With new products focusing on health, ethnic hair care gets stronger.
By LaToyah Burke
More than ever, ethnic consumers are focusing on moisturizing their hair. Many of the latest ethnic hair products feature ingredients that help restore moisture, say industry observers.
According to Carrie Mellage, industry manager, consumer products, Kline & Co., “This is helping conditioners and shampoos gain popularity—this segment of the category rose by nearly 7% in 2006.”
The term “ethnic hair care” traditionally refers to trends, hairstyles, hair problems and solutions for people of African ancestry. It refers to products and services devoted to the care of tightly curly hair. While predominantly found in the Black portion of the world’s population, ethnic hair can also be found in other groups such as Asians, people of Jewish descent and Hispanics.
According to Information Resources Inc., the top three brands of African American hair care are Combe’s Just for Men, Namaste Laboratories’ Organic Root Stimulator and Procter and Gamble’s Pantene Relaxed & Natural. Hispanic consumers seem to prefer Goldesu’s LaBella and Pfizer’s Three Flowers as they each top the Hispanic hair care market, according to IRI.
The common problems associated with ethnic hair tend to be dryness, breakage and chemical damage. In their quest to recreate or produce the effect of straight, silky hair, consumers with ethnic hair must utilize chemical processes that often break down the natural structure of the hair. Since ethnic or curly hair tends to be dryer than its straighter, sebum-producing Caucasian counterpart, products with added moisture are key.
Straighten It Out
Although chemical processes such as relaxers have the preponderance to create damage, the benefit of producing straight hair entices ethnic hair consumers into buying these products. Though they prefer to wear straight styles, most ethnic consumers aren’t born with straight hair, making relaxers popular.
Duelle products are made in South Africa and are sold throughout Africa and Europe. They are distrubuted exclusively in the U.S. online at blackhaircare.com. The Duelle 5 step treatment relaxer is unique in that it does not require mixing. It also delivers active ingredients in a way that allows the process to be more controlled and works on all hair types—less time for fine hair and longer for coarse hair. The relaxing system contains anti-irritants and wetting agents that form a barrier between the actives and the scalp.
Motions expert Audrey Wells said relaxers are the best selling product in ethnic hair care. “Granting the consumer control, managing breakage and allowing for more styling options are some of the many benefits of Motions relaxers and products,” she said.
According to Ms. Mellage, “relaxer kits that are designed to remove curl are gaining popularity. Shampoos and conditioners are also an important segment of the category. Pantene Pro-V from P&G and Mizani from L’Oréal have both launched shampoos and conditioners to moisturize and detangle the hair.”
Mizani, which in Swahili means balance, maintains that philosophy within the entire portfolio ensuring the products perform together effectively to deliver quality results.
“All Mizani products feature formulas created to meet the needs of clients with excessively curly hair textures by imparting balance to the hair—a satisfying mix of moisture and protein that ultimately results in healthier-looking and conditioned hair,” said Melka Davis, manager, integrated marketing communications, Mizani.
Last year, Mizani launched Thermasmooth, a four-step thermal straightening system that delivers the look of a relaxer without a chemical service. Designed to treat all hair types, Thermasmooth features Mizani’s advanced C3 smoothing complex of coconut oils, ceramides and cationic polymers that nourish and strengthen the hair throughout each step of the system.
| The Curls line of hair products are versatile and provide manageability for many ethnic hair types, from curly to kinky. The products promote moisture and health regardless of texture.
The line repairs the cuticle and cortex when used as a system of hair cleanser, intensive reconstructor and deep conditioner. For treatment of traumatized hair, consumers should use the hair and scalp equalizer and elasticity rebuilder.
When it comes to straightening the hair via a chemical process, moisturizing is key. Consumers who regularly apply relaxers tend to strip the hair of its natural oils, which must be replenished.
“Textured hair craves moisture, especially when heat is applied and the lack of moisture is intensified. Products that replenish and condition the hair and protect it from heat and environmental damage are really hot right now,” noted Ms. Davis.
Many consumers complain that relaxers leave their hair dull and lifeless. Beauty Genesis aims to alleviate this problem.
In terms of products that are big for ethnic hair care, Jonathan Carthon of Beauty Genesis, Chicago Il., has found, “leave-in conditioners are making a strong comeback, given ethnic consumers like the ongoing protection and conditioning properties they provide. However, they do not like a leave-in conditioner that builds up or robs the hair of body.”
Simply Healthy Leave-In Conditioner & Body Booster gives the hair body, while spurring strength and protection.
Beauty Genesis’ Simply Healthy Hair is a four-part health, growth and beauty regimen for the hair. It consists of Cleanse: Hydrating & Growth Shampoo, Condition: Hydrating & Strength conditioner, Protect: Leave-In Conditioner & Body Booster and Shine & Style: Hydrating & Growth Shine Crème. The line is currently available at hair and beauty supply stores. Beauty Genesis also has an exclusive retail partnership with Walgreen’s to launch the brand nationally in June 2007.
