The clean hair-care movement continues to gain steam.
This month, 8-year-old natural brand Ursa Major marked its first foray into the category via its new line of Go Easy Daily shampoos and conditioners, which retail for $26 and $28, respectively. Ursa Major is known for its face and body products, like its Fantastic Face Wash, Essential Face Wipes and Perfect Zen Body Lotion (which make up 70 percent of sales). Now, it’s joining a growing tide of beauty brands interested in “healthy hair” as a signifier of wellness.
In the last year, hair-specific brands targeting the clean beauty and wellness trends have popped up, like Virtue Labs, a biotech line with patented, self-regulating human protein Alpha Keratin 60ku as an ingredient, clean hair-care line Playa and Japanese botanical-based brand NatureLab Tokyo.
Though prestige hair care is the smallest piece of the total U.S. beauty market, according to NPD Group, the hair segment is increasing at 2.5 times the rate of overall prestige. Market research company Technavio attributes that growth to the growing demand of natural, organic and clean products.
For Ursa Major, its experience as a face- and body-care brand served as a solid jumping off point for hair, said Oliver Sweatman, co-founder of the brand. “We wanted to anchor our shampoos and conditioners in skin care because there are not a lot of brands that are treating hair, the body and the face as one,” he said.
Follain’s Tara Foley, who started carrying Ursa Major in 2015 and now ranks the brand within the retailer’s top three out of its 80-plus companies it carries, agreed. “Skin care and makeup have led the clean space; hair care has not been as big and is the last category for customers to make that switch, but that is changing,” she said.
It is the same idea for NatureLab Tokyo, according to managing director Ed Valentine. “If you want beautiful and healthy hair, it is as much about the hair as it is the scalp, which is skin,” he said. “Beauty brands need to want to treat all of the body holistically.”
Ursa Major launched its shampoo and conditioner products on its own e-commerce site, which make up about 40 percent of the business, first. It will roll them out to select retailers, such as Follain, Credo, The Detox Market and Amazon, throughout the rest of December. (Wholesale partnerships make up another 40 percent of sales for Ursa Major, while Amazon accounts for 20 percent.) While Sweatman would not disclose revenue for 2018, he said that comp sales were up 40 percent for the year.
Starting with its own site is an important strategy for Ursa Major, as it’s using its own e-commerce site to become a more primary channel. (In the first quarter of next year, the brand will also be relaunching UrsaMajorVT.com as part of a “brand refresh” to facilitate an easier user experience.) It also mirrors the strategy of Playa, which was DTC-first before launching with Sephora.com in May as part of the retailer’s Clean at Sephora initiative — Playa expects revenue to grow $4 million to $5 million in revenue in its second year of business, largely through this partnership. In the same way, Virtue Labs, which started online first, continues to grow distribution via partnerships with Cult Beauty and Space N.K., and will launch at Neiman Marcus in January 2019.
Ursa Major expects its two hero hair-care products to account for about 10 percent of sales in 2019, and Sweatman wants to limit the over-assorted merchandising lineups that traditionally exist within the hair category. (Playa has also been adept at this.) “We never are going to be a full hair-care brand with a million SKUs,” he said. “We have found customers want an edit and just need a few products to actually work, not too much that could easily confuse them.”
Foley believes that Ursa Major’s prominence within the clean category will help the brand as it moves into the hair space.“I think when people are making the switch from conventional products into clean, it helps to do it with a brand they already know and have recognition with,” she said.