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Go pro: When consumers want a professional-looking cut, color and style, they go to a hair salon. We asked some experts what's on-trend, what's to come, what they can't do without and what the industry can do better.

SALON PROFESSIONALS know what works and what they want. They're at the forefront of change and help create the trends. No wonder, then, that despite some topsy-turvy times in the professional hair care industry, the sector has proved resilient.


Cyrus Bulsara, Professional Consultants & Resources LLC, Piano, TX, puts total 2016 salon hair care sales at $3.3 billion (manufacturers dollars). That's a 3% gain over 2015 mainly due to the growth of hair color.

"Hair color is the largest hair care category and is growing at an average rate of about 4%,"explained Bulsara. "Hair color continues to grow during a good or bad economy."

He noted that hair color remains a solid anchor service at all salons and attracts clients for other services like cutting, styling, keratin/straightening and perming.

"Better artistic salons and rental suites must possess high quality coloring skills and ability to deliver the latest hair color techniques," he added.

Better salons do better, too; especially as the US economy posts lower gains following The Great Recession. According to statistics from Professional Consultants & Resources LLC, overall, salon hair care products grew at an average of 3.2% during the 2011-2016 period.

The professional hair care category is resilient. No matter what the
economy is doing, consumers are willing to spend more to look their
best. Even in the worst of times, women go to salons--just not as often
as they'd like, say experts. Sales are in millions of dollars. Source:
Professional Consultants & Resources, LLC, Piano, TX.

Category                  2015 Sales  2016 Sales  % Increase

Shampoos                     455         463         1.8
Conditioners                 340         349         2.6
Hair Color                   845         877         3.8
Ethnic Products              298         287        -3.7
Perms / Straightening        290         295         1.7
(Restructuring Products)
Hair Sprays                  245         254         3.7
Hair Styling                 320         336         5.0
Specialty Products           415         443         6.7
Total Hair Care              3208        3304        3.0

"Once again, this is lower than past five-year periods, due to low GDP growth years during recession in this period," explained Bulsara who listed the US economy, industry consolidations at manufacturer, distributor and salon level, plus distribution realignments, diversion, direct sales and chair/suite rentals, as affecting overall industry growth.

"Low 1.6% GDP growth and declining disposable incomes in areas of weak economy, leading to commission salon closures, are the greatest issues of concern to salons and industry growth in general," he explained.

Still, Bulsara remains optimistic, insisting current trends are very positive for a good growth and recover}' during the next five-year period.

"Political change and economic revival should bring in better service revenues and product sales at salons," he predicted.

As noted, 2016 salon hair care product sales rose 3% in 2016 to about $3.3 billion. In comparison, growth was 2.9% in 2015, 2.8% in 2014, 2.7% in 2013, 3.5% in 2012, 3.6% in 2011, and 3.4% in 2010.

"Hair color, the largest category, once again grew strongly at 3.8%," explained Bulsara. "Growth comes equally from gray-coverage for aging Baby Boomers and the upward trend for 'fashion color' among younger, urban adults."

He noted that the most popular color services are highlights, balayage, ombre/sombre, blonding, and whole-head color.

Who's on Top?

L'Oreal remains the leading player in the professional hair care space, followed by Coty (ex-P&G), Paul Mitchell, Henkel and Estee Lauder, in that order.

Bulsara noted that L'Oreal has accumulated major brands via M&A and he praised Coty for its "great innovation" and the best education in the Wella Professionals brands.

"Paul Mitchell has hit the 'sweet spot' with the best products at the best prices for the mid-level salons and rentals," he added.

Bulsara also singled out Henkel as growing via mergers and acquisitions, and noted that Estee Lauder has two good, vital brands in Aveda and Bumble & Bumble. Among up-and-coming brands, he highlighted Keune as a small Dutch, family-owned and company that has grown rapidly in the US via new distribution, sales and education efforts.

"Luxury Brand Partners, has also been every aggressive with innovative, niche, chic, products and a strong sales push," he concluded.

What follows are comments, projections and suggestions from several of the leading hair care experts in the professional hair care space.


Suzie Bond

Owner/Stylist and L'Oreal Professionnel International Artist

Bond Beauty

Mooresville, NC

The Look: The hottest trend right now is the lived-in bob. Reaching from the collarbone to shorter, this versatile style is a deconstructed update on the old classic. It shows off best with some beautiful low-maintenance balayage.

