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The Skinification of Hair: Scalp Scrubs, Serums, Hair Masks Drive Category

The segment is borrowing from skin care to develop products offering updated treatments and regimens.

The lather-rinse-repeat era has officially come to a close.

These days, consumers are treating hair more like skin, and incorporating scalp scrubs, serums and masks into their regimens. Like many beauty trends, the shift underscores the modern customer’s penchant for wellness. And hair-care brands are rushing to introduce products to take advantage of the trend — and boost a category where growth has stalled.

Consumers are realizing that skin and hair care go hand-in-hand, according to Sam Cheow, L’Oréal USA’s chief product accelerator, and that both are linked intrinsically with health and wellness.

“The skinification of hair is not a new trend, but it has been intensifying the last couple of years,” Cheow said. “We’re seeing now the bigger engine that is driving it — it’s powered by lifestyle and the way we look at hair and skin and what we eat.

“It’s a timeless proposition, but we’re seeing it now more actively because how we live has changed — we’re seeing beauty from the inside out and consumers are more savvy. They’re juicing, eating raw foods, there’s vegan restaurants,” Cheow continued. “[Consumers] might not be vegan, but they like to indulge in vegan meals because they want the benefits.”

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Cheow noted that at L’Oréal, the skinification-of-hair trend has manifested in products made with better-for-you ingredients — think superfoods in the Matrix Biolage Raw range and Garnier’s reformulated Fructis line, which focuses on superfruits and relaunched earlier this year. According to Mintel, Garnier’s Whole Blends line of shampoo and conditioners, as well as OGX’s natural-positioned products (that contain ingredient names like coconut milk and lavender), have both fared well.

“[Hair] was never one of those categories where people put a lot of effort into it or spent a lot of money in time. There hasn’t been a lot of room for differentiation, but now we’re in this boom where there’s a lot more with treatments and styling than there ever has been before,” said Sarah Jindal, senior innovation and insight analyst for beauty and personal care at Mintel.

Now people are looking for “healthy” hair, according to a Mintel report, and that quest is leading them toward shampoos, conditioners and styling products with “gentle” ingredients. “Preferences for using as few products as possible also reflect concerns over ingredients, with adults attempting to limit the number of harsh ingredients they apply to their hair,” according to Mintel. Most people have also stopped shampooing every day, the report noted.

Hair-care regimens are also becoming more sophisticated — there are not only masks, but pre-shampoo treatments, scalp exfoliants and serums. “It goes back again to the consumer — they’re more open to new concepts. People are masking regularly, they’re multimasking on different parts of the face. We’re starting to see skin-care language evolve into hair care as well with key words like mattifying,” said Cheow.

“It’s not commoditized at all,” said Cheow, speaking about new subcategories within the prestige hair market. “I predict growth [in the hair category] to continue for the next few years.…Now we’re on the hunt for next best thing, the next ingredient.”

In prestige hair, mask sales grew 24 percent year-to-date, through September, according to The NPD Group. Hair product sales were up 14 percent in that same time frame. The total prestige hair market NPD tracks brought in about $353 million in sales through September. The global prestige hair market is on track to do about $10.4 billion in sales by 2021, according to Euromonitor, with mass on track to do about $67.5 billion.

While prestige hair has been slower to grow behind makeup and color cosmetics, hairdresser Rossano Ferretti, who operates more than 20 salons around the globe, is confident the next generation of hair-care products will drive significant growth in the category — at least at the luxury, niche level.

“I think hair care can explode from now, but the biggest thing we can do for the market is educate. Consumers know everything about skin care, they know something about color, but they know nothing about hair,” Ferretti said. Ferretti has a product line that includes things like $76 Vita Rejuvenating Hair Mask, an antiaging, nourishing treatment.

“A shampoo or mask or oil that has fantastic ingredients cannot be cheap stuff. People accept this from skin care, but they don’t accept it in hair care yet,” said Ferretti. “The most informed people are prepared to spend $40 on a shampoo, because they read the ingredients.”

