“Grab a hair, split it and scientists can see everything that has happened to your body,” she asserted. “Genetics is the No. 1 reason why hair is healthy or unhealthy, but lifestyle is the No. 2 reason.”
Fennell and professionals just like her can tell when a client becomes a vegan, is battling a severe illness or taking drugs. In all of these cases, hair integrity deteriorates and elasticity diminishes.
Fennell ought to know; she’s been styling hair for 30 years and during that time, the customers’ needs have changed, she told Happi.
“Clients today are more educated on products and services than ever before,” said Fennell. “They have access to unlimited information on products and can research any topic they want.”
To stay ahead of their customers, salon owners, stylists and aestheticians have to be on top of their game if they want to thrive in this industry, she explained. “We constantly educate ourselves on the latest products, techniques, research and development, trends and industry projections.”
Clients’ concerns have also shifted. Years ago, Fennell recalled, a customer would ask for the color, cut or style of a particular celebrity; but today, people are more concerned with the health of their own hair.
“Now, clients ask for customized, unique cuts, colors and style—one that would look great on them,” she explained. “Fashion still plays an important role, but the No. 1 priority is on healthy scalp and hair, just as it is on healthy radiant skin or nails.”
And yet, today, there’s more ways than ever to damage hair and some clients, teens especially, are more than willing to give them all a try—hot irons that bake hair at temperatures of 450°F or higher, harsh styling treatments that dry hair out and primitive color schemes that damage hair cuticles.
“I wish high schools or middle schools would offer a class and explain to students what happens when hair, skin and nails get damaged and how to take care of them properly,” Fennell lamented. “Here, in the South, we see young people who spray peroxide directly on their hair.”
She recalled one young client who changed her hair color from dark to bleach blond and damaged her hair so much, “that we had to cut three feet off of it,” Fennell said. “Kids see celebrities like Rihanna change her hair color all the time, but what they don’t realize is that Rihanna spends $2000 a day on a personal stylist.”
Of course, older consumers can do plenty of damage of their own. When the economy went south, many women began coloring their hair at home and oversaturated hair with pigment.
At the same time, medications and health issues cause hair to thin.
“Today, there is a solution to just about any hair or skin issue a customer might have,” said Fennell. “However, what customers are seeking is instant gratification on thinning hair. They want instant healthy, full hair. Even though products are easily available, it takes time to grow thicker, healthy hair. No instant hair re-growth yet.”
And when her clients decide to purchase products to improve the health of their hair, Fennell is quick to point them toward the products in her salon, for more than obvious reasons.
“There’s a big difference between professional and mass hair care products,” she asserted. “The quality of the ingredients is different, the delivery system is different, too.”
A mass-market formula may contain shea butter just like a professional formula but the quantity and quality of the shea is inferior, Fennell insisted.
Surveying the Scene
According to professional hair care market expert Cyrus Bulsara, founder of Plano, TX-based Professional Consultants and Resources (PCR), the $3.1 billion salon product business is nearly evenly split between back-bar service and retail. In back-bar service, hair color dominates with sales of $736 million, followed by perms/straighteners ($276 million) and ethnic products ($185 million). At retail, shampoos are the top seller ($333 million), followed by specialty products ($308 million) and conditioners ($262 million).
According to PCR data, L’Oréal is the salon market leader with a 25.5% share, with Procter & Gamble a distant second at 11% (see chart, next page). Together, the top 5 players control 55% of the market, with the next five accounting for just 14.6% of salon hair care sales.
Bulsara pointed out that John Paul Mitchell Systems is the only remaining large, independent salon company. He noted that Paul Mitchell’s value-priced brands have a “sweet-spot” positioning with salons and consumers.
It may be the No. 2 player in salon hair care, but that’s not stopping P&G from tweaking its roster of brands. Last month, the company reached a deal to sell Frédéric Fekkai products and salons to Fekkai Brands, LLC, a new joint venture formed by Designer Parfums CEO Dilesh Mehta and Tony Bajaj, founder and CEO of Luxe Brands. A purchase price was not disclosed, but The Wall Street Journal reported in 2008 that P&G spent about $400 million when it purchased Fekkai from private-equity firm Catterton Partners. The sale of Fekkai is just the beginning of a series of moves by P&G that are sure to shake up the salon category. A P&G spokesman said the Fekkai sale is in line with the company’s broader plan to shed noncore brands to better focus on what it considers its core beauty brands, which include hair-care products Pantene and Head & Shoulders. P&G has so far announced plans for around 40 brand exits out of a goal of about 100, and wants to map out the remainder of the divestments or exits by this summer.
Investment bankers are currently working on finding buyers for other P&G beauty brands including its Wella and Clairol salon hair care products division, as well as its designer fragrances. Those brands collectively generate close to a third of P&G’s beauty sales.
Take Care of Your Scalp!
