The hair care category has long underserved people with curly and textured hair, many of whom are black and mixed-race consumers. This group grows exponentially every year and takes a keen interest in the beauty industry, and more specifically the hair care category.
According to a NielsenIQ report, between February 2022 - February 2023, black consumers in the US market increased their spend on beauty products at a faster rate than the overall US market, despite the inflationary economy.
In this period, this consumer group spent $8bn on beauty products, which was a 10% increase on the previous year.
While another report from McKinsey stated that creating more equitable beauty market offers businesses a $2.6bn opportunity.
The hair care category has long been important to black and mixed-race consumers and for the last decade there has been a movement to embrace their natural hair texture rather than use chemical relaxers.
In fact, a recent Mintel consumer report found that 60% of black US-based consumers said they felt a lot of pressure for their hair to look a certain way.
The same report also revealed that nearly three-quarters of those quizzed choose their specific hairstyles based on their hair type. Hair porosity, type, texture, and density all played a significant role in determining possibilities available.
However, despite all this data showing opportunities for new innovations, there has still been a lack of choice available for people with more textured hair types in comparison to the vast amount of general hair care products available.
This is particularly the case in the European and UK markets.
Even the popular textured hair care brand Carol’s Daughter, which was started up in the early 1990s and bought by L’Oréal in 2014, has only just been rolled out into European markets earlier this year, despite being a popular choice in the US for many years.
Grounded in curl science
Rose Ovensehi, founder of UK hair care brand Flora & Curl, was highly aware of the lack of natural and sustainable options for her hair type in the UK, hence why she started her brand up in 2017.
After years of using harsh chemicals on her hair, she wanted to embrace her hair's natural texture, but when she looked around at the products available for her hair type, she was not happy with the quality of her options and even had concerns about some of the ingredients used.
She decided to launch her own brand of refillable hair care products with the goal of making sustainable haircare products for textured hair types more accessible for the general consumer.
“In my quest for a solution, I began sourcing plant-based ingredients from various corners of the world, ranging from Brazilian oils to Ghanaian butters and botanical components,” she shared.
“I crafted recipes right in my mum's kitchen, and this journey revealed a wealth of gentle, all-natural remedies for very dry, textured hair like mine. That's how the vision for Flora & Curl was created.”
Ovensehi’s vision was to create a range of products that kept the textured hair care routine super simple. She devised a goal-oriented and streamlined range, which she described as “centred on the nourishing and aromatherapeutic properties of plant-based ingredients, all grounded in curl science."
She's worked with a mix of science-backed and naturally derived ingredients and included sensorial fragrances that are sourced purely from plants.
Ovensehi’s goal was for each product to be as simple as possible to understand. The range is organised into core collections: style me, hydrate me, protect me, and soothe me and each collection aims to meet the 'core' needs of textured hair – to ensure its moisturised, soft, and healthy above all.
The brand also puts a lot of emphasis on a circular economy, ensuring that the materials it uses can be reused and repurposed.
Product formulations feature ingredients like sweet almond oil, hibiscus, burdock root, rosewater, molasses, jasmine and aloe. All products adhere to the European Union Directive for Cosmetic Safety standards. They also steer clear of silicones, sulphates, parabens, and artificial colours and fragrances.
Flora & Curl has already won multiple awards and Ovensehi herself graced the Forbes #30Under30 list in 2020.
The range has just launched into UK health and beauty retail chain Boots today (20 November 2023) and is already sold in the UK via Superdrug, as well as D2C via online stores across the globe.
R&D needs to appreciate the size of this market
One of Ovensehi's major challenges has been keeping up with changing perspectives on the ‘naturalness’ of ingredients, as consumers often change their minds on what they’d like to see in their formulations.
“We are trying to steer away from fear mongering, and we try to focus on the effectiveness of our ingredients to highlight some amazing and innovative ingredients that do great things for our hair and are derived from nature,” she explained.
While creating the brand, Ovensehi was also surprised to learn that most retailers listed curly hair as an 'issue' in their product sections, rather than a characteristic to enhance by meeting its essential needs, and she believes this is a big oversight.
"There is still room for textured haircare products to be marketed and communicated correctly, and I even think that the textured haircare market isn't well enough supported. I found that retailers list curly hair as an 'issue' or a ‘problem’ - I believe that curly and textured hair should not be seen as an issue to fix, something to be ‘tamed’ or seen as unmanageable,” she said.
“Instead of upholding these negative connotations, we should provide the right tools, resources and education so people can understand that it can be easy and straightforward to look after your hair.”
Despite the sustainability movement over the past four years, there is also still a lack of choice of sustainable hair care products available for textured hair.
As Ovensehi rightly pointed out, it seems that R&D departments still aren’t fully appreciating exactly how big this market is. “It’s estimated that 60-70% of the world’s population has some form of texture in their hair,” she said.
There is also the need for marketers at hair care brands to pay attention to the fact that hair is an important part of someone’s identity and can evoke strong feelings, particularly when someone is transitioning back to embrace their natural hair type.
“Hair can be a big part of someone’s daily routine and people can form an emotional and special connection to it,” she shared.
“It’s often an emotional relationship for many because the norm used to be to not embrace their natural texture and making that decision can often be a life-changing one.”
Going forward, Ovensehi believed that the trend of embracing natural texture will continue to grow and that there is a large group of people with textured hair who are only just beginning their journey.
“Many people are not inclined to fully embrace their natural hair because the process has been shown to be complex or time-consuming or difficult,” she said.
“Our mission at Flora & Curl is to demystify textured haircare, and to make it easy and enjoyable for everyone.”