THE WILD SIDE OF TEEN HAIR

Byline: Matthew W. Evans

NEW YORK — If there seems to be a proliferation of punk rock teens, it may have something to do with the sprouting up of colorful hair care brands in the mass market.
Hair color, styling aids and shampoo and conditioner lines called Hot Head, Head Wear and Bwild!!! seem louder than the screams at a pop music concert. Indeed, executives at the companies that have recently launched these products say pop recording artists who flaunt adventurous coifs have induced mostly young consumers to demand products that make their hair glow, stand up and turn purple.
When it comes to color, pink, blue and green are among the most popular and appeal almost as much to boys as they do to girls. Manufactured in temporary or semi-permanent formulations, these products can credit some success to quirky packaging and appearances in the pages of teen-oriented magazines. But is this more than just a fad?
Komb in Hot Head is one vibrant color line that has experienced sustained success. This assortment of seven washout colors, each priced at $6.99, bears names like Outrageous Orange, Electric Blue and Bodacious Black. “Bright colors are the hottest,” said Maribeth Cleary, co-owner of MarketX, the U.S. distributor of Hot Head, which is produced by British firm Universal Products. The product is packaged in a squeeze bottle with an applicator comb attached to the top.
Cleary said Walgreen Co. picked up Hot Head on a permanent basis following a successful countertop promotion a year ago. Distribution of the brand has expanded to 12,500 total doors, including Rite Aid and Eckerd locations. A line extension tripling the number of stockkeeping units is planned for later this year and industry sources expect all 21 Hot Head skus to generate $7.5 million at retail in 2001. Cleary, citing independent market research, said 68 percent of teen guys and 75 percent of teen gals think hair coloring is “in,” adding that the product was not designed just for seasonal selling. “We want it to be an everyday expression of fashion, not just for Halloween or homecoming.”
Lisa Kirk, spokeswoman for teen hair care marketer Head Wear International, agreed that vivid is the way to go. With transparent plastic bottles that show off Day-Glo-colored formulations, color is more of a selling point for the Head Wear brand. “It’s all about bright colors and clear packaging,” said Kirk. Six skus — a shampoo, a conditioner and four styling products — were launched last month and are priced from $3.99 to $5.99. Hydro Blast shampoo is designed to work together with Disco Diva thickening gel to cause hair to glow under blacklight. Two plastic jars contain styling product dubbed Strung Out Styling Goo, a type of gel-mud, and Phytophusion Pliable Putty, a styling mud.
Head Wear is distributed to 6,000 Wal-Mart, CVS, Ulta and Pathmark doors and has sold about a million units at retail so far. With the help of several additional styling products, launching for the back-to-school selling season, industry sources expect retail sales of Head Wear to reach $40 million this year. And it’s not only the 13- to 21-year-old core customer who uses Head Wear, said Kirk. This “not too cutesy” line also appeals to “moms with short hairstyles.”
Hair care and cosmetics company Jerome Russell markets extreme hair colors like Lynx Pink and Purple Panther in temporary sprays under its Bwild!!! brand. The products are distributed to Walgreens and Longs Drug Stores, as well as smaller beauty supply stores.
Dinah Beveridge, the brand’s marketing manager, said “punk” teens comprise the biggest portion of the Bwild!!! user base but she also confirmed the existence of older weekend color warriors. “Some people, even up to 35-year-olds, can’t color their hair with work obligations so they use this then wash it out,” she said. “These products give you bright purple, blue or green hair — unnatural colors.” Beveridge credited “blonde-on-the-top, and pink-on-the-bottom” looks of Christina Aguilera and wild styles of Aguilera’s fellow pop star Pink with helping to perpetuate this bold color craze.

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