But regardless of what brand they choose, consumers should always ask a professional for advice.
“The best thing a client can do to care for their own hair between salon visits is to ask their stylist for a prescription of professional products,” maintains Fennell, who says a “prescription” should include a seasonal shampoo and conditioner, a weekly mask and scalp treatment and styling products.
Too often, in their quest for beautiful hair, consumers lose sight of their scalp, explained Mary Pergoda of JF Lazartigue, which offers a range of products to soothe sensitive and irritated scalps. Going a step further, JFL’s Stymulactine 21 collection of products promise to revitalize the scalp and strengthen hair.
The soon-to-be launched Ultra-Regenerating Mask from JF Lazartigue contains hyaluronic acid, collagen and keratin to help prevent the natural oxidation of the hair and regenerate it from the inside, according to company founder Jean-François Lazartigue.
“I recommend this Pre-Shampoo Mask for mature, rough and brittle hair,” he told Happi. “This mask acts by treating the signs of aging hair and restoring the hair nutrients that are lost over time. The hair is strengthened; the fiber is nourished and rebuilt.”
Hyaluronic acid? Collagen? Both are ingredients that have been incorporated into skin care formulas for years.
“The top of your head is the same as your face,” Pergoda insisted. “There is a place for anti-aging formulas in hair care.”
Of Hair & Skin
Stylist Kevin Murphy agrees. His eponymous hair care collection just expanded last month with Treat.Me, which is billed as a customized in-salon deep conditioning experience inspired by skin care. The Treat.Me line offers a variety of formulas with names like Repair, Nourishment and even, Anti-Aging. According to the company, Treat.Me combines some of nature’s best ingredients with skin care technology in a two-active serum to penetrate hair and provide long-lasting results. The serum is bottled separately to create a potent and effective full-strength formula when mixed in the salon for each client, according to Kevin Murphy.
“The targeted treatments offer a relaxing in-salon experience similar to a facial to completely restore and rejuvenate clients’ hair based on their specific needs,” he said in a statement.
More specifically, the serum includes an all-vegetable and plant protein system with similar structure to hair. More than 26 amino acids easily penetrate the hair’s surface and strengthen the hair shafts by depositing product into gaps caused by heat and chemical damage, creating a smoother, more supple surface, according to the company, which recommends that Treat.Me should be applied in-salon every 6-8 weeks.
A Costly Problem
For years, John Paul Dejoria and other industry leaders have bemoaned the prevalence of diversion—a problem that continues to plague the industry, according to Bulsara, who maintained that 28-30% of “salon-only” products continue being diverted and sold via non-salon outlets. He noted that Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s and other club stores sometimes have full pallets of salon products that are usually seconds, obsolete and slow-moving inventory, and this makes salons uneasy. Meanwhile, mass-retail outlets normally stock the top SKUs of major “salon-only” full-service brands, he added.
“The salon industry has failed to curb or shut down diversion in spite of legal actions, lawsuits and anti-diversion actions.”
As a result, distributors, salons and stylists are losing major sales and profits due to diversion. This impacts the salon industry’s future vitality and growth, in both service and product sectors, according to Bulsara.
If diversion weren’t enough to put a crimp in the professional hair care industry, entrepreneurs are taking a bite out of traditional product sales. A few years ago, Michael Portman and Jayson Rapaport, owners of Birds Barbershop, co-founded Verb, which they describe as high-quality professional hair product line made to fit Birds’ affordable, high-quality cuts and color services. The 11-item line is aimed at the 93% of people who don’t buy them, according to company executives.
“They wanted something that was affordable and professional,” explained Aimee Fishman, customer service supervisor, Verb. “Every product is sulfate-, paraben- and gluten-free, and is not tested on animals. It’s a really simple, clean brand.”
Right now, the Verb lineup includes shampoo, conditioner, leave-in mist, styling spray, volume spray, curl cream, sculpting clay, forming fiber, sea spray, dry shampoo and something called ghost oil, which is a blend of argan and moringa oil to smooth frizz and promote shine.
“The shampoo and conditioner are amazing, but the dry shampoo is really unique,” explained Fishman. “It’s a fine tapioca powder that has lifting properties.”
Every product in the line costs $14 each. At that price, Verb is aimed at younger hair salon customers. With 20 distributors in the US and Canada, consumers can find Verb at hundreds of salons in North America. Products are available online too, at www.verbproducts.com, according to Fishman. To get the word out on Verb, the company is starting a sampling program at music festivals across the country and collaborating with online bloggers. In the works are more shampoos and conditioners, as well as a hairspray.
With more competition from the internet, mass marketers and startups, the salon industry is under siege.
“Things have picked up in the past two or three years, but it’s not like it was in the 1990s,” bemoaned Fennell. “The industry will never be what it used to be.”
Sentiment like that is enough to give everybody gray hair.