While relaxers will always represent a sizeable portion of sales, more consumers are embracing the natural texture of their hair, be it wavy, curly or kinky. As a result, products that contribute to healthy natural hair styling are gaining popularity. However, the common problem of dry hair is still an issue.
“With the recent transition of many women of color to natural hair, the hottest items tend to be those in the styling and finishing segment,” explained Ylorie Anderson, brand manager of Elasta QP. Formulas that won’t dry the hair but add shine and moisture lead the styling and finishing categories in both the relaxed and natural segments. Products that contain the benefit of moisture but also allow for the ease of manageability are a key focus.
Curls offers a complete line of products created for today’s ethnic consumer. “So many ethnic consumers are color treating their hair and/or transitioning from relaxed to natural,” said Mahisha Dellinger, founder of Curls.
Curls products are formulated for myriad natural hair textures including wavy, curly and kinky. By utilizing a hands-on approach in product formulation, Curls implements the input of a testing group for new product launches to ensure consumers get products that they want, in addition to products that actually work. This is the type of grassroots campaigning that captures the consumer who isn’t finding what she needs in mainstream hair care offerings.
“Products that are geared to restoring, repairing and rehydrating dry, damaged hair are popular among ethnic consumers,” said Ms. Dellinger.
Taking note of the recent trend of consumers opting for natural hair, P&G launched Breakage Defense under its Pantene Relaxed & Natural umbrella. “Particularly with African American women, we’ve seen many women move away from chemical relaxing treatments. This kind of change requires special care to ensure the health of the hair as well as maintaining a good style. Consumers are looking for products that provide deep conditioning and heat protection against damage, since many consumers will implement heat as an alternative to the chemical relaxer,” noted Randall Chinchilla external relations manager of Pantene Pro-V.
Hispanic Hair Care
The U.S. Hispanic consumer is different from other consumers. While mainstream consumers are jaded by advertising, the Hispanic consumer uses advertising to help make purchase decisions, according to WSL Strategic Retail’s How America Shops report. And with varying levels of acculturation, it is important to find common threads to use in targeting a future Hispanic consumer. Activate is a new company that introduced a hair care line made especially for the needs of Hispanic hair, curly, wavy, dry and/or frizzy. Co-owned by Jacqueline Dascal Chariff and Roselyn Sanchez, the brand’s celebrity spokesmodel, Activate taps into what Latinas want and need.
|Co-owners Jacqueline Dascal Chariff and Roselyn Sanchez promote Activate products.|
On the website, www.activatebeauty.com, consumers can browse pages in either English or Spanish, thus allowing the company to reach cross-cultural consumers.
According to Paul Anthony, expert hair stylist for Activate Beauty, “Frizzy hair needs a lot of moisture and hydration. Activate Straightening Cream restores the moisture and controls the frizz.”
Activate also has products to manage dry hair. “Damaged hair can be the result of chemical treatments, daily styling or environmental exposure. The key in restoring damaged hair is replenishing the proteins and returning elasticity to hair,” according to Mr. Anthony. Activate Hair Repair restores moisture and returns natural health and shine to the hair. Dry hair and lack of shine can be improved with the use of Activate Soft Curls and Activate Sealant Serum. “Since curly hair tends to be very dry, the combination of Activate Soft Curls and Sealant Serum is perfect for redefining soft curls and adding shine,” added Mr. Anthony. Rounding out the collection, Activate Shine On Spray provides long-lasting shine.
Ethnic Men’s Hair Care
According to IRI the top selling brand of ethnic hair care is Just For Men. That’s right, a hair color brand formulated for the general population is the best selling in the ethnic hair care category! To help fill the void, Elasta QP has launched a line specifically made for today’s male consumer. The four new products from the long time provider of hair care products for women feature wave and styling gel, soft hair, glaze and a texturizing kit.
Elasta QP is made with moisture-enhancing ingredients that nourish and maintain healthy strong hair. A recurring theme in the ethnic category, moisture is also of importance to the male consumer.
“In today’s society where personal identification is key, we’ve witnessed a growing interest among male consumers in total body care and maintenance,” said Ms. Anderson of Elasta QP.
Elasta QP for Men addresses the maintenance challenges of many active men of color by utilizing key, natural ingredients that fortify and soften the hair while facilitating ease in grooming. Making use of jojoba and tea tree oils, “this line aids in moisturizing and softening as well as anti-inflammatory properties that discourage bacterial growth which can be brought on by sweating,” Ms. Anderson explained.
Each product is specialized. Wave and Styling Gel is for men’s textured styles to control frizz while creating soft waves. Soft Hair adds moisture to versatile natural styles such as dreadlocks and braids. Glaze is a high humidity resistance product that moisturizes, silkens and defines styled hair and the Texturizing Kit effectively expands ethnic hair’s natural curl/wave pattern.
“Whether you’re an urban trendsetter, no-frills athlete, an on-the-go professional, or someone for which spa treatments and facials are a necessary evil, Elasta QP for Men is a trusted brand that effectively meets the diverse grooming needs of today’s men of color,” continued Ms. Anderson. “We are excited to introduce this innovative new line that promises to keep today’s man looking his very best, from head to toe.”
