Making Waves

By Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor | March 30, 2010

Will 2010's product rollouts shake up ethnic hair care?

For every Beyonce Knowles, Michelle Obama and Miss America 2010 Caressa Cameron, there is a Halle Berry, Alicia Keyes or Whoopi Goldberg—trendsetters that have embraced their natural textures and influenced the ethnic hair care market.

Although accounting for a sizeable share of the $247. 7 million ethnic personal care category, African American hair care sales slipped 2% to $194.7 million for the year ended June 21, 2009 in supermarkets, drugstores and mass-market retailers excluding Walmart, according to Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), a Chicago, IL-based market research firm.

This is puzzling to some, as there has been a steady stream of new product introductions this past year and yet none have had any major impact on category sales. Furthermore, due to the recession of the past year, more and more shoppers are eschewing high-end outlets and looking at more affordable FDMx locations, noted Mintel in an August 2009 report.

Nearly a quarter of African American women buy products made specifically for black hair, which could mean an opportunity for smaller companies that focus on ethnic products to enter the market, according to Mintel.Almost three quarters of African American women are on the lookout for new products, which would seem to indicate some level of dissatisfaction with the current roster of available SKUs.

According to Mintel’s survey results, Hispanic respondents also buy black hair care products. Hispanics are increasingly targeted by mainstream marketers and, as the second-largest minority, their buying power is simply too big to ignore. In fact, the University of Georgia’s Selig Center states in its Multicultural Economy 2008 report that Hispanic buying power is $951 billion or some $48 billion more than African American consumers. For 2009, Hispanic hair care sales remained stable at 0.34% to $5.4 million, as reported by IRI.
For some marketers, it may be advantageous to compete on a larger scale and reach beyond any one ethnic demographic niche by positioning products for everyone.

“In 2010, there is a strong trend to position beauty products multi-culturally,” said Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts, Rockville, MD. “That is, not only to the three principal minorities consisting of Hispanics, African Americans and Asians; but also to Arabs, Native Americans, South Asians and others. A strength of using the term ‘multicultural’ is that products carrying the label can be marketed to everybody—including Caucasians.”

Ingredients Consumers Crave

Whatever race or origin, 2010’s ethnic hair care consumer is embracing his or her natural texture and is seeking out SKUs with ingredients that will define and de-frizz, noted Mahisha Dellinger, founder, Curls, Elk Grove, CA. She noted that today’s ethnic hair care consumers are savvy and understand product ingredients and functionality.

“They know what ingredients are good for the hair and what ingredients are not. They actively seek out products that are deemed wholesome yet effective,” she said. “As they say, ‘green is the new black.’ This new mantra has proliferated in the ethnic hair care market.”

Curls’ latest creation is Champagne & Caviar Curl Elixir, specifically designed to nourish hair and promote growth—a big issue in the ethnic hair care world, noted Dellinger.Formulated with champagne grape and caviar extracts, this hair strengthening treatment has a high concentration of vitamins B1, B2, B6 and amino acids that help regenerate and stimulate the scalp to combat the effects of free radicals—thus promoting growth.

From A to The Sea and Beyond
What are the hottest ingredients in ethnic hair care? Titi Brand, co-founder of Miss Jessie’s of Brooklyn, NY,weighed in on the crucial fruits, vegetables and other natural components that consumers are clamoring for right now:

Aloe vera: Aloe vera gel is a boon for us kinky, curly gals. It helps fix damage from heat appliances. Aloe vera is smoothing as it is soothing, controlling without stiffness. It is used as a treatment for hair loss because it stimulates new hair production and can even fight against Alopecia. It works very well as an anti-frizz product.

Argan: Argan oil—or Moroccan oil as it is sometimes called—is gaining attention in the hair care industry for its ability to soften unruly hair while offering protection from the elements. It is easily absorbed into the hair and promises to eliminate frizziness as well as provide intense conditioning to all hair types. It is known to promote hair growth by strengthening weak hair prone to breaking off, and with its rich vitamins and minerals, it promotes healing to the skin, nails and the hair shaft.

