ISSE 2020 trends and updates in hair care for salons

Report from the ISSE 2020: Hair Care Trends and Updates

Written by: | February 19, 2020 | 6 responses

Just a few weeks ago we attended the International Salon and Spa Expo (ISSE) 2020 Conference in Long Beach, California. Apart from a chance to bask in a little winter sun, there was a lot to see and learn. We discovered that the Expo leaned heavily towards the Salon branch of its name, so first we’d like to discuss 7 general hair care and salon trends. Then we’ll summarize the ISSE so you can decide if you’d want to attend in the future.

Hair Care Industry Trends

This information is taken from various industry magazines and surveys, including GCI and growth projections from firms focusing on economic forecasting.

  1. Organic, Natural, Sustainable. There is growing consumer awareness about clean beauty, and hair care is finally catching up. Shampoo bars and other water-less products are growing in popularity because they reduce plastic use and are lighter to ship, reducing their environmental impact.

Although there is still a hunt for organic shampoos that don’t strip and damage the hair like castile soap can, progress is being made by reducing sulfates, synthetic fragrances, and other non-essential ingredients. We expect this market to grow.

  1. Highly Specific and Personalized Hair Care. Hair care, with its large market and growing technology, is becoming more specialized. Customers can fill out questionnaires and have a specific shampoo mixed just for them. The ingredients might depend on age, location (urban or rural), sun exposure, etc. Not to mention the products targeted to hair of all textures, lengths, whether it’s been fully or partially dyed, and more. This type of market is primarily only open to the big players or those with significant investment. For ways that small beauty companies can compete in this space, check out this blog.
  1. Colors. Every color in the rainbow, and rainbows themselves are popular, in addition to the continuing popularity of highlights and standard tones. There has also been a recent expansion of temporary color applied via tinted conditioner, so I expect to see this trend grow.
  1. Scalp Care. Remembering that your scalp is also skin is more common than before, with greater attention being given to exfoliate, nourish, and treat scalps with love. There are both physical and chemical exfoliators for the scalp, in the hope that this will also increase blood flow and help with rich, beautiful hair.
  1. Hair Loss. Hair loss in both men and women is receiving increased attention. Although somewhat driven by hair styling techniques and habits, age-related hair loss is being addressed more openly. Expect to see more products marketed towards women.
  1. Length Retention. Hair typically has a natural maximum length it can grow before it falls out, and this varies person to person. Many products are entering the market aiming to increase length and provide more specialized care for long hair. This also includes wig care and maintenance of extensions.
  1. Gadgets and Products. You’ve likely seen them by now—blow-drying hair brushes, straightener/curlers-in-one, ionic and ceramic heat tools—the list goes on. As technology and the market advances, products diversify.


Hair Care Trends at the ISSE

When it came to the Expo, most of the biggest booths were demonstrating popular hair techniques, with only a nod to the trends mentioned above. Like many ISSE classes (more below), most booths showed either new tools or techniques to achieve desired results: balayage, dry cuts, styling tools, formal up-dos, and much more. Color featured predominantly, with some demos showing full rainbows, elegant blonde highlights, or simply a full color dye. Let’s explore more below.

In general, here were the most common booth and class topics we observed, in no particular order:

  1. Balayage
  2. Fashion colors and other bright trends (rainbows, pink-purple ombres, etc.)
  3. Cutting: dry cuts and special tools
  4. Extensions
  5. Sculpted and elaborate hair
  6. Growing your salon or brand
  7. Gadgets and styling tools for salon or personal use


There are two parts to the Expo: the expo floor itself and the classes for attendees. We’ll start with the expo floor itself.


ISSE Exhibition Hall

The Expo takes place in a convention center, and with good reason. It is large, bright, loud, and a little garish. By and large, the focus was on the salon and hair care industries (not spas). There were a few skin care companies dotted here and there, but the majority of the large show-stopping booths focused on balayage, hair cutting, extensions, and styling.


Extensions at a booth at ISSE 2020 showing new extension hair care trends

A booth demonstrates their process of sewing in extensions.