Companies that focus on hair products with skin-care concepts, including more traditional skin-care ingredients like hyaluronic acid, are experiencing significant growth.

Hairstylist Julien Farel’s products business — which uses a proprietary antiaging technology — is set to grow 30 percent this year, industry sources said, and has expanded distribution in 2017 to include QVC U.S., as well as TSC Canada and TVSN Australia. The products contain a proprietary A2B Technology that is meant to ensure bioactive ingredients penetrate the scalp during hair washing, plus ingredients like hyaluronic acid and resveratrol that are found in skin-care products. The brand’s Restore cleansing treatment, for example, works as a one-step system to balance the pH of the scalp with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, echinacea stem cells, bioflavanoids, resveratrol and vitamins B, C and E.

“If you don’t have the right pH balance to your scalp, it means you’re basically destroying and damaging your cycle of hair growth,” Farel said. “One of the important things it controls is the negative effect of water on the scalp and hair,” said Suelyn Farel, who is married to Julien and serves as chief executive officer of the product business.

Restore has no surfactants, Farel said. “What it does is bring back the hydration that as we age, we’re losing,” he said. “When you lose hydration on your face, you get wrinkles.”

Farel’s line also includes products like Delay the Gray, a scalp serum meant to delay graying and sustain healthy hair renewal. The company is launching a new product — Detox — a clarifying scalp and hair scrub that contains hyaluronic acid and resveratrol, in January.

For Japan-based Évolis, which expects to double with its launch into the U.S. market, the scalp plays a key role in overall hair health. You have to have harmony between the scalp, follicle and cuticle,” said Maria Halasz, ceo of Évolis parent company CellMid.

The brand uses ingredients that inhibit FGF5 which, as Halasz explains it, can prevent hair loss. Évolis uses four plant extracts (rosa multiflora, swertia chirata, sanguisorba officinalis and eucalypt leaf extract), combined as part of a full hair system that contains green tea and mangosteen meant for scalp health and baobab extract, meant for smoothing the hair cuticle. The company makes three systems — Promote, Prevent and Reverse — that are meant to boost hair growth or prevent hair loss. Products are priced between $28 and $65.

The brand is said to have about $5 million in sales from its Japan and Australia operations, and recently started selling in the U.S. through Neiman Marcus online (it will enter doors next year). When it enters Neiman doors, Évolis plans to include a small handheld microscope at stores that salespeople can use to check on the hair follicles to help shoppers determine which system is right for them, Halasz said.

At Moroccanoil, which offers Dry Scalp Treatments and Oily Scalp Treatments, the category is small — but showing signs of growth, according to JuE Wong, ceo.

For Spain-based Miriam Quevedo, scalp treatments have also grown into a key part of the business. The brand started in skin care, but now has five hair-care lines, with products like the Extreme Caviar Exfoliating Scrub Scalp Mask and Restructuring Luxe Serum. “All of it is first and foremost antiaging, taking a skin-care approach to hair care,” Perdios said. The brand is in the process of expanding with U.S. retailers, including SpaceNK and Nordstrom.

Consumer interest in hair health in the past year has propelled significant growth in the U.S. for a contingent of French-born brands that historically have had a smaller presence in the American market.

Phyto Paris, the French-born hair-care brand owned by the Alès Group, is experiencing a resurgence in relevance in the U.S. market, according to Christyn Nawrot, Phyto’s national educator. The brand has been around since the Sixties and has been distributed in the U.S. since 1989, although it is just now significantly ramping up distribution efforts here, adding doors in Ulta Beauty, Bluemercury, Anthropologie and making a push on Amazon Luxury Beauty, including a comprehensive content marketing plan.

“The platform is fantastic — it makes sense with how we want to approach the American customer,” said Nathalie Clavel, director of marketing at Phyto Paris. “We can give more information about our labs, what’s in our bottle, our before-and-after [photos]. It’s really a community who is there asking questions, challenging you, rating your product.”