Get It: This look is achieved with internal layers to create movement, complemented by softer layers on the surface. Balayage hair color grows out softly and creates separation in this super-modern look.

Must-Have: Styling the lived-in bob requires a product with texture, but not necessarily a mattening effect. My favorite is Beach Waves by Tecni.Art. First, apply the product and then power dry to prep the hair for ironing. Then, use a large-wand iron to calibrate the waves. A little finishing touch of Infinium 4 working spray keeps those tresses on point for hours.

What's Next: I think the lived-in look will hang on for another year at least. The younger generation loves having a deconstructed look while those of us who are a bit older like to feel and look more youthful and not dated! I can see a shaggier version coming in next, which will shatter the bob edges.

Help Wanted: Hair care companies tend to focus on a product to create a look. If I could request a different approach, it would be for a product to create a specific look for a hair type or texture. For example, coarse hair needs a smoothing product to create the same look that a volumizing texturizer creates on fine hair. That would make it easier for consumers to choose the proper product specifically designed for their needs.

Lisa Fiorentino


Hello Gorgeous! Salons & Spas

Deptford, NJ

The Look: One of the most popular looks that clients are asking for is any kind of undone color look.

Get It: Balayage, color melting, hand painting. Whatever path of least resistance you take to achieve the desired look, the results are always consistent with the hair color pics that are trending.

Must-Have: My favorite product that I can't work without is Unique 1. Referred to me by a colleague a few years back, it is one of the best leave-in conditioners, stylers, multi-purpose products on the market. I use it every day and on just about every client.


What's Next: For the guys, the looks trending now will carry over to next year. I love the faded, shorter sides with the disconnection toward the top. They are versatile, clean and look great on any age.

For women, texture will continue to be strong. We will continue to leave long straight hair behind and move toward looks that have a ton of movement--from layers that are either cut into the hair or styled in with tools like irons and dryers. Growing up in the '80s, I secretly never have waivered from being in love with a great shag.

Hair color will remain undone with bolder contrasts. Fashion colors will continue to gain in popularity.

A long time ago, someone said that fashion and looks are usually a reflection of the current mood of the generations. I do believe there's some truth to this. When we feel a threat to our freedoms and an uncertainty in the air, the need for self-expression in hair and fashion becomes stronger and reinforces the mood of the styles. In most of the looks, we challenge the norm, go bold and make a stand for our ability to go against anything that is expected.

Help Wanted: Over my 30 years in the industry, I have learned that no hair care company is perfect. However, the brands that I do business with try to make available every resource, to educate the hairstylist and the client. Making the stylists and clients part of an experience, like an in-store event, creates a better environment in which to show the benefits of any product. With that being said, I guess * my answer would be continued support is key to any successful partnership between the stylist and the manufacturer.


Karen Gordon

Salon Owner/Colorist

J. Gordon Designs

Chicago, IL

The Look: We are experiencing a lot of requests for "Unicorn Colors," a blended array of soft pinks, purples, blues and other hues. What's surprising is it's not just for young people anymore. Some people are more daring and do a lot. Some play it a little safer and do a little. We are getting requests from people of all ages. I think people just want to have fun with their hair and change it on a whim like they change accessories.

Get It: We achieve this look in many ways, but typically we do some type of decolorizing first with a toner second. The placement of the color is very important. It's the difference between tasteful and garish.

Must-Have: We use Artego for decolorizing and Pravana for toning.

What's Next: We will continue to see lot of creative colors now that people have experienced more dramatic colors and are less afraid of the outcome or maintenance. I think blondes will be blonder. Reds will be more vivid. Dark colors will have a glow of blue or mahogany. We will see strong colors on strong, statement haircuts.

Help Wanted: I would like to see more online tutorials of current trends by leading guest artists. And speed them up! I don't have time to sit through some of the repetitive parts of a color applications. I get it!!! Use time lapse, please.


Shannon King

Creative Design Lead, Keune North America

Hair & Co BKLYN,

Owner/Education Director

Brooklyn, NY

The Look: Right now, there is a huge movement of pastels and vivid colors with loose, long layered curls and waves that are becoming very mainstream.

Get It: These are normally achieved with a double process. First, I decolorize the hair to a level 10, treat with protein and moisture, and then tone and glaze to the desired shade. Keune's Magic Bleach and the New Dawn collection are fabulous for this. The new Silver Lilac in Keune Semi Color is a straight up knockout! Long square shattered layers with a razor create just the right amount of movement and texture. Then, I finish using a round brush to create bends and/or a 1-inch or 1 1/2-inch iron to wrap the hair around for a soft curl.

