The internet – social media in particular – has made beauty more democratic and accessible than it once was. Premium treatments are no longer reserved for ladies who lunch or the mega wealthy; just look at how WAH and Imarni Nails have taken statement manicures from special occasions to a bi-monthly appointment, and how brands like The Ordinary have made cutting-edge skincare a bathroom shelf staple. As with makeup, nails and skincare, high quality haircare is no longer simply categorised into luxury vs. what you can actually afford. In 2018, the beauty lines are blurred, and higher quality products are available at every price range – not just in the salon.
Take Kerluxe, the latest high end brand with a history in Swiss skincare. The philosophy behind it being our hair deserves as much TLC as our our faces do. The Kerluxe crew believe that just like a skincare routine, the secret to great hair lies in a 4-step, cleanse, hydrate, treat and protect ritual - and so all the range is modelled around that process, using products with active skincare ingredients, including Hyaluronic Acid, Marine Collagen, Peptides and Antioxidants. Prices start at £36.
Another brand delivering mass-market luxury products is NEXXUS, a US haircare giant that launched in 1979 but only came to the UK in 2015. NEXXUS gained cult status in the States thanks to a philosophy that put protein at the centre of the quest for healthy hair. With products ranging from £4.99 for shampoo to £24.99 for serum, the brand originated in salons but has now brought its stylist-approved formulas to Boots.
How has it been able to go from professional-only use to available to everyone? "NEXXUS is committed to preserving the integrity of the brand under the guidance and co-creation of innovative formulas in the laboratory and in the salon, working with some of the best haircare scientists and hairstylists in the industry," Kevin Mancuso, NEXXUS Creative Director, told Refinery29. "This allows us to study hair on a molecular level [proteomics] and determine the specific proteins for specific damages that will be included in our ranges. High-quality active ingredients are used in our salon-professional formulations and with the backing of Unilever, we’re able to make them available at retail, like Boots."
The brand cites the internet and digital media as instrumental in the globalisation of haircare, too: "It has brought consumers and professionals together, creating access to a level of knowledge and transparency," Mancuso explains. "Everyone has access to information about what works and what doesn't, what’s fake and what’s real. YouTubers can demo products on their hair the day they hit the market – sometimes even before to create buzz. For me, I get contacted by followers through my social media all the time to ask about NEXXUS products. We’ll talk over direct message, they can send me videos or images of their hair, and I can prescribe the perfect regimen. It has allowed for interaction unlike ever before."
Alongside this social media interaction, the brand offers an online diagnostic tool to help you find the right products for your hair type, bringing the tailored treatment of a salon to your home – another way in which haircare has become democratised. Find Your Formula uses brand studies of hair DNA to target a customer's specific issue – from repair to hydration – before recommending a range to suit everything from dehydrated locks to thinning tresses.
It's not just the demand for personalised products aimed at individual needs that has opened up luxury haircare to the masses. When we're all living at a faster pace, time-saving beauty is more important than ever. "Women have the desire to get professional results themselves and to experience salon-inspired ingredients and products within the realms of their own home," Grace Buck, TRESemmé Brand Manager, says. "We are living in a world of constant time-saving solutions where the demand for instant results is seeping into every corner of our lives. As such, haircare brands are innovating formulas and creating products that deliver professional results from salon to shelf, reaching this consumer through the high street touchpoint."
TRESemmé's latest launch focuses on biotin, a B vitamin and ingredient previously reserved for salon use. "Hair damage is a big problem in the UK: Over 70% of UK women say they have damaged hair, however there are 2 million women who think they have damaged hair, but do not buy haircare for damage," Buck explains. "These insights [from Kantar Worldpanel] led TRESemmé to create a range enriched with biotin, also known as vitamin B7 and sometimes referred to as the 'H vitamin', known for nourishing hair. Alongside the biotin-infused formulation, we've created a new technology called Pro Bond Complex, a blend of small molecules that penetrate deep inside the hair fibre, restoring broken bonds caused by damage and reinforcing the protein structure of each hair strand – helping repair hair from the inside, out."
Our favourite product from the Biotin + Repair 7 range is the Recovery Mask, which can be used as a daily deep conditioner or, when left on for longer, a hydrating mask. At £6.10, it delivers far beyond its mass-market counterparts, and allows hair to be repaired without a salon booking in sight.
While in-salon products have always been available to purchase after your cut and colour, when Bleach London offers the same toner and high-gloss serum used by its trained stylists for £5 a pop, it's clear we no longer need to spend excessively to get the same quality. As well as brands introducing luxury products in outlets like Boots and Superdrug, hair maestro and expert colourist Josh Wood launched an at-home haircare range this year, signalling a real shift in the way we think about industry-standard hair treatments. The Josh Wood Colour System includes permanent colour, root concealers and a colour-preserving mask and gloss, and has brought the experience of Wood's 30-year-long career to our bathroom shelves, allowing us to achieve salon quality at home.
Now more than ever, it looks like beauty brands are listening to the customer, whether through in-salon feedback, conversations on social media or online product reviews, and are addressing our main concerns in their new launches, from no-time-for-an-appointment speed and ease to affordable industry-quality products to use at home. As Peter Bailey, Unilever's European R&D Manager, says: "Now, the critical thing is being able to link real consumer insight with the appropriate technology, this allows us to give our consumers professional quality results at home: putting pro performance in their hands every day."