Styling and Preventive Care
Chemical processes can undermine hair health, so it is important to incorporate a regimen that keeps hair strong.
“Many consumers from a variety of backgrounds face their own hair challenges daily. Pantene products are formulated to strengthen and condition hair, and for most ethnic—or textured—hair, this means rich moisturization,” said Mr. Chinchilla.
The Relaxed & Natural collection includes several products that provide high levels of moisturization. “Before, many products in ethnic hair care were heavy and left hair oily, without shape or movement. Consumers are now looking for lightweight, easy-to-use products that enhance their style and shape,” he added.
Joico approaches ethnic hair care with exclusive ingredients. Joico’s Silk Result, Moisture Recovery and K-Pak have the right ingredients to moisturize hair that tends to be extra dry. K-Pak contains Joico’s exclusive Quadramine Complex—19 amino acids in the proper range of molecular weights that penetrate to reconstruct all layers of the hair.
“Ethnic hair is thicker and stronger so the culture tends to abuse it more with hot tools, bleach and relaxers,” said Giovanni Villalba, guest artist for Joico. This makes the need for moisture and comprehensive hair care products more eminent. “Joico’s K-Pak can repair and prepare the hair for all of these abuses,” he added.
Another brand is heeding the requests of ethnic consumers. With their launch of Optimum Salon Repair, SoftSheen-Carson brings professional relief to damaged hair.
According to Yolanda Payne, director of marketing, SoftSheen-Carson, “Salon Repair is the antidote for severely over-processed and heat-traumatized hair.” This new line, third in a series of Optimum professional products, features five products that provide protection and strength in layers.
The Hair Cleanser is a new approach to shampooing. It deeply cleanses and strengthens hair and is the first step in rescuing and reinforcing the internal structures of weakened hair. It’s lather nurtures hair’s most sensitized areas, according to the company.
Intensive Reconstructor is an infusion of protein to recover hair’s inner strength. It restores, replenishes and renews strength, moisture and elasticity to hair’s most fractured areas.
The Deep Conditioner is a moisture rich formula that treats the cortex’s most damaged areas. By penetrating deep into the cuticle, it replenishes lost moisture while improving the smoothness of the hair’s surface.
Two additional layers supplement the treatment of traumatized hair for enhanced protection. Hair and Scalp Equalizer restores intense moisture to dry, tight scalp by mending fractured, worn out hair. Hair regains strength and elasticity for a noticeably healthier look and feel. The Elasticity Rebuilder is the final layer. It repairs damaged cuticles in a single dose and instantly strengthens, reinforces and smoothes the cuticle while protecting from styling friction that leads to weak, fractured hair.
The Optimum Salon Repair products are intended for professional use only and should only be administered by a salon professional. “Treatment for damaged hair is one of the top reasons women come into a salon,” stated Ms. Payne. “Optimum Salon Repair is a systematic, customized approach to help restore hair to a healthy, strong state.”
A few months ago as part of its Masters Styling Collection, Mizani introduced three styling aids to create new textures as well as provide flexible hold and shine. A new and improved Setting Lotion creates wet sets with a multi-level hold formula, while ceramide and panthenol permeate the hair shaft for deep conditioning.
Foam Wrap is a light, non-flaking foaming formula that balances ceramide technology with shea butter, a moisturizing ingredient.
Cutting Solution was created primarily for stylists to design the ultimate precise haircut. The lightweight solution holds and retains moisture to minimize re-wetting. This leave-in conditioning formula features special polymers and almond glyceride to reduce the formation of split ends while guarding against thermal stress.
“We continue to see consumers opting for soft, touchable, flowing hairstyles in lieu of hard, over-styled hair,” stated Mr. Carthon. Hair polishes and styling mousses are in demand. Consumers are looking for products that provide shine and soft flexible hold without drying out the hair.
“Hard-hold spritz and styling gels are definitely out. With this new healthy hair consumer, she understands the havoc and damaging effects of these products on her hair,” explained Mr. Carthon.
One Common Thread
Experts agree, consumers demand a regimen that is designed to bring out the best in their hair. They need products that solve problems associated with specific textures instead of relying on traditional elixirs that treat one type of ethnic hair.
“With so many products on the market to choose from, most consumers become inundated with all of the options presented to them,” observed Ms. Dellinger. “Now that there are other options available, big companies should get on board with providing quality hair care products that are actually good for the hair—no more greasy, mineral/petrolatum oil laden products with foul, chemical odors,” added Ms. Dellinger.
Ms. Mellage said she expects marketers such as L’Oréal to continue to invest in research and development in this category, even though Kline isn’t projecting much in the way of growth. “The category has been relatively flat over the last several years and a growth spurt is not projected near term,” she said.
Ethnic hair care companies must find beauty in differentiation. Growth in one segment doesn’t exactly hold true in other ethnic categories. Marketers must use celebrity spokesmodels, grassroots campaigning and retail partnerships to reach each segment and grow sales in the ethnic hair care category.