If you are a salon professional, the expo itself is worth it. See the latest techniques, purchase excellent styling and cutting tools, watch demos, and pick up a few products. If you have no interest in hair care, a trip to Long Beach just for this might not pay off, at least for the next year or two.

Up-dos and styling hair care trends at ISSE 2020

A model sits for an elaborate up-do showcasing both tools and leave-in products.


Is the ISSE interested in Clean and Green Skin and Hair Care?

The short answer is: not very much, yet. As you can see in the map below there was a small section for “Green Beauty”, but this was small, focused on skin care, and not particularly busy. In my opinion, the hair care industry and professionals are only just starting to seek out greener hair care.

Map of ISSE 2020 salon guide     Green beauty section of the ISSE 2020, showing growing green hair care trends

Pictures of the map of the expo. The Green Beauty section was small and largely focused on skin care.


Are Salons Ready to Be Green-Conscious?

There seems to be a dichotomy in the hair care product industry: a movement towards more natural products and fewer shampoos per week versus trends in bright and dynamic hair dyes, styles, and extensions. Effective hair dyes are made from synthetic chemicals, and until the voices asking for more natural products become louder, salon professionals have no real reason to steer clear of synthetic products. Henna just doesn’t cut it when clients want a pastel rainbow. This was reflected for most of the booths, though there were a few nods towards greener products with less environmental impact.

Summary of ISSE

Though walking the floor and hearing the beats, seeing the lights and colors, and trying to absorb everything can feel overwhelming, the Expo is an interesting and valuable experience. The Spa portion is underrepresented, in my opinion, but changes are starting to be made to move products into the green and clean realms across both the salon and spa industries. Demos of products and techniques abound, so if you’re in the industry bring your phone to record, and a notepad!

The Classes at the ISSE

With a PBA (Professional Beauty Association) membership and Expo ticket, you have the option to attend both paid and free classes during the days of the Expo. These classes roughly divide into two categories:

  • Hair Styling Techniques
  • Social Media, Branding, and Business

Hair Styling Techniques

These classes included things like balayage, dry cuts, trends in braids, and many more. The more specialized and hands-on classes often charged a fee, but I didn’t attend any of those. Salon professionals were the main audience, leveling up on balayage, cutting, braiding and other skills.

Social Media, Branding, and Business

These classes provided a few hands-on lighting and social media classes, but largely answered questions like:

    • What is your brand?
    • How can you increase profits in your salon, and retain talent?
    • How to find and capitalize on your passion

A few classes addressed skin care, a few addressed skin and hair care, but like the Expo, most classes were targeted towards hair care professionals working in salons. We’ll publish more blogs on the classes we attended soon.


I hope this summary of trends and the ISSE has been helpful–we always love hearing about what interests you. How much of a role does hair care play in your brand? Do you plan to expand into hair care? If you’re ready to expand but don’t know where to start, we have a wide selection of shampoos, conditioners, and natural hair products. Let us know in the comments below how you plan to address hair care this year.

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1 year ago

Thanks, Coral-Sage. I appreciate the insights.

1 year ago

This article is so well written and informative. Candid and forward-thinking. Thank you!

1 year ago

Thanks for posting this! As a retired hairstylist, I use to go to these types of shows all the time, but stopped as they can be kind of a zoo. I’m glad to hear that clean haircare is finally catching up. I’m hoping to launch my natural haircare product this year with you, so it’s great to hear that even after 3 years of working towards this, the market is still there. Thanks for the update – I’m still glad I didn’t go, but appreciate that you did!

1 year ago

I have been a hairdresser/salon owner for 30 years. Always trying new things for natural solutions for scalp and hair! Fall out for aging and colored hair shine are my biggest targets! The natural all natural has not satisfied me yet! However I have launched a hair tonic with one of your facial toners combined with an essential oil blend that has blown me and my clients out of the water!! I am seeing great results! Shine is back and healthy movement of hairstyles make me happy! Detoxing the scalp and the follicles around the face where makeup and moisturizers build up is critical!!
Thank you!!