In pursuit of fancy locks - Hair Care Editorial

Tightly curled hair is common to people of African descent. The hair fibres are usually shorter and more elliptical in cross section. Ethnic hair also tends to tangle, knot and break easily. Abrasion and wear at the point of curvature can also lead to cuticle loss and weak spots. Mechanical forces, such as combing and chemical treatments easily damage this fragile hair type.

When formulating products for the ethnic market, the development chemist faces a variety of challenges, which include structure, styles and habits.


Ethnic hair can be extremely curly, thin, low in density, dry and fragile. The curl pattern influences the behaviour of the hair and in particular its resistance to mechanical stress(1) . The curlier the hair,the smaller the curve diametre and, given that very curly hair stretches less under stress, it is more likely to break. The relationship between hair growth rate and hair morphology2 has been identified based on the observation that thick hair strands (types I and II) grow quickly, whereas thin hair strands grow more slowly.


Ethnic hair styles vary widely, including naturally curly styles, longer, straight locks and tightly braided hair as well as shorter, textured and sculpted styles. Therefore, ethnic consumers desire lightweight, fast drying products that enhance style and condition hair.


Research data indicates that African women visit a salon on average once every three weeks compared to Caucasian women, who visit once every seven to eight weeks.

Some consumers purchase products and services from professional salons while others use at-home products. Regardless of where the products are purchased, consumers are willing to spend money on products that address their needs.

Relaxers make up the largest product segment of the African ethnic hair care market. Styling aids, moisturising and conditioning products are also very popular.

Technology building blocks

Seppic imagines, creates, manufactures and markets a broad range of ingredients dedicated to global health and beauty markets. Innovative, and developed to create formulation solutions for cosmetics, personal and hair care applications, Seppic offers three pillars of technology:

  • polymers
  • vegetal technologies
  • marine biotechnologies.

The company is dedicated to assisting formulators with ingredients that are highly effective with good tolerance while being mindful of natural resources. Seppic is represented by CJP Chemicals throughout South Africa. CJP has a laboratory in Johannesburg with SEPPIC trained technicians capable of working on formulating for specific projects.

Celebrating the beauty of African women, Seppic offers chemical technologies to address ethnic hair care issues. In order to understand the needs of these consumers, the company says it studies trends, analyses Mintel data, dividing the requirements based on CG(2) trends i.e. a care, cure, green, and graph:

  • care focuses on hair beauty and the products that respect and magnify it
  • cure seeks to fight disorders and signs of age, intimately linking hair and scalp, therefore targeting both is the key for hair restoration
  • green meets consumers’ needs for natural ingredients and less water consumption i.e. let’s pamper hair while feeling good about conserving the environment
  • graph focuses on creativity while reinventing hair care gestures allowing consumers to have fun creating any hairstyle or colour possible.


  1. Porter CE, et al. The influence of African- American hair’s curl pattern on its mechanical properties. Int J Dermatol. 2005; 44 (SUPPL.1):14–5
  2. Saint Olive Baque C, et al. Relationships between hair growth rate and morphological parameters of human straight hair: A same law above ethnical origins? Int J Cosmet Sci.2012

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