Over 565% growth in 2022 for Les Secrets de Loly, four openings in less than four years for Baraboucle, the latest of which is coming soon in Lille, brands from the United States and the UK, such as Carol’s Daughter and Bouclème: the French market for natural care products for textured hair is booming!
The term "textured hair" is actually quite recent. It covers all hair types that are not straight, including wavy, curly, frizzy and kinky hair. "Not so long ago, the term "ethnic hair" was still used. We’ve come a long way! We made our debut in Carrefour hypermarkets in the 2000s with what was known as a "tropical" operation, and for a long time we remained in the "products of the world" section before moving into the hair care section much later," recalls Jean-Claude Cheffre, Head of the Activilong brand, part of the Labomai Group (Laboratoires Miss Antilles International), which was created in 1953 by his mother, Yannick Cheffre .
"For a long time in mainland France, textured hair was almost totally excluded from retail shelves and even among hairdressers, who didn’t know how to style this type of hair," points out Camille Scouarnec, Product Manager at Énergie Fruit.
From Michael Jackson’s Jheri curl to the "relaxed" curl
From the mid-1970s onwards, French nationals from French overseas departments and territories (DOM-TOM) began to move to mainland France. It was at this time that the first specialised salons appeared. Unlike today’s salons, techniques in vogue at the time included texture modification, with the inevitable hair straightening, artificial curls made popular in the United States by Michael Jackson, and chemical colouring...
"These denaturing looks were everywhere: on French television, in the beauty pages of magazines, and were gradually becoming familiar to people. So when we leave our hair natural or braid it, it’s as if our hair hadn’t been done," explains Josiane Ologbi, founder of the minimalist brand Iwalewa. "In the United States and now in Europe, we’re gradually moving away from these preconceived ideas, and that’s fantastic! It’s still hard in some African countries, such as Senegal, which I visit regularly. It’s difficult to get rid of beauty standards that have been ingrained for decades, but it’s happening," she says with a smile.
In addition to the pressure arising from aesthetic - or even social - standards opposed to the nature of our hair, straightening practices and other texture modifications are proving to be very aggressive and raise health issues: burnt, broken, ultra-sensitised hair. A recently conducted American study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) even showed a link between the use of straightening products and the development of uterine cancer.
An upswing that was rather discreet at the start
"When I created Les Secrets de Loly in 2009, the range of products for textured hair in France was fairly limited, but there was already a backlash against silicone-laden products and a pressing need for hair care products with natural ingredients," recalls Kelly Massol, founder of the Les Secret de Loly brand, which now sells a product every eight seconds in France!
As for Michele Scott-Lynch, founder of the British brand Bouclème, which has been gradually entering the French market since the beginning of the year, she explains that it was when her daughter asked her to straighten her hair that things clicked. "I spent all my teens and twenties fighting against my hair, trying to change its appearance and straighten it, and damaging it as a result. There was no question of history repeating itself". This is why, in 2014, she launched a brand to care for every type of hair curl with tailored routines to cleanse, condition and define them.
"What’s important to understand is that the curlier the hair, the drier the lengths and the greater the need for hydration," stresses Camille Scouarnec. This is because sebum accumulates at the roots, slowed down by the hair’s surface, leaving lengths and ends dehydrated. "At Énergie Fruit, our motto is to offer clean, transparent products for all, without compromising on pleasure or efficiency. Since the brand was created in 2012, we’ve been offering a shampoo and mask for curly hair under the name "Coco Curl." By talking to our online community, we realised that the routine wasn’t comprehensive enough. That’s why this year we’ve launched a styling gel and an anti-split end and anti-crease sublimating oil. What’s more, we’ve also launched the Nutri-Intense range, with three products: a shampoo, a mask and a styling milk, for curly to frizzy hair," specifies Camille Scouarnec.
Social networks, lock-downs, the boom in naturalness: the snowball effect
"With the proliferation of products on offer, retailers are now paying very close attention to the textured hair segment," says Jean-Claude Cheffre with a smile. Until now, French people with curly and frizzy hair had little choice but to order products from the other side of the world or buy them at high prices from only a few distributors, who were often only to be found in large cities.
"With Les Secrets de Loly, my ambition has always been, on the one hand, to offer a range of natural products for maintaining curly hair and, on the other, to make this brand accessible to everyone! That’s why, with my sales manager, we’re working hard on our distribution network. We’re present in Monoprix, thousands of chemists, health and beauty stores, hairdressers and, since 18 September, we’re available at Sephora," explains Kelly Massol .
The brand has also done remarkable work on its social networks, growing from 20,000 followers at the end of 2017 to more than 250,000 in September 2023, thanks in particular to the creation of Christmas boxes with influencers such as La Petite Gaby, Babyatoutprix, Kaaymbl, Crazy Sally... The brand has even ventured to broadcast its first TV advertising campaign in November 2020, in the midst of confinement, on the channels of the TF1 Group. The ad will be viewed by 2.5 million people. A true stroke of genius on the part of Secrets de Loly, whose claims are to dare - at last - wear one’s hair naturally. During this time of return to basics, the "natural beauty" trend took off, both in haircare and skincare.
Morgane Brisson, founder of the Baraboucle hairdressing salons, says that there really has been "a "pre" and an "post" confinement period in the move to natural curls. I believe that people realised how good it felt for their hair not to be straightened and tied up all the time." After three openings in Paris between 2020 and 2023, Baraboucle will soon open its fourth salon in Lille in November, providing an opportunity to target Belgium, where demand is strong, and to meet the needs of people in Lille who used to travel back and forth to Paris just to get their hair done and seek advice. It takes an average of six weeks to get an appointment at one of the brand’s three current salons, which shows the need to democratise the range of treatments on offer, but also to increase the number of places where hair curls can be taken care of.
Education and training of hairdressers: the profession is getting organised
Since the start of the new academic year, a certification programme devoted entirely to curly, frizzy and kinky hair is available in five accredited pilot centres (in the Île-de-France, Hérault, Southern France, Moselle and Normandy regions), with other establishments set to join the list shortly. The programme, which will last 217 hours (31 days), will be made up of 8 modules.
"The implementation of this certification is a real step forward for the industry, and the hype around it is a good thing, showing that there are real skill gaps in terms of hairdressing and styling textured hair. On the other hand, it’s going to take years to develop, and it only concerns people who are still at school," stresses Kelly Massol. "The truth today is that there are fewer than two hundred hairdressing salons in France that know how to handle this type of hair. It’s an issue that Les Secret de Loly has been drawing attention to for quite some time now, particularly with the increasing cross-breeding in our country. We don’t realise how many white mothers take their frizzy-haired daughters to their usual hairdresser for the first time and find themselves facing a wall. There are thousands of them," she explains. That’s why the founder of Secrets de Loly has decided to open her hair academy specialising in textured hair in the first quarter of 2024, in the 7th arrondissement of Paris. The centre will be dedicated solely to training existing hair professionals.
At the same time, in 2019, L’Oréal organised, alongside industry professionals, a reflection on the way to upgrade the hairdressing sector, which led the French group to create Real Campus. "It is part hairdressing school, part entrepreneurial school, and awards a bachelor’s degree. It’s the highest qualification you can get in hairdressing. At Real Campus, curly, frizzy and kinky hair bootcamps are organised, teaching participants the different techniques involved in hair care rituals, massages, styling and haircuts," concludes Margarida Condado, International Development Deputy Managing Director of L’Oréal’s Consumer Products Division.