Recent developments in the market, however, are leading some industry experts to believe that some new formulation trends are about to start growing, and therefore provide a boost to the entire segment. What are they then? Silicone-free, sulfate-free and scalp care products which can help assert a clearer position in the crowded market and better exploit their premium pricing.
‘Free From’ Dominates
The concept of a silicone-free hair product is not new, but the idea is gaining a following in China. Back in 2013, Maestro, a Chinese hair styling brand owned by Beiersdorf AG, launched the first ever silicone-free-positioned hair care products in China. Unfortunately, at that time, the market response was lukewarm, probably due to little consumer knowledge regarding such claims.
Less than two years later, the situation turned around, primarily by numerous media reports on the negative impacts of silicone in hair care, and rigorous promotion campaigns of those brands capitalizing on the trend. One brand benefitting from the trend is S’ee young, a local brand launched last year by Guangzhou Huanya Cosmetics Technology Co. Ltd.
Positioned as premium “silicone-free head skin care,” it gained popularity with consumers via a combination of rigorous promotion and a rich tapestry of R&D developed by leading scientists in the area. In July, the brand took the idea a step further with a new S’ee Young amino acid-based nourishing line. Claiming to be free from silicone and sulfate, the line is said to use amino acid-based ingredients to replace sulfate surfactants and nourish the scalp, and therefore cause less damage and irritation to hair and scalp.
This move may be viewed as the brand’s attempt to differentiate itself from burgeoning silicone-free products recently launched by competitors. These new introductions come from international players, such as Pantene Pro-V Volume Silicone Free Shampoo by P&G and Hyaluronic Acid Hydra shampoo by L’Oréal, as well as Clear Zero Silicone Anti Dandruff Shampoo by Unilever, which debuted in June. Meanwhile local manufacturers have launched their own “free-from” products such as Ginkgo by Yalget and Yoni horse oil shampoo.
All About Scalp Care
Whether it’s free of silicone, sulfate or something else, what all of these products promise to deliver is healthier hair and, even more importantly, a healthier scalp—something many traditional formulas are unable to do in the eyes of a lot of consumers. Why?
Because silicones, sulfates and other ingredients like the parabens used in traditional shampoo are widely reported to have negative impacts on hair and scalp. As a result, they are increasingly regarded as unloved and unwanted by today’s consumers, despite the fact there is little solid scientific evidence to support the benefits of the “free-from” products.
Taking a closer look at the “free-from” trend, we also can find that the real focus of such hair care products is primarily on better scalp treatment for healthier hair. This shift toward scalp care actually coincides with one of today’s mega trend toward safety and effectiveness in China’s personal care market. Moreover, it confirms that consumers are increasingly buying into the idea that a healthy scalp translates into healthy hair.
The Thicker, the Younger
As products featuring scalp care pop up, one particular area is advancing quickly: anti-hair-loss. This actually fits into one of today’s biggest trends in personal care, anti-aging, as thinning hair is increasingly regarded as a sign of aging. Some notable products here include Bawang anti-hair-loss shampoo as well as Dove Damage Therapy, Pantene ProV strengthening and anti-loss shampoo and Shiseido Adenovital shampoo for thinning hair.
Apart from the free from claims, in recent months, launches featuring botanical actives have moved mainstream.
For example, to create its latest anti-hair-loss lines, Softt, a local brand, created a patented formulary containing extracts of Rhizoma chuanxiong and Zanthoxylum piperitum. These ingredients are said to purify hair follicles, balance sebum production and nourish the scalp to prevent hair loss. The line debuted in March.
Another notable example is Ryo anti-hair-loss line introduced in July by Amorepacific. As one of the best-selling anti-hair loss shampoos in Korea, this line is said to contain Korean herbal medicine ingredients such as scutellaria, licorice and biota seeds, and offer special anti-hair-loss care for every type of scalp.
One thing worth mentioning here is that, since its debut in China in 2013, Ryo has launched a variety of products including Total, an anti-aging hair care.
With the saturation of the standard hair care products in China, recent claims of “free-from,” and the trend toward scalp care will remain popular in the market. That’s because they offer great opportunities for formulators to add value and differentiate their brands, especially local and new brands.
How will these trends develop in China’s hair care market? Industry experts say that they will borrow ideas from the skin care industry and apply them to scalp care, and ultimately put a premium price tag on all of this new technology.
Diversification, too, will play a vital role in a brand’s success in this crowded market. Just as Mintel pointed out, customized products designed for different hair and scalp needs have become a major area for brands to explore.
Along with a mega trend for natural anti-aging personal care products, products revolving around the natural ingredients and scalp treatment trends are regarded as having high growth potential.
Ally Dai is Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Ringier Trade Media Ltd, responsible for trade publications including Happi China. She has more than 10 years of experience in the cosmetic and food industries. Happi China is a leading media for the China household & personal care industry. Published by Ringier Trade Media in strategic editorial partnership with Happi, it helps local manufacturers update their knowledge on formulating, testing and packaging, as well as providing market insight.