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Hydration needs on the rise for curly, textured tresses

Beauty brands with products targeting women of color and multicultural hair types are responding to the demand for cleaner products and consumers’ changes in styling and maintenance needs.

No matter the hair type, keeping tresses hydrated and moisturized is a hot topic of conversation for consumers of all ages and genders. Though it’s worth mentioning that those who find themselves with curly, textured, coily or multicultural hair are constantly on the lookout for products that cater to a specific set of needs that differ from those with traditionally straight hair. 

Several brands with products targeting women of color and multicultural hair types have made waves on retail shelves throughout the years. Although these brands have developed products to help consumers wear their hair naturally, not since the COVID-19 pandemic has there been a demand for cleaner products for consumers to build their hair strength healthily and wear their hair in natural styles.

According to an analysis by Nielsen, 41% of African American women surveyed stated that the pandemic prompted significant changes to their hair styling and maintenance regimens. Some of these changes include a newfound preference for natural beauty and DIY self-care, as well as discovering an entirely new world of products that are specifically geared toward at-home needs, according to the analysis. 

“Clean ingredients are an expectation of the Black consumer and not an exception, especially amongst the Gen Z consumer,” said Carol’s Daughter brand team. “Overall, we saw consumer usage increase versus pre-pandemic, as well as a significant increase in consumers wearing their hair natural. These work hand in hand; natural hair typically requires more maintenance and care.”

[Read More: Multicultural mindset: Retailers, suppliers grow their focus on diverse needs]

“The search for clean beauty started amongst naturally curly and textured hair consumers as they started moving away from relaxers in the early 2000s.”
— Erika Taylor, senior director of innovation and new product development, Mielle Organics
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In addition, consumer research from Carol’s Daughter found that 80% of people claim to wear their hair naturally, 74% claim to have it relaxed/texturized and 66% claim to have worn a protective style within the past 12 months, signaling a change in styling and maintenance. 

A change in styling and maintenance needs also has prompted the emergence of new brands in this space, including Bread Beauty Supply and Prose, and forced several other long-standing brands to adapt their product range to meet these cleaner standards that consumers now demand. 

“When it comes to the demand for cleaner products, that expectation was present prior to the pandemic and continues to increase over time,” said Erika Taylor, senior director of innovation and new product development at Mielle Organics. “The search for clean beauty started amongst naturally curly and textured hair consumers as they started moving away from relaxers in the early 2000s. We expect the demand for clean beauty to continue on this trajectory, and it remains a top priority for Mielle.”

Unlike consumers with typically straight hair, those with tresses who fall under the multicultural category have different needs. The way oil naturally flows from the scalp to ends varies greatly, so these consumers have to search for products — including shampoos, conditioners and styling gels — that help hair retain moisture.

“Products formulated for naturally curly or textured hair are different from those formulated for straight hair, primarily because oil naturally flows from the scalp to our ends,” Taylor said. “In straight hair, there is nothing compromising this flow, making it easier to retain moisture, at times to the point of excess resulting in oiliness. Conversely, in curly and coily hair, the oil flowing from the scalp typically gets stuck in the bends of the hair, trapping the oil and preventing it from ever reaching the ends.”

This means brands have to turn to natural ingredients such as shea butter, avocado oil and aloe leaf juice, among others, to ensure hair stays hydrated for as long as possible since textured hair can be naturally susceptible to dryness and breakage. “For this reason, it is critical that those with naturally curly hair use products created specifically for hydration, strength and damage repair,” Taylor said. 

[Read More: Firstline, Faith In Nature wow at ECRM’s Hair Care and Multicultural Hair session]

“Clean ingredients are an expectation of the Black consumer and not an exception, especially amongst the Gen Z consumer.”
— Carol’s Daughter
curly hair stock

Other key ingredients for curly hair include castor oil and black seed oil, which can help make hair easier to detangle so there is less breakage and hair is able to keep its length, the Carol’s Daughter team said. 

