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Energizing a Star Category: Hair

Consumers are recognizing the impact of aging on hair health and appearance — beyond just graying — and the industry is stepping up.

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From marketing strategies to ingredient stories, hair-care brands are tapping into the building blocks of skin care to deliver a much-needed jolt to sales.

Billy Kidd

From marketing strategies to ingredient stories, hair-care brands are tapping into the building blocks of skin care to deliver a much-needed jolt to sales.

From marketing strategies to ingredient stories, hair-care brands are tapping into the building blocks of skin care to deliver a much-needed jolt to sales.

Billy Kidd

Appeared In
Special Issue
Beauty Inc issue 10/12/2012

After a decade working on skin care at Proctor & Gamble, principal scientist Emily Overton was transferred to hair care in 2008. The new job only required Overton to move her office across the street, but it signaled a much bigger shift happening at P&G and companies throughout the hair care industry: To get consumers to spend more money for products designed for their hair, they’d have to learn a lot from items intended for the rest of their bodies.

 

Overton played a critical role in the creation of Olay Regenerist, the P&G anti-aging range that launched in 2003 and changed the game at mass skin care with technology and clinical results akin to prestige offerings at a fraction of the price.

 

Mass hair care is currently suffering from many of the issues that plagued skin care a decade ago: Consumers are frustrated that the available choices aren’t netting significant results, Boomers with disposable income are looking outside of drugstores and big-box retailers for remedies and price is too often the deciding factor in buying decisions.

 

P&G thought Overton had the perfect background to help develop a Regenerist-esque breakthrough at its leading hair care brand, Pantene, and help shift hair-care consumer behavior toward skin-care consumer behavior, where shoppers have shown a willingness to pay more for premium products that promise better returns and adopt a multiproduct regimen that goes beyond basic cleansing and moisturization.

 

“In skin care, we saw this whole revolution of more dramatic solutions available in over-the-counter,” Overton says. “They really brought me over to figure out how we can provide and create these more dramatic solutions in hair care like we had done in skin.”

Overton believes P&G’s Pantene has hit on the equivalent of a Regenerist serum with its new AgeDefy Advanced Thickening Treatment, which is launching now. It contains ingredients familiar in skin care — caffeine and niacinamide — and panthenol, used frequently in both hair and skin care. Most importantly, it’s formulated to deliver a noticeable change by increasing hair diameter so that a head of hair appears to gain 6,500 fibers after just one use. “It thickens hair in a way that feels natural, like the hair they [women] had when they were younger,” says Overton.

P&G’s AgeDefy collection—and similar launches from other companies—represent the rising influence of skin care on hair, as hair brands translate the ingredients, stockkeeping units and marketing messages from the former to the latter. If it doesn’t seem like an eye cream has a parallel in hair care, think again. If it seems strange to talk about dermal fillers when it comes to hair, reconsider. No idea is off the table.

“We actually call it the skin-ification of hair,” says Jill Beraud, chief executive officer of Living Proof. “We take a great deal of inspiration from skin care. There is so much interest and awareness of how you can continue to have a youthful look and fight the aging process that it is not just in skin, it’s in hair.”

 

 

An analysis of sales makes perfectly clear why marketers are reassessing their message. On a per-capita basis, Euromonitor reports that U.S. consumers spent the same amount on hair care—$31.50—in 2010 as in 2011, and the average price for a shampoo in those years was stable at $9.50. For mass hair care generally, sales inched upward 1.8 percent in the 52 weeks ended Aug. 12 to nearly $4.7 bil- lion, according to SymphonyIRI Group, excluding Wal-Mart. Industry analysts say that the mass market accounts for about 70 percent of all hair-care products sold in the U.S. In contrast, data from The NPD Group shows prestige skin care went on a tear last year, climbing 14 percent to reach $3.1 billion. (Mass-market skin care has not posted such robust results: For the 52 weeks ending Aug. 12, IRI reports sales rose 2 percent to slightly under $2.3 billion, excluding Wal-Mart.)

Moreover, the outlook for hair care isn’t great: Euromonitor forecasts a 1 per- cent compound annual growth rate through 2016, when U.S. salon and mass hair-care sales are estimated to generate $10.5 billion.

Using skin-care sales history as their marker, industry experts say that game- changing product advances are needed to help boost that figure substantially. “It wasn’t until we came up with discernable benefits in skin that it unlocked the whole [premium] category,” says Gina Boswell, executive vice president, personal care for North America at Unilever. “We used to pay very little for a moisturizer.”