Avocado: For hair, avocado is used in hot-oil treatments and for deep, hair conditioning. Avocado pulp can be whipped smooth and applied to face or massaged into the hair for a quick and easy softening, conditioning and moisturizing mask.

Chocolate/cacao butter: Savoring cacao’s numerous health benefits are a nourishing treat for skin and hair—adding shine, vibrancy and improving the general health of both. By using chocolate and cocoa butter products on your hair and skin, you get to enjoy the delightful chocolate aroma and reap the benefits of antioxidants, vitamin and minerals.

Jojoba: Jojoba acts as a humectant on the hair and scalp by sealing it to prevent moisture loss. All hair types will benefit from jojoba but hair that is dry and damaged will benefit the most, as jojoba coats and seals the hair cuticle. This maintains moisture balance, essential for healthy hair. Jojoba extract is also said to remove buildup.

Macadamia nut: Macadamia oil reduces dryness. It is a natural moisturizer and emollient (emollients attract and trap moisture from the air). Macadamia oil is light and non-greasy so it is easily absorbed into the hair shaft. Another gift of macadamia nut oil is that it contains proteins, and its vitamin E contributes skin-care benefits and long shelf life. The high count of mono-unsaturated fatty acids makes the oil mimic sebum.

Seaweed: Seaweed is an emollient, defining and softening curls. It feeds the shafts and the ducts of the scalp to help improve the health of the hair. The thick, black, lustrous hair of the Japanese is partly due to their regular diet of brown sea vegetables.

Shea butter: Shea butter is remarkably high in unsaponifiables—up to 11%, giving natural UV protection. This is one of the reasons it is beloved by Africans whose skin and hair is almost constantly exposed to sunny and sometimes-harsh weather conditions. The UV protection is useful elsewhere as well. Having some UV protection enables our hair to retain its natural vibrancy, color treatments and softness. The softening quality of shea butter makes it useful for hair and body care, as it is easily and quickly absorbed when applied topically. For most types of hair, shea is a good hot oil treatment, wherein it is melted, cooled slightly, and then applied warm to the ends of hair where split ends occur and to the scalp.
“Consumers are becoming more interested in products containing natural or certified organic ingredients. They are more conscious of what they apply to their hair and skin. They have been made aware of certain synthetic ingredients and the damage they may cause,” agreed Shelley Davis, chief executive officer/owner of Kinky-Curly Hair Products, Los Angeles. “The reality is at the end of the day what matters most is if the product works or not. A product with natural ingredients is definitely an added benefit but women want a product that also delivers results.”

Enriched with botanical extracts such as mango designed to smooth the hair cuticle and remove snarls and tangles, Kinky-Curly’s newest product is Knot Today Leave In Conditioner/Detangler—a creamy herbal treatment.

According to SoftSheen-Carson’s senior vice president and general manager Angela Guy, L’Oréal, New York, NY, one of the company’s lines, Roots of Nature, is showing a lot of strength in the marketplace due to its “good for you” ingredients.

“Consumers are responding to natural ingredients including shea butter and green tea and are seeing real results leading to stronger growing hair,” she told Happi. For Spring 2010, the brand just launched Roots of Nature Nurturing Repair Shampoo and a Healing Thickening Cream.

Styles with Staying Power

An increasing amount of ethnic hair care consumers are sporting a natural look along with their botanical ingredients. However, going au natural is often achieved with a favorite styling product or two behind the scenes.

“Consumers are looking for manageability, hydration and longevity in hair care products— they want their hair to last,” said stylist, educator and “Queen of Curl” Ouidad. “After years and years of slicking and gluing hair back—the look now is more sophisticated and natural."

According to the New York-based stylist, hydrating polymers such as hydro elastin help preserve moisturize in the hair, as “consumers are looking for ingredients that hydrate rather than adding stiffness and weighing hair down by gluing hair together.”

Ouidad’s new Moisture Lock Leave-in Conditioner is inspired by skin care, according to the company. It creates a “moisture foundation” by infusing individual strands with conditioning proteins vital to healthy hair. Prickly pear cactus extract draws moisture from the air and seals it in for superior conditioning; green tea and vitamin B5 promote shine.

