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Eco Attributes Reinvent the Ethnic Hair Care Segment
By: Elle Morris
Posted: June 7, 2011, from the June 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.
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The popularity of natural hair care products have propelled boutique brand owners and African-American entrepreneurs into the global spotlight and, according to Mintel, their organic positioning has helped many brands win market share from traditional formulations.
Carol’s Daughter, Mixed Chicks, Black Earth Products, Jane Carter Solution and NouriTress, for example, were all founded by entrepreneurial women dedicated to finding alternative beauty options, and they are now well-recognized brands within the specialty retail segment. With both eco- and multicultural positioning, these brands have benefited from their authentic understanding of the multicultural consumer. Naturalaxer—a new organic hair relaxer line from Green Wonders, an African-American-owned company founded by Trinidad native Angela de Joseph—has emerged as a leading prestige brand, with endorsements from the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Well-recognized mass brands such as Dr. Miracle’s, which introduced its Follicle Healer collection in August 2010, commonly claim to restore damaged scalp follicles through nourishing ingredients, and similarly, Johnson Products, Inc. launched Ultra Care, a relaxer and styling line made from natural ingredients with the tagline “Discover the Beauty in You … Naturally!” Competition in this segment is high, with products such as Proline’s Dark and Lovely No-Lye Relaxer (from the brand owner behind one of the first lye relaxers), U.K.-based Colomer Group’s Crème of Nature with Argan Oil, SheaMoisture Organic Hair Care and L’Oréal’s SoftSheen-Carson brand, which launched Roots of Nature, a line of hair care products specifically designed to make styling easier for women who choose to “go natural.” According to Symphony IRI, Namaste Laboratories’ Organic Root Stimulator is a top performer for relaxers at mass, with sales increasing by more than 12% in the first quarter of 2010 for its organic hair relaxer product.
Ingredients Lead the Way
Ingredients continue to drive innovation, offering a point of differentiation at the shelf for natural and organic brand extensions, and ethnic consumers are more likely to identify with ingredients they traditionally trust to be safe and effective. In North America, Brazil and Europe, shea butter is a notable favorite at both mass and prestige, and recent product launches leverage the widespread recognition of shea butter’s moisturizing and healing properties through packaging, brand identity and advertising. Other common ingredients include aloe, honey, olive oil, coconut oil and avocado, as well as heritage remedies such as African herbs, naturally occurring minerals and even lava clay. In the prestige category, Estée Lauder’s Ojon, sold throughout North America and Europe, features “naturally derived ingredients from the world’s rain forests.” In Asia, new hair care formulations use traditional ingredients associated with health and wellness, such as ginseng extract, pearl protein, aloe, algae and white flower, which can be found in both Kao’s Asience Deep Nourishing line and the LaFang’s Active Amino Acid collection. Procter & Gamble has also extended the Rejoice product line with Eva, a new Asian hair care line that features traditional Chinese herbal ingredients.
Within many cultures, traditions and beauty rituals associated with hair care are passed down through generations. In the African-American community, a vast number of women straighten their hair, a practice that often begins in childhood. As comedian Chris Rock captures through interviews with his own children in the documentary Good Hair, at very young ages, black women exhibit “hair envy” and are often willing to go to extreme measures (i.e. chemical relaxers and weaves) to achieve straight hair. The chemicals used to straighten hair, often lye or alkaline creams, can permanently damage the follicle, and ethnic women commonly report thinning hair and baldness as early as their late teens and early 20s. These harmful side effects intensify the demand for organic or natural alternatives within the ethnic segment, including hair care products for children that are quickly becoming popular within the U.S. and Europe. Namaste Laboratories recently introduced Olive Oil Girls Built-in Protection Plus, an organic relaxer for children ages 10 and older with four-color instructions and a hair checklist, and boutique brands such as Carol’s Daughter and Curls also offer organic hair care product collections developed specifically for kids and babies.