Must-Have: I love the versatility, creativity and expressive spirit of Keune Blend. This line is synergistic and has a vitamin complex that allows for fearless mixing, cocktailing and mashups. 1 feel like I can create any attitude the client wants out of his or her look. For Spring/Summer I really like Keune Blend Refresh Spray and Keune Blend Volume Powder.

What's Next: There is a really strong movement to some of the '90s shapes that were strong then, and will be strong again. The first is a longer, beefed up shag with body, and the second is a hard-edged bowl cut with geometry and femininity. I believe the vibrant colors will show up in strong copper tones and greens of many shades with soft silvers and grey hues for pastels will stay around. Curls will continue to gain strength in many lengths and forms.

Help Wanted: Ask first and then listen. As a salon owner, hairdresser, trainer and educator/artistic director I hear, see and feel the true needs and wants of hairdressers all over the world and in the salon everyday. To know what stylists and salon owners need, you simply need to ask, listen, and try to support them the best way possible. We really need to keep as many tones as possible in the color portfolio and have different viscosities of lighteners for different techniques. At the end of the day, it always comes down to support and following through on things that can really motivate a salon team to perform--whether it's education, more ways to speak to consumers or big trips that are always a huge incentive to stylists.


Beth Minardi


Beth Minardi at Samuel Shriqui


New York, NY

The Look: The look for Summer is go with the flow. Hair is less structured, and with any length, it must be able to move and look less constructed. The smart look includes shine to hair looks vibrant and healthy and hair that moves. Fearless women like Scarlett Johansson or Kristen Stewart are being daring with super-short hair.

Must-Have: My favorite product is Minardi Prewash Therapy for Color Treated Hair. It is an almost magic elixir that is applied to dry hair and allowed to process a minimum of 15 minutes without heat prior to washing. Next, hair is shampooed, conditioned and styled, leaving it feeling amazing, hydrated, pliable, shiny and never, ever greasy. I also like Evo Fabulous color conditioners, and Kerastase Architecture Anti-Insure line, which strengthens over-processed hair.

What's Next: For next year, I think people will be over the confetti shades and will opt for very rich, multi-dimensional brown, red-on-red and high-contrast blonding. The styles will transcend from top of the shoulder to right below with very soft layering (texture) toward the ends. While some will hold onto much longer lengths, the trend will be to "bring it up."

Help Wanted: Provide improved communication with respect to new technology, new products and meaningful quality education.


Christopher Rosenthal

Owner, Stylist, #Hairgoals

Hair Extensions by Christopher Devin/Salon Nuance

Dupont Circle, Washington DC or

The Look: This greatly depends on where you live and your current position in life. DC is conservative and when I first arrived here from Toronto, I think I cut newscaster bobs for the first year. The acceptance of fashion here is now much better, thanks to the millennials, who believe that their appearance does not affect performance and forced employers to start bending the rules to accommodate this group. California and NewYork are this country's early adopters. That means in DC we watch them and see what sticks. After a year or so, we start to dip our toes in that pond, usually with a swipe of a conservative paint brush first. We might do a sombre rather than do a full on ombre, for example.

Clients whose lifestyles allow are taking advantage of the fantasy color and granny chic or silver trend. Those wanting highlights are opting for the natural, low-maintenance, sun-kissed feeling of balayage with an ombre progression.

Women have embraced length again falling from the jawline to the lower back with a soft bottom edge, usually razor cut and styled with a wand to create a soft, beachy look. Clients have become very aware of what is trending and how to achieve it through social media and sometimes as a stylist, you are learning about new techniques and trends through them. They also have access to incredible tutorials and have really become proficient in recreating their salon looks at home.

Color techniques and cutting/styling techniques and talent have skyrocketed in the past eight years due to social media. We can easily track trends around the world instantly and we now have to hold our abilities to the best people and talent we find on social media.

I only learned about balayage because of Instagram and that flipped my coloring world upside down when I realized I wasn't offering it. Why do stylists put all their hard work and techniques on Youtube for free? YouTube pays you, sometimes incredible money, if you fulfill three main components which are, length of time viewed of your videos, amount of views and number of subscribers, so it is a win for everyone.

