BusinessDay

Hair brands compete for N600bn human, synthetic hair industry

For many people, hair is synonymous with professionalism and beauty, which in turn makes them feel confident; this is true not only for women but also for the majority of men. Hair is a vital feature of everyone’s overall self-image.

Many women today will spend endless hours simply trying to cover up their hair problem by making use of extensions, or attachments, as they are mostly called in Nigeria so as to cover up and maintain their self-esteem. To address these issues, the human and synthetic hair industry has provided solutions in the form of hair attachments and weaves.

With numerous hair brands entering the market, the global market for hair attachments is rapidly expanding. Nigeria is now one of the preferred investment destinations for international hair companies seeking to enter the beauty and personal care market.

According to the 2022 population estimate by the National Population Commission (NPC), Nigeria, the most populous African country, now has over 215 million people and because of the strong population growth, particularly among the young, urban, and female populations, the beauty and personal care industry in Nigeria has plenty of room for expansion, particularly in terms of exciting and new products.

The CIA World Factbook reports that females constitute 49.34 percent of the Nigerian population. According to the data, the population of women aged 15 to 24 is estimated to be 21.36 million, while those aged 25 to 54 are estimated to be 32.69 million. Women aged 55 to 64 are estimated to be only 4.51 million. This is a large pool of existing and potential customers that is growing concurrently with the population. These age groups constitute the major age targets of the hair industry.

The average price of an attachment is about N1,500, and assuming only 60 percent of the 58.6 million females make their hairs once a month, own in-house estimates show that their aggregate monthly expenses will be N52.7 billion and that will translate to N632.4 billion annually.

The personal care and beauty market in Africa is a multi-billion-dollar industry, with an annual growth rate of close to 10 percent. With global growth rate at around 4 percent, the African market is expanding at more than double that pace. By 2022, the African beauty market is expected to be worth more than $14 billion, according to African Business Pages.

In 2021, the global hair care market generated approximately $84.4 billion, a report from Statista shows. The hair care industry in Nigeria was valued at about N116.4 billion in 2017, which increased to N457 billion by 2019. It is expected to rise to keep up with an increasing number of working women with disposable income, as well as sophisticated youth seeking new ways to care for and present themselves.

Popular hair brands in Nigeria

X-Pression

Solphia Nigeria has been in operation since the early 1990s. X-pression, which has become a household name in the hair industry, is one of their most popular products. The product is entirely made of Kanekalon (synthetic hair) fibres, and the brand’s slogan is “The Pride of Your Hair,” which has proven to be true because discussing attachment brands is impossible without mentioning this particular brand.

We conducted a market survey in three different areas of Lagos State, which were selected to reflect the socio-economic characteristics of Lagosians. On the different brands in the market, Khadijah Badmus, the owner of Dijah Heritage, a hair salon in the Yaba suburb of Lagos State, says, “There are various sizes available in the market offering options to different incomes groups of customers.”

According to her, there is X-Pression Ultra Braid 165g, X-Pression Rich Braid 240g, and X-Pression Super Braid 330g. Not only the sizes differentiate them but the texture and prices too. On which one is more patronised frequently by customers and why, she says the X-pression rich braid 240g commands the highest patronage by customers.

“The advantage of buying the Super Braid 330g is that the length is very different. Nowadays people prefer long hair, and you don’t have to keep joining it with others. However, Super Braid is very hard to shuffle and brush as it gets tangled. Most people buy the Rich Braids because they believe two of it are actually better than having one Super Braid. X-pression is best for small knotless braids, medium and jumbo-sized braids”, Badmus says.

Darling

Chitwan Singh, the Darling business head, during a press briefing few months back, said the Darling brand had catered to the needs of over 150 million women in 21 countries across all continents.

On the brand website, it states that there are four collections, each with its own purpose. Darling Empress has a lush human hair feel and high-quality weaves. Darling Classic is for braids and crotchet; Darling Afro-naturals are available in the form of a Kinky hair, and Darling Premium has super soft braids and crotchet braids.

On which specific hairstyle that Darling is best suited for, a hairdresser replied: “I personally use Darling for knotless, especially the gold colour. My customers prefer the gold. Darling comes in handy when I need different coloured attachments.”

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Lush

Lush brand hair products entered the Nigerian hair industry in 2017 and quickly established itself as one of the best attachment brands due to its colourful, trendy, light, and long-lasting characteristics. ‘Be Beautiful’ is the brand’s slogan.

Crotchet twisted braids and stitch braids, according to some hairstylists, are best made with Lush. It is also reasonably priced. On their website, we discovered that they have several variants, which include the Lush Hair Mandy Twist (Super light, soft, and shiny), Lush Hair Fiona Beads, and Lush Hair Vegas Braids.

