Retailers eye trends in multicultural hair care

BY Nora Caley

Want to get more involved with the booming, yet changing, multicultural beauty category? Welcome to the club.

From porosity tests and co-washing to competition from Korean-American-owned beauty supply stores, retailers have much to consider if they want to compete in this market, which some industry officials said is growing at a consistent double-digit annual rate.

So, the onus is on those retailers that want to succeed in the category. First, they need to stay up-to-date on category trends. Second, they need to promote the fact that they carry these items in store. Third, they need to give the category the right amount of space to satisfy the consumers’ different needs and demands in the market.

Meanwhile, they also need to keep a close eye on competitors in the area and see just what they are doing to gain the consumer’s attention in this category.

“We are seeing [that] the multicultural consumer is increasingly relevant to retailers today,” said Rahul Chaudhary, CEO North America of Chicago-based Namaste Labs, which makes ORS Hair Care products. “We have seen the spending power of this consumer segment grow pretty dramatically.”

That is especially true for hair care products. Growth in this segment is being driven by, among other trends, consumers’ changing attitudes about how much they should do to their hair as multicultural shoppers are more interested in keeping their hair in a natural state. “[They] are willing to pay more than the general market for their hair,” Chaudhary said. “They are very engaged with their hair, and want to express themselves without damaging their hair.” One way to do that, he said, is through wigs and weaves, and ORS Olive Oil Fix-It brand is launching those products.

In addition to expressing themselves, consumers also want to take care of their hair, and they are going online to find more information. One topic that is earning much attention online is porosity, or hair’s ability to absorb moisture. Porosity tests include a float strand test, in which the person takes a hair from her comb and puts it in a bowl of water. If the strand sinks quickly, the hair has high porosity. If the strand floats, it has low porosity.

“Retailers need to understand porosity because consumers are researching it,” said Psyche Terry, founder of UI Global Brands based in Frisco, Texas. “This market is heavily trend focused and heavily swayed, and they purchase based on what they learned. If they don’t find it in retail, they will make it themselves.” Urban Hydration, a brand of UI Global Brands, launched its Honey Collection for low-porosity hair.

Plant-based ingredients are very on-trend right now. “I am seeing more competitors moving into ingredient stories,” Terry said. “They are saying ‘This is what honey does for your hair,’ or ‘This is what eucalyptus does for your skin.’”

Natural Ingredients
Natural and organic beauty products and multipurpose beauty products are among the hottest trends, said Juan Morillo, brand ambassador and product specialist at OKAY Pure Naturals in Miami Gardens, Fla. “Customers want beauty products without harsh chemicals, such as sulfates and parabens,” he said. “They want products that will nurture, nourish and improve their hair and skin, and the answer to that is found today in natural products.”

Shoppers in the multicultural space are looking for natural products that feature such ingredients as shea butter, coconut oil, argan oil, jojoba oil, neem oil, witch hazel, aloe, peppermint and honey. “These natural ingredients are chock-full of vitamins, minerals and nutrients that help resolve certain issues like dry skin and brittle hair,” Morillo said.

The do-it-yourself trend has been growing over the last few years, Jolorie Williams, vice president of marketing at Creme of Nature/Revlon, said. Multicultural consumers go online to research ingredients, then shop for different bases and ingredients they can mix and match to detoxify and cleanse their hair. The brand recently launched the Clay and Charcoal line to make the at-home process easier. The collection features such natural ingredients as rhassoul clay, bentonite clay, activated charcoal, certified shea butter and coconut oil.

“Multicultural consumers are extremely involved in learning and knowing what ingredients are being used on their hair,” Williams said. “They are actively researching and educating themselves about the most innovative and newest ‘it’ ingredient that promotes overall hair health and growth, and prevents breakage.”

Those ingredients include argan oil in Creme of Nature with Argan Oil from Morocco, honey in the Pure Honey line, certified shea butter and coconut oil. Another trend in the marketplace is scalp health. “Based on our extensive research in the market, opportunities to formulate natural products to promote scalp health are immense and growing rapidly in the space, in addition to improving overall hair health and growth,” Williams said.

Function over form
Natural products and natural hair are important trends in multicultural beauty. “What we have seen most in all parts of the world is the search for products and natural results,” said Inocencia Manoel, founder of Inoar Professional Hair Products in Miami. “A great example of this is that curly hair is back again.” Manoel also said that Inoar already had anticipated this trend with its Divine Curls Collection.

Consumers also are looking for products that have a story, Manoel said. Inoar soon will bring vegan lines to the United States — an extension of the company’s policy of never testing products on animals. Later this year, Inoar will bring a coconut collection formulated with coconut oil in a 100% botanical and vegan formula, and with ingredients that moisturize and enhance hair growth, to the United States.

