In this week’s Beauty and Wellness Briefing, I take a look at innovation in the hair extensions category. Also:
- Recent executive shifts and hires
- What happened to Morphe’s influencer collaborations?
- Pinterest’s investment in underrepresented creators
Hair care has grown to become one of the most dominant categories in beauty and wellness. As a result, it’s lending a halo effect to subcategories like scalp care, bond-building and, now, hair extensions.
Hair extensions are receiving renewed attention for being the next beauty subcategory in need of disruption. That’s thanks, in part, to a combination of consumer desire for premium hair products for textured and curly hair, and added exposure for extension products through social media. Brands are introducing new products and communications styles around extensions, while a new crop of brands has emerged, lending more exposure to the space. Brands like Rebundle offer non-plastic synthetic braids that are biodegradable, while Insert Name Here sells trend-driven real and synthetic hair extensions. Over the past two years, plenty of extensions brands have launched, like U.K.-based Ruka Hair, Gen Z -focused Waeve and ethically-sourced Luxy Hair. “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika Jayne launched extensions brand Pretty Mess Hair in Dec. 2021.
When Ciara Imani May, co-founder of Rebundle, launched the brand in 2020, it was to solve a significant problem around scalp irritation. Plastic-based synthetic extensions tend to irritate the scalp, she said, and disposing of synthetic (i.e., plastic-based) extensions is a major environmental problem for the beauty industry. And with the global wig and hair extension market estimated to be worth over $10 billion by 2023, there’s increasing demand for synthetic hair, which further exacerbates environmental issues. Synthetic hair and any chemicals involved can cause allergic reactions like itchiness or redness, or discomfort if added to the hair improperly.
As a response to the growing demand, St. Louis-based Rebundle sells hair extensions made from banana fibers, a plant-based material, that are entirely biodegradable. The brand claims to use only safe and clean ingredients. Rebundle’s synthetic hair can withstand up to 400-degree heat and can be curled, which is typically not as easy with plastic-based hair. The hair extension startup announced $1.4 million in pre-seed funding in January. It has since raised an additional $300,000.
“When I started to ask other women about their [extensions] experience, we all agreed [that discomfort] was part of that. And I didn’t agree that it was a standard we should accept from the industry as status quo,” said May.
Rebundle has six new types of braiding hair launching in the spring, with each 3.5-ounce bundle selling for $23 -$30. Rebundle suggests purchasing 4-10 bundles, depending on the thickness of one’s hair, and offers a braider directory across multiple cities for those who want a stylist to install the braids. At the moment, Rebundle is focused on raising brand awareness and growing its online community across Instagram and Twitter. So far, awareness has grown through word of mouth as Rebundle has not yet invested in paid advertising. May declined to share Rebundle’s current sales or projected sales figures.
“We’re looking to expand Rebundle into more real-life experiences that allow our customers to touch and feel our product. We’re looking to tell more stories and use our platform to shine a light on problems [like scalp irritation] that sometimes go undetected and uninvestigated,” said Danielle Washington, co-founder of Rebundle.
In many ways, the innovation taking place within the hair extensions space was inevitable. The hair category as a whole has undergone upheaval with new brands offerings more and better bond-building, scalp care and color care products, for example. And the visibility of the natural and textured hair space, and thriving entrepreneurship for Black women, in particular, has elevated the Black consumer and their hair needs to the front of the hair conversation.
“There’s now a level of inclusion for people with textured hair or Afro-centric hair that was not there before. We weren’t at the table to have opportunities to create businesses that could reach a level [the beauty industry considered] ‘innovation,’” Washington said. “The world is starting to listen more and realize that there is a need [for Black hair care], and there is a consumer who’s willing to purchase.”
Social media is also driving the conversation around extensions as yet another form of beauty expression and a mode for experimentation. According to Trendalytics, an agency that tracks online trends, “tape hair extensions” was the fifth most-popular hair-care search on TikTok for the past 52 weeks, as reported by WWD. Tape hair extensions received 20,000 average weekly searches, a 29% increase year-over-year. Tape hair extensions are just one type of dozens of extensions options now available and are the quickest to apply, according to David Lopez, a stylist with Ulta Beauty. Additionally, Alibaba.com reported that one of its most popular beauty subcategories for sales over the past year was also hair extensions. TikTok is credited with popularizing specific extensions services like micro-links, which are small bundles of extensions attached to one’s hair via a bead or small tube.
“In the extensions space, there’s more interest [overall], but also an element of trendy [styles] that’s helping drive the [adoption],” said Sharon Pak, co-founder of Insert Name Here. “Our ponytail business is a good example of that. When we first launched INH, we quickly started expanding to different ponytail styles because the high-ponytail look was trending.”