Pierre Fabre’s key hair brands — luxe salon line René Furterer and Klorane, which is sold in the mass channel — are experiencing growth spurts in the U.S. market.

Klorane’s range of hair-care products formulated with natural ingredients like oat milk, chamomile and flax fiber is priced to move — from $15 for a shampoo to $26 for a mask — and is growing by triple digits year-over-year, industry sources say. This growth is mainly attributed to an aggressive expansion of Klorane’s distribution — the brand entered Ulta Beauty and Beauty Brands this year. Its latest launch taps into the scalp health trend — a peony-based range including shampoo, a gel conditioner and a serum treatment said to soothe an irritated scalp.

“The price point has been a sweet spot with retailers,” said Jackie Flam, vice president of retail and salon for Eau Thermale Avène, Klorane and René Furterer at Pierre Fabre. “The mass-market hair category is overly commoditized, so it’s a [big deal] to have consumers make that step up [to a higher price point].”

René Furterer, Pierre Fabre’s nearly 60-year-old line of professional hair care that is rooted in the concept of a healthy scalp, is increasing its presence and its sales in the U.S. market — industry sources noted that even though the brand has been in the U.S. for years, revenue for this year is up 25 percent. On the retail side, René Furterer entered QVC, where ceo Mike George noted it as one of several new brands helping to boost the home shopping network’s challenged hair category. The brand this year also brought its signature Capilliscope system — a microscope tool that analyzes the hair and scalp — from Paris to the U.S. The Capilliscope, which recommends customized in-salon scalp and hair treatments, is available in 500 René Furterer salons — about half the brand’s distribution — and will continue to expand into 2018.

“René Furterer has been growing exponentially in the salon channel because of our focus on treatments,” said Flam. “Hair care is a very show-and-tell environment, and our salon partners are starting to see that the more they’re able to demonstrably show that transformation for clients, it’s a real value-add.”

The Parisian hair colorist Christophe Robin is rapidly expanding his distribution in the U.S., opening accounts at Bluemercury and Revolve. He has always approached his namesake product line with the idea that healthy hair starts at the scalp and is maintained by treating it with natural ingredients. His top-selling sku — the Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt — has achieved a cult following while inspiring a series of copycats, and his latest launch is a hydrating shampoo bar formulated with aloe vera.

“I always thought, especially with the chemicals I use, that I had to remove them from the scalp because it all goes into the hair and skin,” said Robin on his hair-care philosophy. “Think about it like skin, before you go to bed you remove your makeup because your pores open up and breathe. If you leave makeup on, it’s going to leave spots. Look at the trend of the dry shampoo — the pores of the hair can’t breathe with the dry shampoo, so the scalp becomes greasy and greasy scalp is one of the first causes of hair loss.”

Robin’s products have been on the fringes of the niche, luxury beauty world — until holistic wellness, which Robin has always preached, hit mainstream.

“My cleansing mask with lemon, I [launched] it 24 years ago. It was the first low-poo with no detergent. And everybody told me, ‘You’re crazy — it needs to lather.’ But why would you wash a cashmere or silk shirt with a detergent? It’s the same for bleach blonde and curly hair. It’s a bestseller 24 years later,” he said.

While some businesses have been on the scalp-health train for decades, others are jumping on with product launches.

For Kérastase, the L’Oréal-owned line of luxe professional hair products, interest in hair health has been a way to coax the consumer into trying in-salon treatments — and purchasing salon-technology products at retail. The Fusio-Dose Hair Lab is a customizable treatment system offered in some salons that carry the brand — it is designed to target and treat specific hair issues, like damage, density loss and dullness.

This year, Kérastase launched a corresponding at-home Fusio-Dose system, which consumers can use separately or as a follow-up to their in-salon treatment. Consumers can customize their own Fusio-Dose kit with the help of a stylist’s diagnosis and purchase the item in-salon.

