Black British women spend more than £168 million every year on hair care products in the UK and Black hair expert Ovi King says it’s time we all woke up to the business potential behind the figures.
Having spent the last few years investigating the business of Black hair and studying various documentaries and reports, such as Naturally Curly (TextureTrends2018), Treasure Tress Trends Report and the Black Pound Reports, I estimate that by the time many women with curly or Afro textured hair turn 18 they would have already spent about £3,000 a year on their hair care. When you consider that prices for hair products keeps going up, by the time she reaches the age of 25 she could easily have spent about £30,000 on hair care.
Black Adult women in the UK account for 10% of Haircare spend, although they make up only 2% of the UK Adult population (2018 ONS).
Market research firm Mintel currently values the Black hair industry at $2.5 billion dollars in the US alone, yet that estimate doesn’t include hair accessories, wigs, weaves, extensions, electric hair care products, hair care services provided in salons or by individuals or products sold to salons. If the data included these products, the $2.54 billion figure estimated would increase exponentially.
The UK Black hair market should not be underestimated either. Although smaller in size, the consumer base expends significant spending power on hair care products annually.
“Black British women spend £200 million a year on hair products” Treasure Tress Trend Report 2021
Many Black woman will be familiar with dishing out big bucks on their hair regardless of whether they have natural or relaxed hair. In recent years we are seeing more Black women opting to wear their hair natural and doing away with hair relaxing products, but they continue to spend a lot of money on natural hair products to care and nurture their curls and coils.
Black woman typically spend hundreds of pounds on hair care because it’s harder to maintain the health of natural hair because the curlier your hair, the dryer it can become due to a multitude of factors; such as hair health and lifestyle factors. The oil from the scalp has a hard time reaching the rest of your hair strands which can lead to breakage. I have heard many tales from Afro naturalistas describing themselves as hair product junkies! This term refers to people who constantly try new products to see what works. Much work needs to be done around the labelling of hair products as they can often be confusing, and consumers don’t know if they are going to work for them and their hair care needs.
“58% of Black British women buy hair products at least once a month” Treasure Tress Trend Report 2021
At-home wash day isn’t cheap
Looking after your natural hair at home can be expensive. Black women tend to wash their hair significantly less frequently than other ethnic groups, they seem to make up for that by using many more products, approximately three to four products, as part of their haircare regimen according to my own research. In fact, I have friends and family members who use more than that.
I use the example of my friend Janet to illustrate an example wash day routine. Janet’s wash day routine involves washing her hair with a shampoo followed by conditioner. She then uses two further conditioners. In the fourth step she applies a leave-in conditioner followed by a styling gel and then a sealant product oil or butter to seal the moisture in. Finally, she uses a styling gel for her edges. Janet spends roughly £80 for the products she needs. Part of this process is known to the Black hair community as cocktailing which literally means having to use a mixture of products on wash day since some products have desirable effects or properties your hair seems to like so the user washes and conditions hair with multiple products.
“Black British women most likely to discover products by word of mouth” Treasure Tress Trend Report 2021
Legacy over royalty
The Black hair care Industry in its current wild-west form generates billions of pounds globally even while they miss out on profits that could have been earned by efficiently supplying products to all curly and Afro textured consumers. However, this presents a wonderful opportunity for nimble and savvy independent brands to capture market share while the mainstream brands and retailers are focused elsewhere.
My hope for the future is that when the Black hair visionaries and pioneers confidently seize the opportunity to develop this lucrative and global sector of hair care, that they choose to do so with a steadfast resolve to collaborate with each other and not sell out, but retain their hold, and think about legacy over royalty when the industry giants come looking for access to the unprecedented gold mine that is Black hair care.
The issues are old, the solutions must be new
Black hair experts are optimistic that there’s room for innovation and new brands to enter the marketplace given that demand for products to meet the needs of curly and Afro textured hair consumers continues to rise exponentially.
I am personally very excited about the future of the Black hair care industry and where it’s going because more entrepreneurs, particularly young people, are getting into the business. There are new products coming on to the market every day and emerging technology such as AI (Artificial Intelligence), block chain, AR (Augmented Reality) and the metaverse is enabling the development of fascinating concepts that have the potential to disrupt product development, retail, manufacturing and more. This is just the beginning of a very exciting decade within Black hair care.
One of the key points that’s unique about the current situation is that for the first time in a long time, the innovation and inspiration is not being led by the US, the reset button in technology has been deployed with the result being that the best solutions can come from anywhere in the global marketplace.
It’s gratifying to see that the UK is a bubbling hive of activity with interesting projects popping up regularly so keep your eyes peeled.
Contributed by Ovi King:
Ovi King is an expert in Black hair care products. In particular his interests focus on the science and technology of hair. Ovi leads events and business network, Hair Care Revolution UK and he is also the founder of Cosmetrics Ai, a startup which provides consumers with technology led cosmetic care.