16oz. Coconut Dream conditioner ($11), Moist Curls conditioner and Curly Q styling lotion, both 8oz., retailing for $6, and pure avocado oil for moisturizing, $4 for 2oz.     

SoftSheen-Carson, a division of L’Oréal USA, is re-launching Dark and Lovely Kids. The system features Beautiful Beginnings No-Lye Relaxers for Normal to Coarse Hair and Fine Hair, along with a complementary hair care line of products. The relaxer features the No Mistake with Perfect Performance Technology, which guarantees no mixing or measuring errors and protection against breakage, leaving hair straight, healthy and manageable. The line is infused with vitamin E, aloe vera, milk thistle and a complex of coconut oil and pro vitamin B-5.

As part of the re-launch effort, SoftSheen-Carson has dedicated June as the official  “Mother/Daughter Beauty Month.” The brand will embark on a series of uplifting and encouraging events throughout the country during the month, dedicated to sharing the message of esteem-building in young girls and women.


Mahisha Dellinger created the Curls and Curly Q lines exclusively for the needs of biracial women and girls.
Targeting the Latina Market



According to Euromonitor, although ethnic cosmetic and toiletry products are almost exclusively designed for African-Americans, hair care products targeted at Hispanic consumers in the U.S. began to appear within the past few years. For example, Colomer released two relaxer formulations specifically designed for Hispanic women. Manufacturers also introduced hair color that complemented the natural brunette shades of many Latinos, such as the Darkest Brown shade from the Combe’s Just for Men brand.

Outside the U.S., major international players such as Unilever and L’Oréal invested in research and development in Brazil to better understand consumers with afro or curly hair. According to Euromonitor, Brazil has one of the world’s most ethnically diverse populations, with significant concentrations of consumers of African, European and Asian ancestry. During the 2003-2004 period, Unilever expanded its Seda portfolio with four new products: Hidraloe for curly, Lissage for straight, Keraforce for chemically treated  and Ceramida for damaged hair.

In the U.S., Procter & Gamble’s Pantene division has two new collections on the market for Latinas. The Pantene Pro-V Extra Straight/Extra Liso collection was specifically designed for Hispanic women with textured, frizz-prone hair who want smooth and extra-straight hair. The collection utilizes a new amino pro-vitamin formula and advanced conditioning agents to deliver straighter, frizz-free hair that is healthy, shiny and manageable. The line includes Pro-V Extra Straight/Extra Liso shampoo, conditioner, intensive treatment and combing cream. All retail for $3.99.


SoftSheen-Carson re-launched the Dark & Lovely Just for Kids line.
Pantene’s Pro-V Anti-Esponjado/Anti-Frizz products are designed to help Hispanic women combat frizz and sport smooth styles. Now available in the U.S., based on its success in Latin America, the new products allow hair styles to remain virtually frizz-free from the beginning to the end of the day. The 13.5oz. shampoo and conditioner retail for $3.99.

Tamer Smoothing Gel from Innovative Styling Options (ISO) offers light to medium frizz-controlled hold. The gel contains guar gum and ISOamine to straighten hair faster and seal the cuticle. Designed especially for naturally textured or curly hair, Tamer fights frizz and balances moisture in the hair with conditioning ingredients such as amino silicone, wheat protein, panthenol and humectants.

New from Ouidad, Botanical Boost leave-in conditioner detangles and protects dry, brittle, curly hair, promising to moisturize and rejuvenate the curl pattern. An 8oz. bottle retails for $12. Deep Treatment is formulated with 21 amino acids to treat frizz and dryness and 4oz. costs $30. Ouidad Water Works shampoo removes the build up left behind by chlorine and hard water, and uses fruit acids from grapefruit, orange and lime to remove harsh chemicals. Water Works retails for $10.

Addressing Asian Needs



Asian hair has its own needs, as well. Asian consumer awareness of hair damage due to coloring and perming their traditionally straight hair has been increasing, and so has the use of intense hair treatments.

Kao Corporation, Tokyo, Japan, recently launched Asience Rich and Condensed hair mask, a premium hair treatment, which, according to the company, offers “luxurious care for both the hair and the mind from the Asience brand, which is continuing in the quest for strongly determined Asian inner beauty.” The rich, condensed cream envelopes the hair and the deep fruity flower scent invites the user to experience the luxury of an esthetic salon. According to Kao, the hair mask is formulated with highly concentrated oriental beauty essences that penetrate deep into the hair, leaving it supple from the core and unmarked even after braiding or tying.


Beauty Genesis launched Simply Healthy Hair with grapeseed oil.
Paul Brown Hawaii, Honolulu, HI, introduced the Paul Brown Hapuna Volcanic Ash Thermal masque, rich in pulverized volcanic ash, minerals and ingredients from Hawaiian volcanoes. In addition, nourishing jojoba oil, panthenol, sunflower seed oil, lavender oil, primrose oil, macadamia nut oil and kukui nut oil bathe the hair and scalp with nutrients and moisture.

According to company executives, Paul Brown married the ancient wonders of the Hawaiian Islands with modern technology to create products that are formulated for varying hair types of people from all cultures, nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. Suggested retail is $37.50 for a 10oz. tube.

San Francisco-based DHC USA Inc. launched Hair Brushing Foam, a lightweight foam that detangles and brings shine and luster to dry, color-treated or damaged hair. Hair is nurtured with a hydrating blend of DHC’s signature olive oil and soybean seed extract, plus the ingredients help resist humidity and hair maintains more manageability, even in difficult weather.

Hadrian Miguel, a licensed esthetician at DHC USA headquarters, explained, “Since Hair Brushing Foam promotes shine, adds moisture and conditioning agents and controls frizz, it is a great option for all hair types, including fine, color-treated, and chemically processed. I’ve used Hair Brushing Foam on numerous Asian, Latino, and African American hair types, with great results.”  

The foam retails at $7.50 for 5.2oz. Other DHC products that work with all ethnic hair types include Head oil, Head shampoo, Head conditioner, Mild shampoo and Hair treatment, according to the company

Great Expectations



The future is healthy hair, according to Beauty Genesis’ Mr. Carson.

“Because consumers are starting to wear weaves, braided styles and hair color at a younger age, we foresee that consumers will begin to move away from these styles due to the damage that they cause to the hair and scalp; and will want to wear their own ‘healthy’ hair.”  


 Dr. Miracle’s No-Lye relaxer’s “Feel It” formula lets users know it’s working.
Ms. Dellinger agreed. “Hair care products will return to Mother Nature for inspiration…no more complicated formulations, just simple concoctions of natural ingredients that solve our hair care needs.”

Future launches from Curls include Spiral Curls cream and Goddess Glaze hydrating sculpting gelee; the company is also working on a sulfate-free, gentle curl cream cleanser.  

Beauty Genesis will expand its Simply Healthy Hair franchise in September with line extensions targeting specific hair textures, such as extra dry/coarse, curly/wavy, easy to frizz and products designed to address more severe hair challenges such as thinning and balding.

While interest in ethnic products has largely been confined to the U.S. until now, L’Oréal has global intentions for its SoftSheen and Carson brands (acquired in 1998 and 2000, respectively). According to Euromonitor, the company is particularly interested in consumers of African descent in European markets. In 2003, the company opened the L’Oréal Institute for Ethnic Hair and Skin Research, a multi-million dollar research and development laboratory located in Chicago, designed to specialize in the beauty needs of non-white consumers.


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