Budget conscious consumers have switched to less expensive hair care brands
Despite being generally rather stable, the personal care and cosmetics industry has not escaped the recession entirely unscathed. Budget-conscious consumers have sought out lower-priced alternatives to salon-based premium priced goods and services, and switched to the less expensive brands available at major retailers, online vendors, and health food stores. Many have elected to forego visits to the salon and do their own chemical processes, such as hair color, at home. The result of this trend has been a slight decrease in typical growth compared to previous years. Fortunately, examination of the current research and development focus in the industry reveals that this is a new opportunity for manufacturers to demonstrate their versatility and ability to meet the demands of their dynamic market.
Improving Quality at Lower Price Points
One response to the changing customer preferences has been the investment of research and development resources into new and improved products that target mass market price points. Recent strategies have included enhancing existing brands with the addition of new high performance additives, offering sulfate-free shampoos, expanding current product lines, and recategorizing products to target specific hair types (especially curly and ethnic hair). Providing consumers with better value by offering larger-sized packages of products has also been a popular approach. Another area where the industry has developed in response to customer preferences is the "green" market sector—where customers demand products with fewer petroleum-derived ingredients, more plant-based materials, and packaging and processes that are sustainable and environmentally conscientious.
As more consumers choose to dye and maintain their own hair color at home, do-it-yourself products have been the focus of intense research at multiple companies. The culmination of several years of work is the launching of several new home hair color lines that utilize foam delivery technology. John Frieda, Clairol, Henkel and Samy are all marketing these products, both in the United States and Europe.
One new ingredient to some hair care products is hydrolyed wheat protein
The primary appeal of these foam-based dyes is that they are permanent hair dyes that can be applied with much less mess than the current products. After mixing the powder and liquid together, the user can apply the easily spreadable foam product like a shampoo, using her fingers rather than an applicator. This helps ensure more consistent product distribution, even to those tricky spots in the back. Samy's product literature says that their foam transforms into a gel upon application, and completely surrounds each hair strand, for vibrant, salon-comparable hair color. Reviews for the products of this type already available are mixed, so my recommendation is to strand test first.
High Tech Polymer Science at Your Local Drugstore
Urban Therapy Twisted Sista, a UK-based brand sold in drugstore chains, has been working closely with suppliers to add some innovative new materials to their products. Company founder Stephen Durham believes that it is very important to continually revisit formulations in order to maintain a competitive edge with customers. One new ingredient they are incorporating into some of their leave-in and rinse-off conditioners is a copolymer of hydrolyzed wheat protein and a cationic (positively-charged) monomer. This material is water soluble and an excellent conditioning agent, while having the added benefit of increasing volume and perceived thickness of hair. Another ingredient that I was excited to see him mention is the Fixate polymer, about which I have written in previous articles. It provides excellent hold in styling products, while also having superior humidity resistance and minimal to no flaking.
Old Plant Proteins Used in a New Way
A trend in the green market segment is to incorporate proteins into products from popular health foods, such as quinoa, brown rice, black rice, spelt, millet, barley and amaranth. These botanical extracts are water soluble and can be incorporated into hair and skin care products. Quinoa is a current favorite, touted for being gluten-free, which makes it preferable to hydrolyzed wheat proteins for many users. It significantly reduces both wet and dry combing forces, so it is an excellent conditioning agent. It is quite substantive to hair, and it penetrates the hair cuticle where it provides strength and moisture to the hair shaft. Quinoa also imparts substantial gloss to hair, which makes it a potentially good substitute for silicone polymers that perform a similar function. It does accumulate through repetitive use, which can be problematic for those who are protein sensitive, so be aware of this when you use products containing quinoa.
Many consumers are foregoing their usual products in search of plant-based hair care products for healthier hair
Focus on Sustainability
The much-anticipated In-Cosmetics Exhibition will be held in Milan this coming March. This meeting is the largest exhibition, trade show, and conference in the personal care industry in Europe. Attendees will include the world's foremost research and development scientists, suppliers, marketing specialists and formulators, who will gather to showcase new innovations and exchange ideas and new discoveries. One highlight of the meeting will be the in-focus forum, where leaders of the personal care industry gather to explore one specific theme in a round-table discussion format. This year’s theme is “Sustainable Beauty.”
In this forum, experts from Beraca, Merck, Croda, Aveda, P&G, L’Oreal and other industry leaders will gather to discuss challenges in the development of sustainable beauty products, including discussion of natural ingredients, ethical sourcing and relationships, plant-based bio-technologies, and ecologically sound packaging and processes. Product prototypes will be showcased and discussed, and the experts will challenge one another’s currently held ideals regarding product formulation and development. This stimulating environment will surely lead to new ideas, products, and processes that will benefit many. (Who wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall in that room?)
Clearly, the economy is changing the landscape for the marketing and sales of cosmetics. However, the personal care product industry is devoted to finding new ways to meet the needs of the consumers. Many new ideas and products are becoming available to the consumer, often at affordable prices. The outlook definitely looks promising for those of us who enjoy striving to improve our health and appearance through the use of new personal care products. That it is becoming increasingly possible to do so using products produced in an environmentally responsible and health conscious manner is certainly a huge bonus.