Braiding has also skyrocketed and this old technique which as basically reserved for girls 10 and younger has been reborn because of the technique of pancaking, which is pulling the braid apart and fattening it up. Stylists love this modern twist and started getting really creative, creating art pieces that will confuse the eye like a Celtic knot and will also really show off all the current coloring techniques making a stylist's work look like it should be featured in the Smithsonian.

Get It: I have seen hundreds of techniques in Balayage, coloring, shear and razor cutting and styling. As a stylist, you can create your own individual or signature way of doing things. That is the best part of creativity and experimentation. We have learned to adopt every technique and tool we can find and use them all to create whatever we can dream up.

Must-Have: My favorite all-time styling product is Texture Twist by Pureology, which was discontinued after the L'Oreal buyout. I have never found anything exactly like Texture Twist, everything else is too thick, not enough hold, too much hold, too sticky, too hard to distribute etc. and I have heard this from so many stylists and clients. It needs to come back.

My favorite product to use are toners. Shades by Redken is amazing because of its ability to tone without lifting the hairs you want left undisturbed. This really has had the biggest impact on modern color because everyone uses bleach to lift now and you then need a product to give you the tone you want, without lifting the dark hair that needs to stay dark and without making those hairs brassy. Ironically, this also is one of the oldest products around that is enjoying a rebirth as everyone realizes its amazing virtues.

What's Next: Usually trends that seem to explode out of nowhere like the current fantasy colors die just as fast a death. I expect that to start to diminish. Balayage will continue to be strong because hand painting gives the colorist full freedom to explore.

We are seeing an alarming rise of hair loss in women. I think it is caused by a combination of things which all culminate in higher toxicity in the body, less nutrition and higher stress and anxiety levels. Solutions include hair extensions, which I specialize in, as well as hair additions and wigs for both medical reasons and fashion. I believe adoption of fashion wigs will be back for two reasons. One, to address the hair loss issues and two, to save time getting ready, as well as to be more playful with different looks. One day, women will have just as many wigs in their closets as shoes and they will save time getting ready while being playful and fashionable and be able to have any look they want.

Help Wanted: What we need from manufacturers to make our job easier is to do great research, put out great products that actually work and do what they say and truly stand by the salon.

Diversion and online sales are combining to move retailing in the salon toward extinction. I have clients who ask me for my product recommendations and then check their phones for the best pricing while I am still doing their hair. I can't blame them either. If I can buy the same thing cheaper from someone else, why would I not do that?

Manufacturers have to realize that we no longer need them for education. We can find the best people to learn from on social media, where peer education has exploded. So we need companies that will offer really great quality lines that absolutely will not divert. As salons get fed up with the products they carry being found everywhere, they are going to look for a true solution. There is a goldmine waiting to be had by the manufacturers that figure this out.


Philip Wolff

Partner with Chief Behr in the education duo WolffBehr

Los Angeles, CA

The Look For trendier men, the crop is what's coming. It's a style that brings a heavy fringe and texture with a forward movement toward the face. Think of it as a somewhat updated fashion forward version of the Caesar cut.

For women, it's all over the map. What's consistent across lengths are texture and disconnection. They don't have to be extreme, but they bring movement and a natural finish to any length or style.

Hair color, whether natural or vivid, is about sexy contrast in very calculated areas of the cut along with gradiance of color throughout the strands or sections.

Get It: All of the looks today are achieved through various texturizing cutting techniques and a stronger understanding of shaping/finishing along with color placement that follows the cut structure or vice versa. That is why selecting the right styling product is so key. A greater understanding of clients in who they are and what they want to express is integral to creating, formulating and achieving these looks.

Must-Have: My favorite products are the new products I've been testing from the Just Blow line that Chief Behr and I have been working on with Personal Brands. They will be launching at Premiere Orlando. The range consists of mostly sprays that give a wide variety of texture and definition to hair because it's all about the finish.

What's Next: Personalization and customization are key to focusing on individual clients and studying who they are and how they wish to represent themselves, then creating the cut, color and style combination that work for them.

Help Wanted:This is the reason that Chief and I have our own company WolffBehr. Our goal is to provide the products, tools and knowledge that we believe will make stylists' lives easier through guidance and thorough education. We will be releasing products for Just Blow this year and come next, the long-awaited WolffBehr Haircare line.

Tom Branna * Editorial Director
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Author:Branna, Tom
Publication:Household & Personal Products Industry
Date:Jun 1, 2017
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