Gen Z, TikTok and the Future of US Hair Care Appliances

US market landscape

Over the last few years, sales of hair care appliances have remained relatively stable in the US, with moderate growth overall and total retail sales in the country reaching USD2.2 billion in 2021. Leading brands such as Conair, Revlon, Remington and others which offer affordable and reliable appliances have retained their market shares. While there has been some innovation, such as the multi-functional hot air brush from Revlon and the higher-end no-heat Airwrap Styler from Dyson, innovation in the space pales in comparison with the level of innovation in areas such as skin care appliances. On the other hand, trends that have been impacting sales growth in hair care appliances are consumers’ interest in minimising heat damage, simplifying their routine, and embracing their natural hair texture. Consumers are investing in higher-quality hair care products that enhance the health of their hair, and changing their hair care routines to reduce the usage of heated appliances. While this is a challenge for hair care appliances, consumer shifts in hair care routines also open up opportunities for innovation tailored to their changing needs.

Gen Z embracing natural hair

Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Beauty Survey reveals that young consumers are increasingly embracing their natural curls and waves. In 2021, 35% of gen Z described their hair as curly, which was a significant increase from 21% in 2017. By contrast, in 2021, 32% of gen Z described their hair as straight, down from 36% in 2017. As part of embracing and caring for their natural curls, young consumers aim to reduce the usage of hair straighteners and heat styling tools to minimise heat damage. The same survey also indicates that 36% of 15 to 29 year-olds reported using a hair straightener in 2021, down from nearly 51% in 2017. In addition, 39% of 15 to 29 year-olds reported using a hair dryer in 2021, compared with 59% in 2017.

Analysis of popular social media reflects shifting consumer attitudes towards hair care routines. On TikTok, videos that show viewers how to identify and care for their curl pattern (tagged #naturalhair) collectively have over 4.5 billion views, demonstrating the breadth of gen Z interest in the natural hair movement. The platform is a novel way of introducing the natural hair community to users and exposes users to relevant products and appliances. TikTok reported 99 million active monthly users in 2020, up 274% from 2019, according to Euromonitor International’s Economies and Consumers annual data, and that number is only growing. In 2021, 29% of gen Z in the US indicated they use TikTok, according to Euromonitor International’s Digital Consumer Survey.

TikTok as an organic marketing platform

TikTok video tutorials and reviews are influential in demonstrating and popularising hair care appliances. Euromonitor International’s Digital Consumer Survey shows that young consumers are increasingly influenced by sponsored and non-brand-affiliated TikTok videos to make purchases. In 2020, 17% of gen Z bought goods after seeing a brand advertisement on TikTok, and 32% bought goods after seeing an influencer post about it on TikTok. In 2021, 29% of gen Z bought goods after seeing a company or brand advertisement on TikTok, a 71% increase, and 39% bought goods after seeing an influencer review or post about it, a 24% increase. In addition, 32% of gen Z engaged with a brand about a product on TikTok in 2021, up from 17% in 2020, an 85% increase.

TikTok is a powerful tool for engaging with consumers and exposing them to brands, as several of Amazon’s best-selling hair care products were popularised on TikTok. For example, videos featuring heatless curling rod headbands had 777.4 million views, videos featuring the Denman Classic Styling Brush for detangling curls had 279.1 million views, videos featuring hair spray bottles for continuous water mist for refreshing curls had 313.9 million views, videos featuring silk bonnets for protecting curls had 27.3 million views, videos featuring the InfinitiPRO by Conair for diffusing curls had 56.8 million views, and videos featuring facial steamers for refreshing curls had 7.3 million views.

Opportunities for hair care appliances

While it appears that the shift by gen Z away from hair straighteners and other hair-altering products may spell trouble for hair care appliances, strong demand for products that enhance natural looks signify growth opportunities for hair care appliances brands. For instance, consumers with curly or wavy hair may still use a hair dryer, and are likely to seek out dryers with a diffuser attachment, which is effective at reducing frizz, drying hair quickly, retaining curl pattern and volumising roots. And while most consumers are looking to minimise heat damage, not all are ready to put away their hair styling tools. Products such as the Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer, which dries hair in less time with cool airflow options, and Remington’s T/Studio PROtect Straightener, which cools and conditioners hair while straightening, appeal to this sizeable segment by achieving a smooth and sleek effect without damaging the hair. Furthermore, TikTok is one of the key platforms that can be used for brand engagement and new product interactive marketing, especially when geared towards the rising younger generation of consumers.

This article was written and produced by Euromonitor International.