David Rubin, brand building director, U.S. hair, at Unilever, chimes in, “Women are willing and actually seeking out paying for things that they believe do more and really work, but they are also much more savvy and are not wiling to pay for things they believe are just like anything else.”

Walter Geiger, P&G’s vice president and general manager, North America hair care, finds the example of SKII, P&G’s prestige skin-care brand, and the spotlight on its star ingredient, the sake production byproduct Pitera, illustrative. “When you have performance, are in the right benefit space and tell the right story, you can charge higher prices—even in the recession,” he says.

 

Key, too, is the target market—particularly Baby Boomers, for whom aging has presented a host of new hair issues. “We definitely have to pay atten- tion to this population. They are seeing differences in their hair,” says Boswell. “We know they’re healthier and more engaged than the generation before them, and we know they have resources.” Boswell notes there are 100 million consumers in the U.S. over 50 and that Baby Boomers account for more than half of all consumer packaged goods spending domestically.

 

Historically, turning back the clock in hair- care terms has primarily translated into covering gray. No more. Now, as Beraud points out, “The holy grail is bringing your hair back to what we call ‘virgin’ hair.”

 

Just because hair has no wrinkles doesn’t mean there aren’t a host of age-related issues. On average, a human head has 100,000 hairs. In a year, hair grows about six inches and each hair on a head grows independently. There are three phases of a hair’s cycle: anagen, the growth phase; catagen, a transitory resting period after growth ends, and telogen, when the hair begins to fall out. Typically, 50 to 100 hairs fall out a day. The entire cycle usually takes three to five years. As people age, however, the cycle speeds up and long, strong, lasting hair becomes elusive.

Marina Azizova, director of research and development at hair-color marketer Zotos International, estimates that by age 40, 40 percent of men and women experience hereditary hair loss. By age 50, it affects half of all people, and that percentage becomes 80 percent across an entire lifetime. “Every five to 10 years, more and more hairs on your head become wimpier, thinner hairs, and then you start noticing a very slow thinning of the hair,” Azizova explains.

Moreover, the hair cuticle, its outer layer, gets roughed up as we age, making it prone to absorb and release moisture, ushering in frizziness and brittleness. Overall, there is less lipid production, too, so the scalp and hair become dryer. And on top of that, there is accumulated damage due to everything from the environment to chemical- and heat-styling processes that lead to loss of protein, which makes up 90 percent of hair fibers.

 

 

Pantene senior scientist Jeni Thomas further elucidates that hair diameter shrinks as women age, and the hair sprouting from their heads becomes slightly curved and less manageable.

 

A problem isn’t a problem, though, unless it is recognized as such. A swelling body of literature suggests that women do connect worries about their hair to aging. In 2009, Pantene discussed hair topics with 35 beauty-obsessed women in Chicago for four hours. “The women realized that their hair was changing over time, but they didn’t really know why. They were really frustrated,” recollects Overton.

 

Also in 200, Finesse surveyed 602 American women aged 35 to 54. Seventy-five percent of them felt the condition of their hair had worsened over the years. Thinning and graying were cited most frequently as major age-related concerns, with dryness third. “It was not a huge insight that your hair ages,” says Karen Murabito, marketing director for hair care at Lornamead, which owns Finesse. “It was an insight that most women recognized that their hair had aged.”

 

If women aren’t recognizing precisely what aging is doing to their hair, hair-care marketers are spelling it out. On Zotos’ AGEbeautiful antiaging hair-color line, the five signs of aging are listed as follows: thinning, wiry gray, turning gray, dryness and dullness. In ads for AgeDefy, P&G singles out breakage, split ends, frizz, unruly grays, lackluster color, thinness and dryness.

 

The identification of these characteristics underscores how hair-care marketers are adapting skin-care techniques. “It used to be that you would have normal, oily and dry,” says Boswell. “Now you’re seeing a plethora of different benefit types and need states that are coming across in sku’s.”

Lisa Morris, vice president of global marketing for hair care at Matrix, agrees. “If you look at the last five years, all of the big brands in mass and professional have started to identify specific problems and solve those problems,” she says. As the consumer gets more knowledgeable about the aging of hair, the umbrella of problems addressed by hair-care marketers could expand exponentially to cover hormonal aging, chemical aging and environmental aging, to name a few.

Already, the market has exploded with antiaging hair-care products. Alterna, the professional hair-care brand with the tagline, “The science of skincare for consumers were not clear on what antiaging meant in hair care. It was a new concept that they weren’t fully willing to embrace at the time in 2007. Consumers understood and were incorporating antiaging in their skin care routine, but it didn’t translate as easily
[and] seamlessly in hair.” Today, unlike when Pro-Age hit shelves, Unilever argues antiaging hair care is ready for consumer acceptance.