In addition to ponytail extensions, INH sells U-Clip hair extensions, which are one big U-shaped strip of synthetic hair that can be inserted, as well as Remy extensions, which are multiple pieces of real hair that are inserted individually. According to Lopez, Remy extensions are better quality, though technically extensions are not regulated. They offer softer hair that lasts longer, he said. U-Clips retail for $74-$94, while Remy pieces retail for $189-$278. Jordyn Wynn, co-founder of Insert Name Here, said that new-to-extensions customers typically gravitate toward U-clips, due to the lower price point, while experienced extensions users purchase the Remy option. Pak said 75% of INH’s new customers have never tried hair extensions before.
When wig and extensions brand INH first launched in 2019, it focused on Gen-Z and younger millennial customers, as the newer consumer group is eager to experiment with hairstyles. Its key branding and product pillars at the time were experimentation and transformation. As INH grew its product base and increased brand awareness, older millennials began to discover the brand, and the marketing evolved to center on problem-solution product offerings and branding around confidence.
Despite the growing consumer interest in extensions and the product and branding innovation in the space, extensions remain a complicated beauty category. Wynn said that a big focus for INH in 2022 is expanding its texture and curl pattern options. The Black community, in particular, has a rich yet complicated history with extensions, which extends as far back as ancient Egypt. Despite the rich history, Black women consumers and the extensions space have not commanded as much attention and respect from the beauty industry at large because of decades of systemic racism and the politics around Black hair.
In February, INH collaborated with Black beauty influencer Ray Boyce (@ItsMyRayeRaye, 1.5 million Instagram followers) to create ponytail extension styles and a “half-up, half-down” look, which is a combination of extensions and a ponytail style. When the brand’s ambitions to be more inclusive for Black women were brought up to investors, Wynn and Pak were told that, historically, there are “brands for Black girls and brands for white girls, and they are two very different brands.” Pak and Wynn said the comment only motivated them further to build an “all-inclusive vision,” and not a brand that catered to one person or group. INH does not capture demographic data on its customers, but Pak said its customers are asking for additional textures and curl patterns.
Pak said that INH will also focus on hair care in 2022, which has a strong likelihood of being the next innovation in hair extensions. At the end of 2021, INH launched a synthetic hair detangling spray called Emergency Revival Spray, which is now a top-three best-seller on its DTC e-commerce site, Pak said. Meanwhile, bond-building brand K18 partnered with Beauty Industry Group to offer its hair repair mask as part of extensions kits. Lopez pointed out that, because extensions are not attached to the scalp, the hair does not benefit from any natural scalp oils. Extensions hair needs more moisture and frequently needs to be detangled or re-bonded in some way.
“What I anticipate is the consumer will increasingly demand [better products] and put the accountability on companies like ours, rather than the onus being on the consumer to think more critically around their purchasing decisions,” May said.
- Nudestix hired Robert Beredo as global chief digital officer on March 22. Beredo is tasked with developing and driving digital and e-commerce vision for both Nudestix and Nudeskin, as well as delivering sustainable top-line growth, according to the brand’s announcement.
- La Prairie named Philippe Lamy as its new CEO, effective April 2. La Prairie’s current CEO, Patrick Rasquinet, will take a broader role within the Beiersdorf executive board.
- Facial device brand NuFace hired Jessica Hanson as CEO. Co-founder and former CEO Tera Peterson will remain executive chairwoman and chief creative officer.
- Henry Rose hired Sveta Doucet as CMO, effective in February.
Inside our coverage:
Beauty and personal care is now the third-largest category on Alibaba.com. The category has taken off on the platform, with the top five beauty subcategories ordered through Alibaba being hair extensions, men’s grooming, false eyelashes and tools, skin-care and tools and beauty equipment for spas or hair salons.
Decentraland has become the de-facto metaverse space for beauty. Brands like Lottie London, Valdé Beauty, and the Metaverse Fashion Week, have jumped into Decentraland for their metaverse debuts.
Gen Zers are the diamond industry’s new best friend. Due to strategic gifting and mega influencers who are fans, DTC diamond brands like The Clear Cut are supercharging sales and going viral on social media.
What we’re reading:
What’s going on with Morphe? Morphe, which reinvented itself as Forma Brands in 2020, has gone through some upheavals as its signature influencer relationships have started to lose their luster.
The beauty industry might finally make some inroads to being accessible to those with physical disabilities. For the estimated 1 billion people in the world who have some kind of disability, shopping for beauty and personal care remains an allusive joy. But companies like P&G and Unilever are seeking to make purchasing products easier.
With a shortage of content creators, Pinterest is shifting its attention to underrepresented groups. On Monday, Pinterest doubled its initial investment in its existing Creator Fund with an additional $1.2 million in cash, ad credits and other resources for underrepresented groups. However, Pinterest’s investments remain smaller compared to its platform peers Meta, YouTube, TikTok and Snap.