This month, Redken is also targeting textured tresses with its new Curl Collection. The line features customized styling products for every curl type, according to the company.

“More than ever, curls are becoming the ultimate glamour accessory,” said Rodney Cutler, Redken brand ambassador and owner of Cutler/Redken Salons, New York. “On the runways, we’re seeing everything from polished ringlets to sexy, tousled waves. The key is using the right products specific to your curls to create hold and separation for a dramatic but touchable look.”

The new Curl Collection consists of “high-performance” products customized for different types of textures: a curl-enhancing lightweight gel that boosts fine locks with avocado oil, a nourishing salve with sunflower oil to refine medium-textured ringlets and a defining cream with mango butter to tame coarse, thick curls. All three products feature Redken’s exclusive Curl-Care Complex of protein and antioxidants.

“Consumers tell us that they want products that will cater to their specific hair textures. In the multicultural marketplace, this can range from naturally curly to relaxed,” noted Shawn K. Tollerson, vice president, marketing, Colomer U.S.A. Multicultural Group, Jacksonville, FL. “They also desire products to help them solve problems that are inherent with having curly and relaxed hair—in most cases this means hair dryness and breakage.”

Tollerson added that curly styles are increasingly popular for the upcoming season.

“Oftentimes, consumers who have relaxed their hair for many years want to take a break during the summer months and will go into either natural or braided looks,” he said. “In order to keep hair looking its best, moisturization is key.”

The latest rollouts from Colomer’sLottabody brand include a setting lotion and foam wrap with extra-virgin olive oil to instantly moisturize and strengthen dry tresses.

Straight, relaxed styles are also big for 2010, according to Tiffanie E. Jones, Alberto Culver’s global marketing director, multicultural brands.

“Women today are looking for products that help them with manageability, (give them) beautiful, healthy looking hair and ultimately achieving long-lasting style at an affordable price,” she said.

The new Motions Silkening Shine Relaxer System from Alberto Culver helps women achieve salon-like results by reducing breakage up to 85% and giving 80% more shine at home, according to Jones. It brings “the newest innovation in relaxer history” with a gel versus liquid activator that provides conditioning at every step of the relaxing process.

“The straighter styles currently trending along with those celebrities embracing natural styling send a message of versatility to our consumer,” noted Veronique Morrison, director of education, Mizani, L’Oréal, New York, NY.

Mizani’s Thermasmooth Thermal Straightening system meets the needs of both of those client types, as it allows the consumer to go from curly to straight and back without a chemical commitment, according to Morrison. For Spring 2010, Mizani’s newest hair care and styling collection is True Textures, which meets curls’ needs for reinforcement, moisturizing and smoothing.

Around the Bend

The ethnic hair care market is chock-full of marketers offering styling products. For 2011 and beyond, true “solution-based products” that deliver results will be the trend for the future to come, according to Dellinger of Curls.

“Providing consumers with products that offer a solution for their specific problems, that go beyond the standard‘cleanse-condition–style’ will enable hair care companies to continue to realize growth,” she added.

“The future of ethnic hair holds a lot of freedom and texture. Women are celebrating and embracing texture more then ever and will be wearing natural, sexy, soft styles,” agreed Ouidad.

“Natural hairstyling will continue strong into 2011 and beyond and will require products with moisture, detangling ability and weightless hold and shine properties,” observed Morrison of Mizani. “There will be a need for products for smoothing as well as maximum hold such as waxes and oils with conditioning properties to keep the hair nourished and looking healthy.”

For 2011, a wider perspective on what the ethnic hair care consumer craves is key to a brand’s success, according to Tollerson of Colomer.

“We have to keep our pulse on trends around the world and integrate this thinking into meaningful product innovations that we can bring to the multicultural consumer,” she said.“We must keep an eye to the broader view in hair textures and be responsive to these emerging needs.

“In addition, we must remember that hair care products are only the vessel by which consumers and salon professionals create their ultimate vision of beauty.”