 

The education done by skin-care companies to inform consumers about ingredients and technologies provides the basis for Unilever’s confidence. At a recent meeting with a retailer, Unilever’s Rubin met with an overall beauty buyer and a hair-care buyer. “The hair-care-only person had not heard of some of the ingredients. The skin-care person said, ‘I see them all the time,'” he recalls. Rubin cites Bio-Nutrium 10, a blend of 10 nutrients and botanical actives such as ginseng, tea tree, sunflower, soybean, coconut oil and mint in Unilever’s Clear hair care products, as a vivid example. “When I started at Unilever, it was in Dove’s Nutrium Moisture. We have been evolving it and learning about it, and now we have Nutrium 10 in hair care,” he says.

 

In fact, scores of ingredients familiar to skin-care connoisseurs are assuming hair-care responsibilities. Ben Bennett, founder and creative director of HatchBeauty, a brand strategy and product development firm that counts Joico, Nuance Salma Hayek, Regis and Living Proof among its clients, mentions flax seed oil, antioxidants like grape seed oil, pomegranate and acai, and hyaluronic acid.

Hyaluronic acid “is what gives the skin the resilience to keep and maintain the shape of the skin. When the scalp doesn’t have hyaluronic acid, it weakens the skin,” says Julien Farel. “Adding that back in the same way it has been done in skin care enables the [scalp] skin to improve.”

 

The importance of skin-care ingredients gets a boost from the emergence of the scalp as a main player in hair-care circles. Farel, the celebrity hairstylist with two salons in New York City and one in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, concentrated on the scalp during a five-year process to develop Restore, a hair-loss-prevention collection driven by hyaluronic acid and additional skin-care ingredients like resveratrol, glycans and bioflavonoids. The trick in the develop- ment process, Farel says, was to perfect bonding molecules that enable the product to stay on the scalp and continue to work. “Grass doesn’t grow on sand,” he says, explaining the importance of the scalp. “If there is no nutrition, every time you wash your hair, you wash away all the nourishing oils and you kill the hair.” Apparently, hair-care shoppers agree. Farel has been shipping 80 bottles of Restore a day to keep up with the demand on Amazon.

 

In Japan, Shiseido has had a similar response to Scalp Essence, the hero product of its Adenovital line sold in salons. Shiseido considers a salon product a success when sales reach 300,000 units. As of September, 1,100,000 units of Scalp Essence have been sold.

 

That type of success hasn’t gone unnoticed. Unilever put the scalp at the center of its Clear launch this year, advertising scalp health as crucial to the hair the way roots are to trees. “It turns the whole hair-care conversation on the head. Typically, we talk about the ends. Instead, we are taking about the source—the scalp,” says Boswell.

The scalp “is the natural evolution of where we are going, for sure,” agrees Bennett. “Right now, the American consumer is primarily focused on the hair strand itself, but the next logical place as hair-care brands are turning up the dial on efficacy is to look at the scalp.”

Because the scalp is actually living skin, and not dead hair, the implications of shifting the focus to the scalp are enormous. By utilizing specialized ingredients on the scalp, hair-care companies can seriously begin to discuss tackling the problems of aging hair at its origins and enter the arena of prevention, which has been a boon to skin-care marketers reaching younger consumers. As Mindy Goldstein, vice president of research and development at Keranique marketer Atlantic Coast Media Group, says, “There is not a lot that you can do once the hair emerges from the scalp other than thicken it. You have polymers, protein treatments that adhere to the shaft. All of that is physical. If you address the underlying mechanism from the scalp and the follicle, you can help grow thicker hair.”

 

With scalp health coming to the fore, hair-care and color marketers are turning to vitamins and nutrients people typically ingest as topical agents to shore up the scalp. Biotin and melanin, for instance, are popping up in hair care and color products to strengthen hair and encourage melanin production, respectively. “When the hair becomes gray, it is very affected by UV, and it becomes dryer and damaged. That’s why we use melanin in hair color, to put it back where it is missing,” says Azizova.

 

Cracking the hair-loss problem with over-the-counter remedies remains a key mission. SymphonyIRI Group’s figures show sales of hair-growth products increased nearly 4 percent to $78.4 million in the 52 weeks ended Aug. 12, a growth rate only surpassed in the hair segment by conditioners, which registered a 4.9 percent jump to almost $999 million in sales. The figures do not include Wal-Mart. To keep that growth going, hair-care marketers are infusing products with peptides, ingredients that helped spur the lash-enhancement phenomenon. Keranique has put peptides in its Follicle Boosting Serum to aid in anchoring follicles in the scalp. Taking it a step beyond, Allergan has been examining the active ingredient in its lash prescription Latisse for treating hair loss, already something that patients are testing on an off-label basis.

