Textured hair finally gets the care products it deserves
Solvay offers new possibilities for gentler and more natural care for textured hair
When Stéphanie Neplaz left L’Oréal six years ago to become Solvay’s Global Marketing Innovation Director for hair care, one of the first things she did was create an in-house formulation lab at the Group’s site in Aubervilliers, near Paris. “We can’t just sell ingredients,” she says. “We need to show hair care manufacturers what our ingredients can do, which means we have to be able to formulate products ourselves. I know how challenging it can be to find the right products for textured hair, so when the opportunity came to create a new routine for these types of hair, I knew we could make incredible products with a real impact on consumers around the world.”
Working closely with a series of partners, particularly Parisian testing and consulting salon Studio Ana’e, the hair care team sifted through Solvay’s portfolio of ingredients to come up with formulations for the cleansing, moisturizing and styling of textured hair, favoring an approach based on two simple ideas: less products and more natural-based ingredients. “We challenged ourselves to create a comprehensive offer,” continues Stéphanie. “Because some brands have products for textured hair but want to do better, and others would like to enter this market but don’t have the time and/or know-how to develop and test new product lines.”
Everyone in the industry knows the textured hair care market really needs to be addressed, and I’m proud to say we’re clearly ahead of the competition here.
Serving a fast-growth market with specific needs
Thus came the idea of creating and testing formulations in-house (generally containing two to six Solvay ingredients) to demonstrate which combinations work best. After that, it’s up to manufacturers to use these formulations as a basis for their own recipes, or just use them as they are. What’s more, “if they encounter a problem with their formulations, we’re able to help,” adds Stéphanie. “We are identified as robust and reliable chemists who really know the end products.” And thanks to all this support, manufacturers can count on significantly shorter time to market.
That’s a strong argument considering textured hair care is a multi-billion, fast-growth segment: 65 to 70% of the world’s population is concerned, and it is estimated that women with textured hair spend two to three times more on hair products than those with straight hair. Yet despite its specific needs, this is still a largely under-addressed market.
Simultaneously, for the past few years there has been a strong trend towards treating one’s hair more gently, with natural “wash & go” styles, more natural-based products that don’t damage the hair and scalp, and less of them. The objective of the Business, R&I and Marketing teams was to help brands address all those demands simultaneously. “People usually think it’s the last products in your hair care routine that do the job, but we demonstrated that results can start with the first shampoo when you use the right sequence,” explains Chloe Moreau, Hair Care Global R&I Leader. “Our challenge was to reach required performance levels while using as few products as possible: five or six instead of up to 20, which is a common figure in the daily routines of women with textured hair.”
A high-performance, ten-product range
At the moment, six products comprising shampoos, a cleansing cream, conditioners, a mask and leave-on have been presented to manufacturers, with an extremely enthusiastic response so far. Four more formulations destined to hair styling (lotion, oil, detangler…) will be added to the family shortly.
In addition to exhibiting remarkable performance levels that enable the simplification of hair care routines, a large part of these ingredients are also natural-based. Guar derivatives, a long-standing star product of Solvay’s, were of course called upon, but silicon alternative Mackaderm® LIA is another success here. Silicone is a widely used smoothing ingredient in shampoos and conditioners, but consumers increasingly want to get rid of it. Not only does Mackaderm® replace silicone, it’s also 100% natural and derived from the circular economy (it’s made from biomass and crop waste such as sugarcane residue) and even has an overall negative carbon footprint.
The market is ready, the products are proven: the sky's the limit now for Solvay’s textured hair care offering. “Everyone in the industry knows this market really needs to be addressed, and I’m proud to say we’re clearly ahead of the competition here.”