When consumers want to master the latest hairstyle, they use Google Search to find inspiration, advice, and products. Marc Speichert, managing director of global clients at Google, shares the most recent data on the top rising hair care trends—and why there’s a big opportunity for marketers.

Even in the most routine moments, people try new things. With a touch, or just a word, our mobile devices can summon ideas that we may have never thought of. This is especially true when it comes to how we style our hair, a decision we make every single morning. While we used to stick with what we knew—perhaps a look from a magazine or a stylist's recommendation—now, the options are endless.

Take Mabel, who was standing in front of her bathroom mirror, smartphone in hand, thinking about how to style her hair. She wanted something that was versatile, on-trend and suitable for dry hair. A mobile search later, she landed on the wet-hair look and learned how to get it.

Many people now turn to smartphones in these I-want-that-look moments, as evidenced by search and video trends. Of all Google Search queries related to beauty, the majority are done on mobile. To see what consumers are looking for in these moments, we analyzed the monthly volume of beauty-related Search queries from January 2013 to August 2015. The result is an in-depth look at three emerging trends—men's hair, braids, and bold hair colors. It's also a wake-up call, as we saw that many brands aren't reaching consumers in these moments of intent.

Men's hair: an untapped market

The market for men's hair care is rapidly expanding. In fact, 2015 is the first year that there has been more interest in men's hair than women's hair on Google (by around 6%).1 "It's like waking a sleeping giant," says Ellen Sideri, founder and CEO of the trend research agency ESP Trendlab. Not only is the industry bigger than it's ever been, but men are dream customers. "Men tend to have more brand loyalty than women, and are more likely to buy products that the barber recommends," says Rob McMillen, head barber at Blind Barber in New York.

What are consumers looking for today? The "man bun" has emerged as one of the most popular hairstyle searches over the last year. While Jared Leto and Leonardo DiCaprio were among the first celebrities to put the man bun in the spotlight, search volume puts Harry Styles as the celebrity most associated with the trend since October 2014. Thanks in part to Hollywood's and social media's embrace (see #manbunmonday), the man bun is everywhere. Now, lots of men are trying to to get the look themselves, turning to search as their style inspiration. Of all queries about the style, questions like "how to grow a man bun" and "how to tie a man bun" are most common.

Next up, the "comb-over." This style has been a steadily growing trend over the last few years, especially in California. Once associated with covering bald spots, today's version is more Don Draper than Donald Trump. "New high-end barber shops are re-popularizing traditional American looks from the '50s and '60s, but making them more high-end and personalized," says McMillen.

For both comb-overs and man buns, men are turning to the web to educate themselves. "Overall, guys are coming in with more of a general idea of what they want. They are doing more research than ever before," says McMillen. Much of that research is happening on smartphones. Looking at top men's hairstyle terms, 82% of searches were done on mobile in August 2015.2

Explore men's search trends by style

Source: Google internal data, Janurary 2005 – October 2015, United States.
Photo Credit: Blind Barber

In moments when they're struggling to style their hair, men are also looking to YouTube for advice. Videos about these styles tend to feature a large number of hair products; the top five how-to YouTube videos about man buns featured six products in aggregate. "Increasingly, consumers are looking to these platforms for dynamic content—from tutorials to reviews to videos," says Marie Gulin-Merle, CMO of L'Oreal USA.

Why should marketers care? When consumers reach out to learn—whether it's about "man buns," "comb-overs," or products for these styles—few brands capture the opportunity to be relevant in the moment. Only around 1% of searches for these terms has surfaced an ad.3 For marketers, there is a huge opportunity to be there for guys in their I-want-that-look moments.

Gulin-Merle adds that the best strategy for being there is all about creating great content for these digital platforms. She says, "No matter what the beauty movement is, we want to create relevant content that allows our consumers to continuously engage with products and be given an easy, seamless way to merge online and offline experiences."

Braids make a big comeback

As more men stock up on products, some women are paring down. Natural hair has been trending in recent years, and braids are back in a big way. Braids are the most prominent among top trending hairstyles for women, with "box braids" and "goddess braids" representing the biggest trends based on search volume. These braid trends are seasonal, and are most popular in the South.

Both braids come in a number of styles ("goddess braids in a bun," "short bob box braids"), and women are using smartphones to help master them. In the U.S., 85% of Google searches about braids in general were on mobile.4 However, around one in four searches for these braided hairstyles features an ad on mobile, which is 40% less coverage than we see on computers and tablets.5 The trend extends to video as well. The top five YouTube videos about these braid trends (mostly tutorials) have received a combined 12.7 million views,6 and 70% of those views are now on mobile.7

It used to be that we dyed our hair to cover greys. Now, it's the opposite. Grey hair is a fashion statement, and both women and men are coloring their hair to get the look. In I-want-that-look moments, people are often searching for "silver" and "grey" hair; they're among the top-trending hairstyle hues (with interest in silver hair growing over 2X YoY).8 Rihanna rocked grey locks in 2013, and while many have followed suit, she's still the top celebrity associated with the trend.

Eighty percent of searches on the top trending hair colors are on mobile.

Rihanna is also known for dying her hair purple, another hot trend. Searches for purple hair have been rising since February 2015, when Katy Perry showed off her lavender lob at the Grammy Awards. From there, the rainbow's the limit. "Once you try one color, it's easy to get into other colors due to the nature of hair maintenance," says Andrea Grabher, a colorist at top New York City salon Sacha & Olivier. In fact, searches for "rainbow hair" have grown by 148%.9

Often, people are searching in I-want-that-look moments—in a colorist's chair or a store aisle—when the nearest screen is a smartphone. Eighty percent of searches on the trending hair colors are on mobile.10 When we look at search behavior, it's clear that many people want to know how to keep the color. "Silver and purple hair are hard looks to maintain," says Grabher.

But are any brands there when people search for "silver hair" or "maintaining silver hair"? Less than one in three mobile searches for these hair coloring styles feature ads.11 And there's clear interest in getting the look at home. On YouTube, the top five how-to videos for both purple and silver hair are all at-home, do-it-yourself tutorials. Yet, none of those videos were from beauty brands.

The bottom line

In the past, it might have been hard to quantify trends like this, but in today's digital landscape, where people have hundreds of micro-moments a day, we can see an authentic snapshot of consumer behavior.

What happens in these micro-moments matters to people. "When I feel like I look good, then I feel good," says Mabel on mastering the wet-hair look. And they matter to marketers. Taken together, these micro-moments provide insight into consumers' intentions—what they actually want to know, do, or buy. That means these trends aren't just intangible fads; these are trends with traction that can have a real impact on the bottom line. And as we saw for all three, there is a clear opportunity for brands to step up and take advantage of these moments.