Perspective

Natural hair dyes: expert Delphine Courteille shares her insights on a booming market

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Delphine Courteille

Hairstylist Delphine Courteille’s client roster includes some of the biggest stars from fashion and the silver screen. She shares her expert insights on the booming market for natural hair dyes.

Women want more naturalness in their lives

Speaking in her salon near the Tuileries Gardens in central Paris, where she styles hair for fashion-conscious Parisians and celebrities such as Garance Doré and Inès de la Fressange, Delphine is emphatic: “Consumers are increasingly wary about what they are putting in their hair.” She says she is getting more and more questions about product ingredients and their health impacts. “Some customers tell me that they have been putting harsh products on their hair for 20 years and it’s time to change!” Recent reports on the health problems caused by some cosmetics are a source of concern. As Delphine says: “There has been a big shift in awareness about this issue.”

Delphine describes three types of customers who are particularly drawn to the natural colours offered in her salon. First, her vegan clients, who usually follow a lifestyle that is very respectful of their bodies. Many are yoga practitioners and they pick products with care. Natural hair dyes are one more step for them towards a more organic and balanced approach to life. Second are women with fine or damaged hair, sometimes as a result of repeated dyeing. “These include models and movie stars, who put big demands on their hair.” The third group comprises women aged 35-60 who want to look after their hair after years of chemical use. “I’ve styled hair for plenty of 50-somethings who tell me that they have developed allergies to certain chemicals after using them for so many years. For them, products like L’Oréal Professionnel’s Botanéa offer real hope.”

It’s important to remember, however, that while these consumers want more natural products, that does not mean that they are ready to sacrifice effectiveness. They are looking for a trade-off between naturalness and effectiveness, and they may just have found it with the new Botanéa collection.

The best natural colour solution on the market today

“I have been using Botanéa for several months in my salon. It’s been a big success, delivering great results, and is the best natural colour solution on the market today”, says Delphine. However, she is quick to point out that you can’t expect to get exactly the same results with a natural dye as you would with a conventional oxidation approach, even if the gap is closing. “Our role as professionals is to explain to customers that Botanéa is based on a shading technique and that their hair will take on more colour over the course of applications.”

One big difference compared with oxidation approaches is that Botanéa looks after your hair. “Unlike oxidation, Botanéa does not dry the hair out. Over the long run, it’s a much healthier and more protective method.” In other words, L’Oréal’s innovative new product can be seen as offering protective care as well as colour. While she thinks the application time is longer on average than it is for standard oxidation-type products, Delphine says she has been won over by the long-term benefits. “It requires a little patience, but the results are better healthwise and, in the end, more effective.”

She also stresses that the Botanéa line is reserved for professional use. “Application requires a special technique that you cannot replicate at home.” A mass market product, Color Herbalia by Garnier, will come out soon, offering a more stripped-down process suitable for home use. “I’m fascinated to see how L’Oréal’s researchers managed to come up with a natural colour product for the consumer market”, says Delphine.

Half of all customers to use natural dyes in the future

In Delphine’s view, the burgeoning interest in natural dyes is not a fad but part of deep-seated changes in our approach to consumption. “With natural cosmetics we are seeing the same shift as with the organic movement in food –  there is a real change in mentalities.” The women who come to her salon are informing themselves about products online and in women’s magazines. Some use apps such as Clean Beauty that allow them to check the precise makeup of every product.

“Needs are changing, and L’Oréal understands that. By positioning itself on this segment, the Group has shown that it is innovative and listening to consumers. This is great news, because its initiative will stimulate the rest of the market.” While right now natural solutions account for only about 5% to 10% of colouring treatments in her salon, Delphine reckons this could increase to 30% within a year and believes that natural dyes could make up half of the total in the medium term.