It used to be one of those things accessible only to celebrities, expensive, and almost impossible to apply quite right at home unless you’re a highly-skilled veteran. But, enabled by social media, the hair extensions market is on the rise making it easier than ever to fake your way to envious locks. In fact, the Global Hair Extensions Market is expected to register a growth rate of 4.5% during the forecast period (2019-2024). The market is expected to garner a value of approximately USD 1.2 billion by the end of 2024, according to the MRF report.
In the UK, hair extensions have tripled in popularity since 2005, with women claiming to typically keep their hair extensions in for between 2 and 4 months before having them removed or replaced – Hairtrade
The first documented origin of hair extensions actually dates back to Ancient Egypt where wigs and waves were worn by members of high society, including the ultimate style icon Cleopatra. Although popular in Victorian times, wigs and other hair accessories didn’t break into the mainstream until the 1960’s with synthetic hair quickly growing in popularity. In the early 90s, thanks to new materials and techniques, hair extensions finally became more affordable and accessible to the general public eager to express themselves creatively.
Hair extensions have come a long way since introduced to society by Egyptians. The innovation in the field has created a variety of products that are not just high-quality and more durable but more convenient and comfortable to wear, boosting the hair extensions market growth. And while donating hair is a common practice over the last few centuries, the increasing demand is forcing suppliers to source more human hair, or find (synthetic) alternatives.
“With an estimated 65 million pounds ($105.9 million) being spent on various types of hair extensions each year, it’s no surprise that UK SMEs (small and medium enterprises) in the beauty sector are looking to capitalize on this growing market.” – Linda Kozlowski, Head of International Business Development and Marketing at Alibaba.com
Hair extensions is one of the emerging sectors not just in the hair care industry but beauty and apparel overall. Despite the big D2C opportunities, most of the sales and distribution are still owned and operated by hair salons, specialty stores and health and beauty clinics.
With Gen Z leading market demand that is all about to change, and quickly. From the Kardashians, to every female (and a few male) reality TV contestant, actor, singer, and influencer, hair extensions are not bound to become a thing – they already are. What was once considered shameful to admit wearing, the pop culture is flaunting “fake hair”. One of the biggest names in the music industry nowadays Ariana Grande might be the best example even referencing her signature voluminous high ponytail singing “You like my hair? Gee thanks, just bought it”.
However, if you look up the services of an upscale hair salon offering human hair, you will notice that they are still charging premium for extensions. Will the assistance of a professional hairdresser in applying hair extensions become a thing of the past? Many emerging brands entering the market believe so. By offering high-quality hair that’s also easy to apply, maintain and style, and often at a much lower price point, you can now walk out of your bathroom with a ponytail even Ariana would be envious of in less than 10 minutes and without breaking the bank.
However, not all hair extensions are created equal, and navigating the ever-growing market these days can be daunting, to say the least but investing in high-quality hair is always the best bet, whether you’re a veteran or just looking for something different for an upcoming occasion.
With independent brands such as The Wig Witch, started by the style influencer Gina Knight, and one of the first boutique brands to receive widespread recognition for their hair extensions, The Heat Free Hair Movement, indie brands are taking the natural hair market by storm, catering to consumers looking for wigs and hair extensions that imitate their natural hair.
Market leaders such as Bellami have recognized new consumer needs and started catering to consumers who think of hair extensions as a fashion statement, an accessory, like a designer bag or jewelry. Instead of solely focusing on hair extensions that are supposed to imitate real human hair, there’s a rising trend of brands adding easy to use, synthetic ponytails and clip-on bangs to their product ranges.
With big names trying to hop on the trend, new and innovative brands are challenging the industry norms and making hair extensions more accessible and affordable than ever. Summer 2020 had us witness the launch of the UK’s first truly affordable hair extensions and wigs brand PLS London determined to offer the highest quality products for all individuals who were so far reluctant to spend crazy amounts of time and money to look like their favorite celebs.
With facemasks becoming the new norm, and the first-ever massive drop in lipstick sales, there’s a noticeable shift in consumer behavior. While makeup is and most likely always will be at the forefront of the industry, consumers are shifting towards skincare and haircare more than ever investing in various tools and gadgets they can easily use themselves at home. And while expressing ourselves through makeup is becoming more difficult since our faces are covered most of the time, our hair is ready to take center stage. For the price of a new lipstick, you can now sport a completely new hairstyle. Grab your face mask, too and go full incognito.
What hair dye was 30 years ago, that’s where hair extensions and wigs are now, slowly by surely gaining market share and consumers by becoming easier to use, cheaper, and overall more attainable than ever. While skeptics might claim that adding and removing hair extensions should, by all means, be left to professionals, hair extensions are slowly but surely making their way into our lives, one tape-in and one clip-on at a time.