Products that promote growth and moisture are the hottest segment in multicultural beauty now, said Malinda Edwards, brand innovations manager at Mielle Organics in Crown Point, Ind. “Consumers are focusing on strength, hydration and moisture,” she said. The brand offers the Moisture Rx Collection, designed to provide intense hydration locking moisture into every hair strand.

Moisturizing and enhancing hair growth are goals for many consumers, and some manufacturers are positioning their products as having broader appeal than the multicultural audience. “People are finally realizing you don’t need to be a multicultural brand or a general market brand, so to speak,” said Jim Travagline, founder of Sashapure, a Red Lodge Beauty brand. “You can be a brand that speaks to hair problems, whether that’s hair repair or whatever the case may be.”

Consumers look for these products within the health and beauty aisle or in the natural sets — always in the multicultural beauty area, Travagline said. “You look at what the problem is with your hair, and you look for the company that you know that makes something for your hair.” Sashapure, which offers hair care products made with USDA-certified organic and sustainably harvested sacha inchi oil, plans to launch a skin care line in 2020.

Products that help to detoxify skin, hair and scalp, including charcoal and African black soap, also are on-trend now. “Consumers are focused on wellness, and scalp care is at the root of healthy hair,” said Nicola Chung, senior director of hair care innovation at Sundial Brands, maker of SheaMoisture and Nubian Heritage brands. “Scalp care is frequently overlooked, as many people have a tendency to overload hair with products and forget to clarify and remove buildup.” The company recently launched the African Black Soap Bamboo Charcoal collection, and said that there was community demand for hair care and scalp solutions with this ingredient enhanced with bamboo charcoal.

Another trend is co-washing, or conditioner-only washing. A co-wash is a multitasking cleansing conditioner that gently refreshes the hair without stripping oils, said Shaherra M. Rolen, brand manager at Revlon Realistic in Marietta, Ga. “Co-washing is starting to get popular among naturalistas,” she said. Natural hair enthusiasts are an important audience for the brand. “We want to encourage women to love themselves the way they are and to enjoy the journey.”

Revlon Realistic recently added several products to its lineup: Smoothing Gel, Sweat Resistant Edge Control, Co-Wash and Finishing Oil. “Keeping your edges nice during summertime can be challenging,” Rolen said.

Summer also is the time of new hair styles and colors. “With the weather warming up, we are seeing our consumers adding color to their hair, such as blonde or red, to coincide with the spring and summer seasons,” Dametria Mustin, global marketing director at Cantu, said. “We also are seeing a continuance of protective styling, where our consumers are wearing braids, faux locs and twists to decrease tangling and shedding, but increase hair growth, particularly during months where travel increases and consumers are on the go.” To help with this, Cantu, a brand of Stamford, Conn.-based PDC Brands, launched new hair masques and styling gels.

Manufacturers said retailers can thrive in this space if they offer information. “Education is key at shelf for consumers [and] information about ingredients and their benefits and origins, as well as tips for using the products,” Sundial’s Chung said. “Helping sales associates better understand offerings and need states also are important for guiding consumers to purchase effective products.”
It helps if the staff knows what the products can be used for, and be able to give advice. “Having this knowledge and information is necessary, and it builds trust with the consumer,” OKAY Pure Naturals’ Morillo said.

Social media also plays a role in building trust with consumers. Millennials and Generation Z lead the buying power at retail, Creme of Nature/Revlon’s Williams said, so retailers should partner with influencers, YouTubers and beauty enthusiasts for in store promotional events, experiential activations and other activities that can help them connect with consumers and drive sales.

Styles change, and consumers get much information from YouTube videos and other online sources. Retailers need to offer solutions for most style options, said Roslyn Chapman, founder of sales management company The Chapman Edge in Chicago. “The retailer needs to hone in on what that is,” she said. “A solution should be available to her in every store.”

For example, Chapman said, several degrees of hair curls exist, so the assortment should have products for the various hair textures. Also, retailers should offer products for men, especially hair and beard care items.

Retailers not only are competing with beauty supply stores, but a large class of trade that is super stores that cater to the multicultural shopper. “Everything in there is for someone that has textured hair or is of color,” Chapman said. “It makes you feel like you are in a special experience.” These stores, many of which are owned by Korean-American families, still are growing. While they have selection as their advantage, food, drug and mass market retailers can compete by offering convenience and good customer service.

Opportunities for retailers to participate in this growing category exist. “The future is multicultural,” Morillo said. “Addressing these consumers and their needs is essential for growth in the market.”


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