Editor's Spotlight

Is indie hair care catching up with skin care?

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / (Poike)
© Getty Images / (Poike)
Skin care has long been the standout category among independents, but other categories are gaining ground and hair brands both new and established are moving to capitalize on the momentum and popularity of the global indie beauty movement.

It’s not that hair care brands haven’t been part of the indie beauty movement all along; rather, it seems to be taking hair care longer to gain momentum and rise to prominence. Here, Cosmetics Design looks at a selection of brands doing just that.

Ingredient stories

Inger Ellen and Christinah Nicolaisen founded Eleni & Chris in 2015. What began as a skin care brand, formulating with Scandinavian ingredients—especially cloudberries—has grown to include hair care. The brand’s portfolio now includes shampoos for color-treated hair, blonde hair, men’s hair, shampoo with smoothing benefits, shampoo for volumizing, strengthening, and more; all of which are formulated with “a selection of the purest ingredients, sourced directly from the fields, fjords and glacier of Scandinavia,” ​according to the site. Beyond cloudberry, those ingredients comprise volcanic minerals, glacier water, and more.  

Alaffia is a natural, fair-trade personal care brand that got its start in 2003. And all along, founders Olowo-n’djo Tchala and Prairie Rose Hyde have built social enterprise into their business model, establishing a shea butter cooperative, funding eyeglass and bicycle projects, building schools, etc.

Alaffia products retail most notably at Whole Foods, and the brand co-created the bar soap brand Good Soap with Whole Foods. As part of the brand’s 15th anniversary, Alaffia added over 2,500 doors to its retail distribution, a move that makes its shampoos, conditioners, styling and treatment products more widely available.

Zatik is also sold in Whole Foods (and has been since 2010). Like Alaffia, it’s a wide-ranging personal care brand. Zatik markets its unisex hair care products to consumers between the ages of 24 and 65, according to a recent Cosmetics Design interview with the brand. And Zatik credits much of its success to formulations made with patented ingredients derived from medium chain triglyceride coconut oil.

Inclusive demographics

Indie hair brands like Alodia and Koils by Nature are winning in the market with products developed for textured hair. Pamela J. Booker founded Koils by Nature in 2009 and early last year her brand began retailing in Target stores. “The natural hair care industry is very competitive,” ​Booker told the press in January 2018, “so we’re proud that we’re able to continue growing our footprint. While we’re currently in 600 beauty supply stores and customers can buy online, we’re excited to offer another, convenient way for them to get the products they love at their local Target store.” Read more about Koils by Nature here on Cosmetics Design.

Dr. Isfahan Chambers launched Alodia Hair Care in 2017. As she explained in her Indie Beauty Profile​, “The Alodia Hair Care consumer is a 25-55 year-old woman that is middle to upper class. She has textured hair and values natural and organic products.

And C3 isn’t exactly selling hair care; but the brand Adam Fitting and Melissa Stern founded in 2017 targets a distinct demographic in the hair space. The brand is all about scalp care for bald people. To date, the C3 (Comprehensive Cranium Care) product line has only 2 SKUs: a head wash and fragrance-free head wash. But at IBE LA this past January, C3 was showing Head Hydrate, a moisturizing product the brand has in a pre-launch stage. And Stern tells Cosmetics Design that a shave product will be the next to launch after that.

Innovative formulations

Indie brands doing well with distinctive formulations include Prose, the startup brand known for its custom-made hair care and treatment products. According to that brand’s site, “We’ll ask a brief series of questions to understand your unique hair needs and goals, lifestyle, and environment so we can formulate your custom products.”

And there’s still space for innovation in hair care. OWA, the brand Kailey Bradt is building, promises to develop a full line of hair care in power and otherwise water-free formats. OWA (out of this world amazing) will first launch a hair wash product: Moondust Hair Wash. And Bradt tells Cosmetics Design, “the Moondust Collection is planned to be hair wash (shampoo), hair conditioner, hair mask (treatment), and a hair lotion (styling product). Read more about OWA here on Cosmetics Design.



Deanna Utroske, CosmeticsDesign.com Editor, covers beauty business news in the Americas region and publishes the weekly Indie Beauty Profile column, showcasing the inspiring work of entrepreneurs and innovative brands.

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