Hair oils: Beyond tradition and towards scalp health

Hair oils: Beyond tradition and towards scalp health

Hair oils have traditionally been used to soften and strengthen hair, even when applied to the scalp.

Globally, when talking about hair health, the conversation has moved towards the scalp.

Consumers are now recognising that the scalp should be nurtured in a similar way to facial skin and can play an important step in impacting hair health. Thus, hair oils can be a natural part of the conversation surrounding scalp health.

India is considered the market leader in the hair oil category based on launch activity over the last five years1 and on average, Indian consumers use at least three types of hair oils according to Mintel research.2

With 52% of Indian consumers saying that they would be interested in hair oils that specifically target certain hair concerns like oily and sweaty scalp, it is time for brands to rethink how they market hair oils.

Four in five hair oil launches in India carry a botanical/herbal claim3 but there are upcoming brands, which are innovating with beauty trends such as clean beauty and scalp care. To help make hair oils more attractive to consumers, brands can also make convenience claims such as easy-to-use packaging and easy-to-wash-off.

Brands can look at enhancing usage, especially in these times when there is growing market interest in scalp health by tapping into specialised solutions considering that 42% of Indian consumers are interested in hair oils that specifically target scalp conditions.

The USP of hair oils has always been to make hair healthy with less focus on how it affects the scalp but considering that the top 3 concerns of Indian consumers are thinning hair (38%), sweaty scalp (33%) and oily scalp (33%), there is an opportunity for brands to bridge the gap between hair care and scalp care.

Indian consumers are open to new beauty experiences with 42% saying they enjoy discovering new beauty and grooming products and 36% saying they bought a new beauty product they hadn’t tried in the past three months. About 31% of Indian consumers say they have engaged with online beauty content in the last three months.4

Because of global warming, soaring temperatures have been recorded around the world. In 2022, India had one of its worst heat waves during the summer months with some states experiencing temperatures above 43°C (110°F).5

The heat leads to bacteria accumulation, which worsens skin and scalp problems. Nearly three-fourths (74%) of Indian consumers say they experience scalp concerns, while 96% have hair concerns and this is an indication that shoppers now perceive scalp problems as important.6

Brands can offer ease of use as a USP in their hair oils. Mintel research reveals that the two biggest barriers to using hair oils are that it is difficult to wash off from the scalp/hair and it is difficult to carry when travelling (37%, respectively).7

Strategies for Brands in the Evolving Hair Oil Market

Hair oils in India currently focus on giving overall hair strength and preventing hair fall but there is an opportunity for them to address other concerns like oily scalp, sweaty scalp, and dandruff.

There is also an opportunity for brands to explore customisation as this is something that customers want.

Brands can also focus on clean beauty as good health is an important consideration for consumers. There’s an opportunity to target men living in metro areas. Currently, 11% of them believe that using shampoo/conditioner is enough for hair care. However, they also demonstrate a strong interest in clean beauty claims like organic (39%), which hair oils can offer.

Another avenue that brands may explore is ease of use. Consumers are very concerned about hair oils being heavy so brands can look at lighter and serum-like finishes that people can use during the day, even in summer months, and are easy to wash off.

More importantly, brands need to strengthen communication on the effects of oiling on the scalp and how this will contribute to hair health.


Mintel expert

Tanya Rajani, Principal Analyst, Beauty & Personal Care, Mintel Reports India


1 Mintel Global New Products Database, March 2019 – February 2023
2,3 Mintel Reports India, Hair Oils, 2022
4 Mintel Global Consumer, Beauty, Personal Care & Household, March 2022
5 MIT Technology Review, “Climate change is making India’s brutal heat waves worse”, April 2022
6 Mintel Reports India, Shampoo & Conditioner, 2021
7 Mintel Reports India, Hair Oils, 2021

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