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Translating Trends for Hair Care Product Development

Feifei Lin and Kevin Murphy
  • Hair care product development is deeply influenced by the growing, changing global marketplace, and beauty brands looking to innovate such products need to survey what trends are behind market growth.
  • Consumers continue to want solutions “customized” to their hair, as well as products that give hair a healthy sensory feel and provide a feeling of increased well-being for the user.
  • It’s imperative to base hair care product development on changing demographics, the growth of emerging markets and their rising, aspirational middle classes.

Today’s hair care market is large and mature, and yet it remains dynamic because of its need to satisfy grooming needs, as well as its need to address continually changing lifestyle, demographic and even economic considerations. How else to explain the estimated 10,000-plus hair care products that were launched in 2012, a remarkable number that will help propel the global hair care market to reach a value above $57 million in 2015?

To help achieve this growth, the use of silicones has become a common denominator; approximately 60% of new hair care products will contain at least one silicone material, and often more in the case of conditioners. With their unique set of chemical and physical properties, silicones are recognized as multifunctional ingredients that, in addition to conditioning hair, can be used to add shine, make combing easier, provide color protection, help guard against damage from heat styling, enhance hair strength, repair damaged hair, moisturize, define and hold curls, control frizz, and add volume. And with the continued growth of this beauty segment, knowing the versatility of ingredients used to develop such hair care products is key in moving ahead in an innovative, engaging way.

Evolving Consumers Shape Hair Care Trends

Scientifically, hair care product developers need to create products that satisfy the needs of diverse hair types, ethnicities, cultures and regions. But culturally, they also need to accommodate emerging economies, a media- and pop culture-influenced youth market, and an expanding group of fashion-forward shoppers.

Top consumer trends and how they influence hair care solutions include:

Individualism. Because consumers want to portray their individuality—as well as manage specific grooming challenges based on their hair type, its condition and desired style—the concept of products tailored “just for me” has taken hold. Hair care product ingredients such as silicones can offer solutions to the individual variety of wants and needs associated with the ideal hair care regimens of consumers.

Products are increasingly designed for dry, fine, curly or tangled hair; colored or damaged tresses; and styles ranging from short to long, sleek to voluminous. In Asia, for example, the simple, straight bob is giving way to curled looks, exotic cuts and vibrant color—even in the ranges of reds and blond.

Colored hair has become a common statement of individuality, youth and fashion. An estimated 50% of American women above the age of 25 color their hair, and the market for hair coloring is expected to continue to grow. Shining, lustrous hair color needs protection from repeated washing and UV exposure, and silicones can offer an answer by helping color last longer, retain its vibrant look, protect and enhance color brilliance, and revive color and shine.

To achieve their look of choice, consumers also are using heating appliances such as curling irons and hair dryers that can damage hair. Silicones are thermally stable and spread easily on the hair, forming a protective film to help prevent water loss from the hair shaft caused by the heat of appliances.

Products that enhance body and volume also help hair keep its desired look and style. Thanks to the versatility of silicones and other hair care ingredients, as well as the creativity of product developers, consumers can select more volume or less, depending on their hair type.

Sensory expectations. Another hair care priority for consumers is the “sensation” from a product—the emotional benefits and experience often expressed in terms such as “pleasure,” “intensity,” “delight” or a “pampered feel.”

Among sensory preferences, “moisturizing” is one of the most popular attributes of today’s premium hair conditioners and shampoos. Moisturization is clearly associated with the desire to have healthy-looking hair, with the option for damage repair. Typical consumers with Caucasian hair perceive it to be moisturized when it shines, feels smooth and has a “nourished” appearance.

Health and well-being. Consumers are increasingly focused on hair products that help convey an attitude of vitality and healthy living. Because the hair condition is one of the first impressions a person can make, products that express well-being stand out among buyers. Lustrous hair communicates health, while dull, dry hair can signal poor habits and even malnutrition.

Shine is, perhaps, one of the most recognizable—and desirable—sensory effects of hair care products, and shine is often associated with healthy hair. Silicones can help meet the growing demand for hair care products that enhance hair luster and defy the dulling effect of age.

Aging population. Older consumers present their own challenges as their hair thins, loses volume, grays and dries due to less sebum production. Yet, the overall objective for consumers may remain the same. For example, while more people may be using colorants to hide gray hair, they still seek shine, excellent sensory effects, added volume, and the other characteristics that can help associate healthy-looking hair and well-being.

Volume also can be a key concern for aging consumers who may have thinning hair. At the same time, those who seek enhanced body and volume still expect a light feel that won’t weigh down hair. Where volume is concerned, the ideal conditioning and styling products add body, fullness and a perception of hair thickness—without contributing to buildup or drag while combing.

Rising prosperity. While per capita spending on hair care products is strong and steady in mature countries, developing economies will be the main engine for growth in the hair care segment as those countries experience a growing middle class that turns to sophisticated, luxurious products at higher price points.

For example, Euromonitor International says rising living standards and increasing disposable personal incomes are leading young consumers in China to increasingly opt for segmented and functional products rather than standard ones. The rising awareness of hair care also contributed to leading hair care companies expanding and diversifying their product portfolios. In fact, most of the leading hair care brands have launched new mid- to high-end hair care products targeting more sophisticated consumers.

Where Hair is Growing

More innovative products come to market each year, and differentiating for varying hair care needs and regional cultures remains the key to success. Silicones and other well-developed hair care and beauty ingredients continue to be essential ingredients in the hair care market. Why? Because their versatility provides product developers with options, and they help meet a wide range of consumer needs in terms of sensory effects and performance.

Feifei Lin and Kevin Murphy are market leaders at Dow Corning Corporation. The company offers a wide range of innovative, specialty silicone products under its Dow Corning brand and offers standard silicone products efficiently through its Xiameter brand and business model. Learn more about getting to the root of beautiful, more manageable hair.

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