Although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all remedy for helping textured hair retain its moisture, opting for products that are free of harmful and harsh ingredients, including parabens, petrolatum, mineral oil, sulfates or DMDM is a start.

“Clean ingredients are a must-have for the Black consumer. They expect clean products and product efficacy is very important to consumers, and we strive to develop products that address both,” Carol’s Daughter’s team said. “Textured/curly/coily hair consumers should seek out ingredients that have strong moisture-retaining properties.” 

Having to use ingredients that are as clean as possible for many consumers could signal a significant price increase, but Mielle Organics’s CEO and founder Monique Rodriguez strives to provide consumers with a premium experience at an affordable price. A large part of this includes finding out what consumers want.

The company does this by using social media to interact with consumers and learn about their hair care needs. Rodriguez not only responds to comments but goes as far as attending consumer events to have face-to-face interactions with shoppers to find out what is on their minds. 

[Read More: Tracee Ellis Ross debuts Pattern hair care line]

Finding out what consumers are on the search for has helped the brand curate its line of offerings, which feature tropical and natural ingredients that tackle simple hair care concerns. “We achieve this by formulating our products with a balance of exotic and food-grade ingredients,” Taylor said. “This approach allows us to solve for issues like dryness, breakage and scalp distress with collections like Mielle’s Pomegranate & Honey line for extremely curly dry hair, or our universal Rosemary Mint collection for flourishing hair and scalp.” 

Clearly, there is not a one-size-fits-all remedy or solution when it comes to addressing the hydration needs of multicultural hair, but learning where to start and what ingredients to look for can be a great place to begin. “Our approach to innovation is a combination of correcting damage unique to natural hair while supporting our consumers’ style goals,” Taylor said.

Product Picks:

Design Essentials Edge & Temple Strengthening Oil, SRP: $9.99
This lightweight restorative treatment is infused with black castor oil, biotin and peppermint to nourish and repair hair at breaking points for stronger, thicker and healthier strands. Made with Naturalceutical, which is blended with more than 20 essential oils, it also helps provide a natural therapy that strengthens and fortifies the hair shaft, giving each strand a fuller and healthier appearance.

Cantu Avocado Hydrating Shampoo and Avocado Hydrating Conditioner, SRP: $5.97 each
Avocado Hydrating Shampoo helps reduce breakage and minimize frizz while also keeping tresses nourished and smooth. Avocado Hydrating Conditioner contains a shea butter formula, avocado oil and vitamin E to soften strands and enhance the hair’s natural shine. Designed to repair dry and brittle hair, the shampoo and conditioner are ideal for those with curly, coily and wavy hair. 

Pattern Curl Mousse, SRP: $20 for 8 oz. and $11 for 4 oz. 
An ultralight styling foam that delivers weightless volume and touchable hold to curls and coils, Pattern’s Curl Mousse features a flake-free formula. It contains marshmallow root and castor oil to maintain softness and smoothness, is quick-drying and can be applied to wet or dry hair to set desired styles.

Urban Hydration Moisturize & Grow Aloe Vera & Cucumber Leave-in Spray Conditioner, SRP: $8.99
Suitable to help detangle hair, Urban Hydration’s leave-in spray conditioner contains aloe vera to help hydrate and leave behind a smooth and enhanced shine. Made to not weigh down tresses or leave behind a greasy feel or appearance, it also contains cucumber extract to hydrate the scalp, help prevent dandruff and promote growth.

Creme of Nature Pure Honey Hair Food 24-Hour Nourishing Cream Oil, SRP: $6.98
Formulated with the brand’s signature honey blend, natural coconut oil and shea butter, Creme of Nature’s Pure Honey Hair Food 24-Hour Nourishing Cream Oil is Infused with certified natural acai berry and works to provide nourishing moisture to the hair and scalp, as well as help prevent breakage for healthy-looking hair. 

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