Naomi Boom

Hairstylists say that the Naomi Boom hair attachment is effective for braiding natural hair and creating natural hair ponytails. Because of its unique curly pattern, it is ideal for kinky hairstyles and is highly recommended for crochet twists and Ghana weaving. The product is available in a variety of colour types and shades. Most hairstylists do not use this hair attachment unless it is for natural hair to keep that kinky look, but it is one of the most popular attachment brands in Nigeria.

Different hairstylists have preferences for different hair brands. For X-pression, it is preferred because of its texture which is very nice and smooth. Darling has so many colours and some customers prefer it because they like to mix colours. They have colours such as blue, different shades of green, different shades of gold, and pink. Some say Lush is very full. Customers can use two Lush for a style that you are supposed to use three for but the texture is not that great because it is not hot water friendly like others. Customers buy the black because the colour is very deep and can be used it for stitch braids which comes out well.

What drives women to purchase hair attachments?

Hairstyles have the ability to improve one’s appearance. In a poll we conducted, we asked a number of questions across a broad spectrum of customers. On why they like using attachments, 83 percent chose because ‘it looks good on them’, while only 17 percent chose affordability. This means that no matter how much a hairdo or weave costs, ladies are willing to spend the money if it gives them the look they want.

Aside the fact that they look good, what other factors motivate ladies to use attachments or weaves on a regular basis?
One of the reasons women use attachments is to increase the length and thickness of their hair. According to a popular belief, Nigerian women do not typically have knee-length hair like Asian women. Ladies with extremely short hair may be unable to achieve the desired hair length. As a result, the length, thickness, or volume of their hair limits their hairstyle options, forcing them to use extensions to update their appearance.

Women with thin hair can also use extensions to increase the thickness and volume of their natural hair, giving it a fuller appearance. And because of these extensions, many women can now make their hair as long as they want, and some even go so far as to make the length drag behind them like a veil.

Another reason is that hair attachments are great for experimenting because of their versatility in creating any hairstyle, so ladies love them. Many ladies like to switch up their looks every now and then, and making hairstyles with their natural hair can be boring and unappealing, so they use attachments to spice things up. They can experiment with attachments to see what looks best on them, such as coloured hair, ponytails, curls, or even micro-beaded extensions. It is also easier to change hair colours when using extensions.

Another reason is that they are ideal for people who have hair problems. Hair extensions can be used to conceal hair problems such as hair loss, dry hair, heat damage, and split ends. Instead of dealing with these hair issues on a daily basis, they can go months without worrying about their natural hair.

Where are these hair brands now?

For decades, Nigerian women have relied on X-pression hair as their go-to hair attachment. People who wanted to braid or weave their hair never specified a brand, only the colour they required, because X-pression was the accepted brand in all salons.

However, things have changed in recent years, with brands such as Darling rebranding and Lush entering the market as a competitor in 2017. Most women now consider other brands before considering X-pression. The question now is, should it not be the other way around? Why are women experimenting with new brands rather than sticking with a brand they have trusted for years?

One major reason for this is the brand’s counterfeiting problem. Nigeria has a problem with counterfeit versions of their brands, ranging from food to medicine to other household items, and X-pression was no exception. Women have lamented and complained bitterly about the spread of counterfeit X-pression attachments. Just like a customer we asked while on the field who expressed her disapproval of fake hair products. Though fake products can affect other hair brands, it is often the most popular brands such as X-pression that suffer the most. An email message that was sent to X-pression was not responded to before publishing this story.

Another reason is that their competitors, such as Darling and Lush, rebranded and returned with a more powerful game. Darling Hair’s re-branding in 2017 coincided with the entry of Lush Hair into the Nigerian market, and X-pression went from having no core rival to facing off against two rivals who came through with flashy, quality, and affordable products and a heavy advertising and marketing drive.

Darling Hair did not slack in relation to this and made their weave-on lines one of top priorities. They released several varieties with different prices and styles and upgraded standard hair types like Bobs, Locs, Kinky Weaves and Ponytails. Their products also received massive celebrity endorsements, the likes of Stephanie Linus and Venita Akpofure.

While other exotic colours of attachment like Red, Purple, Blue, Green, Pink began to gain popularity, X-pression never tapped into that trend. The most they did was to introduce the colour 99J, which was a deep Purple colour that could easily be mistaken for black leaving brands like Darling and Lush to pick up the slack.

Again, hairdressers and stylists have a huge influence on hair-related decisions. Many hair stylists keep their shops stocked in Darling or Lush, and if you ask them what kind of attachment to buy, they will often recommend either depending on which brand they represent. Hairdressers’ saloons have now become synonymous with either Daring or Lush, with their signboards supplied by either brand. Many hair distributors appear to have cut deals with hairstylists to recommend their products to their customers in exchange for certain incentives, greatly increasing their popularity and name recognition. X-pression should tap into this strategy to retain its leadership in the market.

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