Hair Straightening Products: The Next Generation
by Modern Salon on Thursday, September 1, 2011
Struggling with challenges ranging from frizz to unruly hair, curly clients have searched far and wide for ways to manage their manes. But in the not-so-distant past, when they came into the salon asking to get their hair straightened, they really only had two chemical service options: a traditional relaxer or a Japanese straightening treatment.
Then, almost overnight, “keratin” became the buzzword of the beauty industry, shifting the k-word context from “protein and conditioning” to smoothing and straightening. This new anti-wave of hair straightening products, known for giving clients with textured hair a straight, sleek look that lasted for months, became the new trend in texture management. This generated a boom of curly, wavy and even straight-haired clients running into salons to reap the “life-changing,” frizz-fighting benefits, even as questions and concerns about the process were being raised.
A Star Category is Born
With the downward-turning economy and traditional appointment stretching affecting salons, timing was good for companies to introduce a new revenue-generating service built upon strong consumer demand and dramatic results. Thus, dozens of new brands popped up, all selling their own variation of keratin straightening treatments.
This first generation of “Brazilian” keratin treatments after the country where the service originated — were formulated to last three to four months and generated an average ticket of $400.
Manufacturers of these new products and their R&D scientists proclaimed that replacing keratin in the hair could restructure and recondition hair fibers, refilling the holes and gaps in the hair shaft caused by chemical services and environmental factors, and that the process could even straighten hair when the formula was “sealed in” with a flat iron heated to 450 degrees.
Straight Evolves into “Smooth”
Alongside the big consumer buzz about keratin straightening came a wave of safety questions and concerns from consumers, salon professionals, associations and competitive brands alike. Most were focused on the levels of formaldehyde released when the solution was processed by the high-temp irons.
In response, the category has evolved significantly and competitively in 2011, morphing into smoothing treatments. Some notable changes:
• One brand may now offer a menu of different formulas for different hair types or “strength” of results.
• Education, both of salon professionals and consumers, has become key for serious players in the segment.
• Some brands have dropped “Brazilian” altogether from the name or description of the service.
• Interest has grown in alternatives to keratin treatments.
• Semi-permanent formulations designed to last only 4-6 weeks are growing in popularity. They can be overlapped with each application, and reach optimal potential after 2-4 applications.
• Many brands now focus on marketing low to no-formaldyde (or any –aldehyde) smoothing treatment alternatives, with minimal irritating odors or fumes.
• Even companies that elect not to get into the chemical service realm of smoothing are launching retail, take-home smoothing products, some utilizing keratin and some positioned to create a similar, albeit short-term, effect (up to 72 hours, for instance).
At Cosmoprof North America in Las Vegas, many of the new generation of smoothing treatments were on display, with marketing and education teams showing off their latest innovations. From Long Beach to Orlando, brands showed off their safety certificates to stylists at hair shows.
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