 

Mined extensively in skin care, Goldstein feels the field of epigenetics, the study of inherited changes, will be important in hair care. Within that field, the topic of telomeres is especially pertinent. “Telomeres are the tips of the genes. With every division of the cell, a small piece of the ends of the DNA are clipped off. It is actually what controls the amount of times a cell can divide. Telomeres is an area that is becoming interesting to hair care because the same thing happens in the follicle,” says Goldstein. In skin care, brands like ReVive, Jan Marini and Goldfaden have employed compounds intended to act as telomerase, an enzyme that preserves the length of telomeres, to make skin appear more youthful. That could surface in hair care with the purpose of reviving and protecting follicles.

Hair-care marketers, like their skin-care brethren, are concerned with pushing ingredients deeper into the scalp and hair shaft to improve their efficacy. “There’s a lot more technology available now in skin care that will be relevant for hair-care,” says Morris. “If you think about a root, it is so much deeper in the scalp than a wrinkle is in the skin.”

Even within the hair strand, hair-care marketers are getting deeper and paying attention to the cortex, the layer beneath the cuticle. Mary Burns, vice president of marketing for Alterna’s Caviar Repair Rx products, asserts that Alterna’s newest line cements “the outer layer of the cuticle to the cortex. You get a smooth cuticle that makes your hair look shiny, healthy and restored.” Alterna took two very close-up pictures of a hair strand to prove it—one displays cuticle tears and a visible cortex, and one doesn’t. “We look at it in terms of fillers for your hair,” Burns says.

Proof of results is becoming increasingly important in hair, say marketers. Bennett says, “With our hair-care clients, we are getting more and more requests to take them through clinical testing and consumer paneling. That really had not happened before. It is brand-new this year.” Alterna is among the first hair-care brands to promote testing in a line called Caviar Clinical that withstood clinical studies with consumer and scientific components. On the bottles, the Caviar Clinical products tout the studies, stating “Clinically Proven,” and “8 out of 10 people said their hair felt thicker and fuller.”

The final piece of the puzzle in increasing the hair-care category lies in convincing consumers to adopt multistep regimens. Around 90 percent of Americans use shampoo, estimates Geiger, but less than 20 percent use hair-treatment products. “There is a huge opportunity in growing a regimen with the right technologies. Many women are using two, three, four, five steps in skin care,” he says. To persuade consumers to establish hair-care regimens, hair-care brands have borrowed from the skin-care lexicon. Overton describes Pantene’s Silky Moisture Whip as a mois- turizer for hair. Burns talks about an a.m./p.m. routine made up of Alterna prod- ucts. “In skin, you might have a different nighttime cream that targets wrinkles and a daytime cream that is about moisture. We do that in hair,” she says.

 

In skin care, women’s regimens extend to eye creams, sunscreens, toners, serums and on and on. Hair-care brands are dreaming up products that have specific tasks along similar lines. Overton compares split-end products to eye creams because they target a select part of the hair. “We are really looking at, ‘Are there things that we can do for different parts of the hair?’” she says. Answering her question in part, in addition to the ends, the roots and the outside and inside of hair strands might one day have their own products. And those products could be designed for different hair classifications to solve a vast array of problems.

Armed with skin-care weapons, hair-care companies are betting these new products will give hair-care consumers reasons to return to the hair-care aisles. “The way we think about it is that when we talk to the retailers, we add no value at the prestige end or at the food, drug and mass end if we replace a product with a similar one. We need to meet some unmet need,” says Geiger. “It is time that, in the U.S., we get inspired by what skin care does to grow the category.”

Hair Growth: 5 Key Points

1. Skin Is In: Hair care marketers are modeling their marketing strategies and ingredient stories on tried-and-true skin-care techniques.

 

2. The Impact of Age: Increasingly, consumers are recognizing the impact of aging on hair health and appearance, beyond just graying.

3. The Segmentation Game: Traditional classifications are giving way to more granular product categories, as marketers and product developers learn how to better address key issues.

 

4. It’s Not Just Hair: The scalp is also a key target area, particularly in stimulating hair growth.

5. The Regimen Rules: Marketers hope to build the category by convincing consumers to add specialized treatments to their basic two-step routine of shampoo and conditioner.

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