“We’re seeing our fastest growth in treatment areas. Within our e-commerce business — which is big — six sku’s in our top 20 are masks, and our number-one sku is Initialiste, a serum treatment for scalp,” said Ramzy Burns, general manager of Kérastase and Shu Uemura Art of Hair at L’Oréal.

Briogeo founder Nancy Twine recently launched a deep conditioning kit that includes a shower cap meant to seal in the treatment formula for a deeper level of moisture, inspired by an old trick she used on her skin before sheet masks were popularized in the U.S. “Before the K-beauty phenomenon, I used to put on serums and wrap my face in Saran wrap — I knew if I could lock in that moisture for longer and let it evaporate, I’d get great results.”

Twine said her current best-selling products are the hair mask system, her Scalp Revival Treatment that contains charcoal and tea tree oil, and her Scalp Revival shampoo.

“If you look at a drawing of a hair follicle, it looks really similar to the pores on our face — product and dirt and oil can build up over time if you’re not releasing those impurities,” said Twine. “A year ago, Instagram was buzzing with charcoal face masks and their ability to pull out deep-rooted build-up…that’s what led me to the connection with charcoal and the scalp.”

DPHue, a prestige at-home hair color brand, just launched  an extension of its hero apple cider vinegar product, ACV Rinse, called ACV Scalp Scrub with pink Himilayan sea salt.

“There’s much more awareness of [apple cider vinegar] and the benefits of it now than there was five years ago,” said Donna Pohlad, founder and ceo of DPHue. “With pink Himalayan sea salt, it’s a small cult following, but people understand that it’s actually really different from table salt, packed in minerals and things that promote healthy hair.”

“There’s a big integration with the general wellness megatrend — people are questioning what they’re using on their hair, putting on their skin and the added benefit that hair care has,” said Martin Okner, president and chief operating officer of DPHue. “With makeup you see that instant transformation and meaningful before-and-afters, and if you look at our ACV Rinse, you see a shine, you can feel it after you use the product. Not only do you have a visual transformation, but a sensory one as well.”

Earlier in 2017, DevaCurl launched Buildup Buster Micellar Water Cleansing Serum, a first-to-market product that uses similar technology to micellar water for the face with the aim of removing product buildup. The idea is that it has a similar effect to clarifying shampoo, but aims to cleanse without stripping hair and includes ingredients like jojoba meant to moisturize the scalp. The product is now in the top five for DevaCurl.

“More and more consumers understand that healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp,” said Megan Streeter, chief marketing officer at Devacurl. “What really inspired us was seeing what was happening in skin care…Micellar technology had been within that space for some time. We saw the opportunity to adapt that technology to our space.”

Mintel’s Jindal called out micellar technology, customizable and do-it-yourself options and probiotics as skin-care trends that could translate into the hair sector in the next two years. “Brands are making more of an investment there than they ever have before, even at a mass-market level. It bodes well for consumer engagement and getting consumers using more than just shampoo and conditioners,” she said.

The trend is even trickling down to mass, where treatments can be a harder sell. L’Oréal’s Garnier is doubling down on the category for 2018, unleashing a series of masks under the Fructis line. Garnier’s solution is the Garnier Fructis Hair Treats and the Fructis Wonder Mask, due on mass shelves in January. The Hair Treats are priced at $4.49 each and are multipurpose, serving as either leave-in conditioners or as masks. They are formulated with natural ingredients that boast a specific benefit — for instance, Repairing Papaya, Nourishing Avocado for smoothing frizz and Color Vibrancy Goji Berry. The Wonder Mask, which comes in two varieties — coconut oil for dry hair and amala extract for damaged hair — is a two-step, three-minute treatment that comes in a single-use packet.

“When you look at the barrier of [entry] for treatments, women want to take care of their hair but it costs time and money — women don’t always have that time and expense to spare,” said Garnier’s senior vice president of marketing development Anncy Rowe. “How do you give yourself a treatment that works in just a minute? That’s the barrier women need to crack.”