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A Colorful History



For 50 years, chemists have searched for a formula that provides complete coverage, yet still remains gentle to the hair.



By Tom Branna, Editorial Director



Published January 18, 2013
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A Colorful History

Back in the November 1975 issue of Happi, we asked industry experts what one improvement in hair care products is most needed? Frank J. Ligouri, VP-sales, professional division, LaMaur, Inc., gave us three:

“My ideal ‘dream of tomorrow’ product is really three. I’d want a hair coloring product that would cover gray hair completely with non-peroxide color. Just pour over the hair…and that’s it. It would correct split ends at the same time. Then, I think a hair curling product which would provide a permanent set (to a point decided upon) would be great. Lastly, although the permanent wave of today does the minimum of damage to the hair as compared to a decade ago, I still feel it could be milder.”

Nearly 40 years later, cosmetic chemists are still trying to make Ligouri’s dream a reality. 


A Little History

Although the concept of hair dye goes back to Antiquity, the modern hair color era began in 1907, when French chemist Eugene Paul Louis Schueller, the founder of L’Oréal, invented the first safe commercial hair color. His invention was based on paraphenylenediamine (PPD)—a chemistry that continues to dominate the segment.

“PPD has been the major ingredient in permanent color for decades,” said Harvey Fishman, an industry consultant and Happi columnist who worked on hair color formulas for companies such as Revlon, Turner Hall, Nestle LaMaur and Bonat. “By the 1960s, we were working on semi-permanent colors that washed out after a few shampoos.”

Today, according to some estimates, more than 60% of women in the US color their hair, as do a growing number of men. In fact, SymphonyIRI estimates the US mass market for hair color tops $1.7 billion (see chart), while salon hair color sales are growing about 2.7% to reach $750 million, according to Euromonitor International.






























“Clairol really helped create the category in the US. The brand’s ‘Does she… or doesn’t she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure”’ advertising campaign,” recalled Fishman. 

Does she or doesn’t she…? Clairol’s asked that question for decades.
In fact, according to Clairol’s website, within six years of the campaign’s debut, 70% of all adult women were coloring their hair, and Clairol’s sales increased fourfold. In 1965, which just happed to be Happi’s first full year of distribution, Clairol launched Nice ‘n Easy, which was billed as the first shampoo-in hair color. Nice ‘n Easy had a catchy slogan of its own, “The closer he gets, the better you look.”

L’Oréal’s Leadership

Clairol may have defined hair color marketing, but L’Oréal created much of the color chemistry and is the category leader today. The company is credited with developing the first single-process hair color, the level system, the first crème developer and, by 1974, the first liquid-to-gel emulsion hair color. L’Oréal Professionel followed that introduction up the following year with Majirel, the first cream hair color containing Ionéne, a novel conditioning molecule and, in 1997, Majlmeches, the first ammonia-free highlighting cream. L’Oréal keeps delivering what consumers want in hair color. In fact, L’Oréal Preference has been voted the No. 1 at-home hair color for three years in a row by Allure readers.

Showing Its Age

And yet, despite all the innovation, Victoria Gustafson, principal, strategic insights, SymphonyIRI, described the hair color category as one that was dormant. But just prior to The Great Recession, innovation began to take hold as chemists developed advanced technology to deliver color quickly to hair, as witnessed by Clairol’s launch of Nice ‘n Easy Color Intense.


L’Oréal is the dominant player in the US hair color market with brands such as Preference.
“We also saw an influx of natural ingredients led by L’Oréal and Garnier,”recalled Gustafson.
 
“Consumers wanted to get away from the ammonia smell.” 

More recently, John Frieda, a Kao Corp. brand, gave the world Precision Foam Colour. Since its debut nearly every marketer has rolled out foam variants, which promise better coverage with no drips. Still, foam hasn’t provided the lift and hair color sales continue to decline. 

“Men’s products gave a boost to the segment about six years ago, but the category never really took off,” noted Gustafson.
 

Hair Today

More bad news for the at-home category appears to be in the cards. Ironically, as the population ages in the US and around the world, women are actually aging out of the mass hair color category, according to Gustafson.

“By the time, a woman reaches 70, she either opts to go natural or she makes the decision to use serious color and goes to the salon.”

And when they arrive at the salon, today’s consumer comes armed with plenty of information about products and their ingredients, according to Mariacristina Castan, a member of the Clairol Professional R&D team.


Kao’s John Frieda brand started the foaming trend in the US.
“It’s not just about covering gray, it’s about imparting intense color with tonality and minimizing damage from hydrogen peroxide.”

To achieve that color with minimal damage, Clairol Professional formulas contain lipids and conditioning agents to make sure treated hair gets the care it needs. Clairol chemists recently found that EDDS ligands have a strong preference for copper ions and are effective in suppressing radical chemistry under realistic hair coloring conditions. 

At the recent SCC annual meeting, Kazim Raza Naqvi of the University of York, explained that EDDS can be used as a tool for controlling the formation of radical species in a coloring system to reduce hair fiber damage.

Aside from color, Clairol Professional is committed to caring for color-treated hair as witnessed by the recent launch of the Care & Styling collection. The line includes shampoos, conditioners and styling products that all feature Radailux technology to target areas where extra care is needed for color-treated hair.

Color and care. We’re betting that formulators will continue to search for that winning combination for the next 50 years.


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