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Road to Relevancy: Sensory and Tactile Routes

By: Abby Penning
Posted: June 7, 2011, from the June 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.
  • Though, historically, perms and relaxed hair were mainstays in the ethnic hair care market, the current market sees a variety of hair textures, styles, lengths and types, requiring an array of products and deeper market understanding.
  • Natural ingredients continue to be a popular trend in ethnic hair care, as the need for healthy hair remains strong and consumers tend to be more trusting of natural ingredients that are also efficacious.
  • To have a significant impact in the ethnic hair care market, brand owners need to consider the whole package—from ingredients to demographics to ongoing consumer interaction—in order to create brand preferences and loyalties.

With the world growing smaller every day, brand owners are constantly searching for new avenues for product innovations and line extensions, and one of the largest rising beauty segments is ethnic hair care. Though already a recognized niche market, the audience for ethnic hair care products continues to grow as brands extend their reach further around the globe with targeted offerings.

“There is a burgeoning market for ethnic beauty care, with hair care accounting for the lion’s share of ethnic beauty spending,” says Sabinsa Corporation’s marketing director Shaheen Majeed. With the market’s uniqueness, however, also come special considerations. “Historically, within the ethnic hair care market, perms and relaxants are important segments. Shampoos, conditioners and treatments are also gaining importance as these products are formulated to reduce breakage after chemical treatments and make hair more manageable,” Majeed notes.

The growing importance of this market has also highlighted the spots where more information and education is needed. “Sometimes, it’s about changing consumers’ basic hair care knowledge,” explains Shawn Tollerson, vice president of multicultural marketing for Colomer USA, the makers of Creme of Nature. “Some people grew up with unhealthy hair habits, so it’s about educating them on changing their behavior. We try to demystify what consumers believe versus what is true. We want to try to get them out of potentially bad hair habits and show them the healthy way it can and should be done.”

Common Issues

Though dynamic and constantly evolving, there are some basic needs the ethnic hair care market calls for, explains Majeed. “With its unique structure and texture, ethnic hair demands a specific care regimen,” he says. “While some African-American women rely on relaxing treatments for their hair, many take an approach to embrace their natural hair texture, but the ultimate and universal goal is to attain hair that is healthy, beautiful and natural. Ethnic hair can tend be dry and highly textured, so hair breakage can be a common problem.”