Redefining the Hair Industry by Ellin LaVar

We all know a woman’s hair is strongly connected to her self- esteem and confidence. Our hair is extremely influential in social and employment situations.  For African American women it is a constant quest for personal satisfaction and social acceptance.

MarketResearch estimated the American hair care industry to be 10 billion dollars in 2006. However, women are still having “Bad Hair Days.”  Factors contributing to this are limited availability of hair care products that address specific needs of today’s consumer and the slow evolution of marketing strategies in the hair care industry.

The division of hair care along color lines is obsolete. Skin color does not determine the texture of your hair. Texture is directly dependent on the diameter of the hair strand and the feel of the hair shaft. Is the hair strand thick, thin, rough or smooth?

If you are an African American woman, you purchased “Black or Ethnic” hair care products; Caucasian women purchased their hair care products from the “white or general market “category. 

Today, in 2010, hair care is still divided along color lines. Mass Market retailers dedicate extremely little shelf space to Ethnic hair care products. These products usually have about a 3-foot wide section of shelf space toward the back of the store. While General Market hair care products occupy 10x or more shelf space in easy to find isles.

I find this to be very confusing, since Ethnic women spend 3 – 4x more money on hair care than their Caucasian counterparts. I have also observed that the variety of products carried by Mass Retailers for Ethnic women are very limited. These products are usually poorly displayed and disjointed. Very few complete product lines can be seen in these sections. Ethnic product choices usually have lots of heavy oils. Hair Relaxers and moisturizers are also abundant in this category. However, there are no specific hair care products that address hair type and/or texture. Whereas, in the general market, one can find numerous complete lines of hair care brands, from shampoo, styling, and treatment products for fine, normal, thick, color treated, red, blonde, damaged…hair types and textures.

What is Ethnic hair?

According to MarketResearch, “ethnic “, is used to describe products to be used by African Americans. Ethnic hair has been described as coarse, dry, kinky or nappy hair. However, African American hair exhibits characteristics of three population groups; Oriental – straight, round, large diameter, Caucasoid – straight, wavy, round to oval, and Negroid – tightly coiled, spiraled, elliptic or flattened. This is due to the many different ethnicities within the gene pool of the African American population. There is no one type of Ethnic or Black hair!

Who has Ethnic hair?

I believe anyone who has curly, kinky, wavy, dry, or coarse hair. I say this because, I have two clients who are sister’s of Jewish decent. One has fine, straight, shiny hair, while the other has curly, dry bushy hair. Should they both go to the General Market isle? Can they both use the same hair care products because their skin is white? No! One sister needs to remove oil from her hair to get fullness, the other needs to add oil or moisture. The one with fine hair will use a shampoo that removes oil and the other will need a shampoo that infuses moisture. The same holds true for all races. Different hair textures can be present in one family and vary throughout one race. African American, Indian, Italian, Hispanic, Caucasian and women of multi-cultural decent must stop looking at their skin color when choosing hair products. They need to close their eyes and feel their hair! Is their hair straight, wavy, curly, kinky, oily, dry, smooth or rough? Then choose their products according to their hair texture and needs. Hair is no longer Black or White!

Ethnic hare care needs to be redefined as “multi-cultural or multi-ethnic” hair care. The needs of these women are abundant! These women relax; blow dry and use hot tools to straighten their hair. “Bouncing and behaving" hair is what every women wants according to advertisers. The straighter your hair, the prettier you are, is the perception around the world.

Multi-cultural women want choice. They want products that will enhance their natural textures or allow them to straighten their hair without major damage. Because of the difficulty finding products that work for their specific hair types these women have chosen styles that are easier to maintain. Wearing their natural curls, braids, afros, weaves and dreads have become popular for this group. Today’s woman does not have three hours to calm her curls. All women want beautiful well styled hair. But they don’t want to spend hours trying to get it!

Salon owners and stylist are guilty too!

Hair salons and stylists are also separated along color lines. There are white salons and black salons. Lately we have seen an increase in Dominican salons thru out the country. This is due to their ability to blow dry curly hair straight. They seldom use heavy oils, thus attracting African American clients.  They welcome anyone with curly hair regardless of race! Salon owners and stylist would benefit from products that addressed the needs of women with curly to kinky hair textures. These women frequent salons 2-3x more than their straight haired counterparts. When a woman is pleased with her hair, she is more likely to return to that salon and purchase products recommended to her by her stylist.

When I formulated my hair care line, Ellin LaVar TEXTURES, I wanted my products to be moisturizing and conditioning, without using heavy oils or leaving any residue on the hair. I use my products on all types of women. No matter what their ethnicity, they all want shiny, soft, bouncy and clean feeling hair!

Common complaints from many of my clients are, “broken promises.” Hair care products don’t deliver on their claims. Products don’t work! After I speak to them for a while, I find that they are not using the correct products for the results they are trying to achieve. Part of the reason is they are in the wrong aisle. Another reason is they need to combine two or three different products in the multi-cultural or multi-ethic category from different manufacturers is to address their specific hair care needs.

 

Black hair White hair is not enough. There are too many variables in hair texture. A woman can have fine curly hair or thick curly hair. Both can be dry, but they can’t use the same products. Fine curly needs lightweight conditioning while thick curly needs a heavier conditioning agent.

The hair care industry needs to redefine the ethnic category. A change to “multi-cultural or multi-ethnic” category will allow to manufactures access an untapped consumer base. Consumers then can be segmented according to hair texture and needs, not ethnicity or skin color.

“IT’S NOT ABOUT THE COLOR OF YOUR SKIN; IT’S ABOUT THE TEXTURE OF YOUR HAIR!” – Ellin LaVar