The average Norwegian spends more on haircare products than anyone in Europe, claims market analyst Datamonitor.
Consumers in Norway spend €50, almost twice the amount as the UK consumer at €27. The UK and France spend very similar amounts in total, but Brits prefer to spend on shampoo and conditioner while the French prefer styling and colouring products.
But France does not have the monopoly on style, even thoughthe UK has far fewer salons than France or Germany, people spend more money on take-home haircare products in salons than anywhere else in Europe.
The actual big spenders can be found further north. By far the biggest spenders are the Norwegians and the Finns, who spent almost €50 and €38 per person on haircare products in 2002. France is in third place, followed by the UK - a typical Brit spent €27 on haircare products last year.
Looking at growth, however, the biggest rise has come in the ex-Communist markets of Romania and Ukraine: average annual spending per head has risen by more than 25 per cent a year between 1997 and 2002.
While growth has generally been much more sedate in the west, Ireland's economic boom has driven plenty of spending on 'good hair'. Overall value growth of 8.0 per cent a year is the second highest in Western Europe, just behind Spain's 8.3 per cent.
According to the report, the Irish haircare boom has not yet petered out. Datamonitor forecasts even more impressive growth of 8.7 per cent a year between 2002 and 2007. This will move Ireland's position within the European per head up the spending table from twelfth in 2002 to seventh by 2003 - with spending of US$32.30 only just behind the UK's $32.50.
"Ireland is historically a very price-conscious market for haircare," said Datamonitor analyst John Band, the author of the report. "But as the economy comes in line with other rich European countries, people are trading up to more expensive products. Premium brands are on the up, and supermarket own label sales are down."
The French and the British spend almost the same amount on haircare products - €1.6 billion in the UK and €1.7 billion in France. But the spending mix is very different.
British consumers spend far more on shampoos, conditioners and two-in-ones than the French - these cleaning products account for half of British spending on haircare products, while in France they account for less than 40 per cent.
Instead, the French splash out on perms, relaxants and colourants. France's spend on these is double the UK figure.
British austerity is not limited to choosing cleaning products over exciting styling products. Despite being among the highest spenders overall, British consumers are not particularly keen on premium brands.
Only 11 per cent of the UK haircare market's value in 2002 was made up of premium products, compared to 22 per cent in Italy and 20 per cent in Spain - although the British figure is in line with that in France and Germany.
Perhaps surprisingly, writes the report, the British spend notably more than the French on salon haircare. At some €84 million a year, the UK's salon haircare products sales are the largest in Europe - more than €9million ahead of either Germany or France, even though the UK only has half as many salons as either country.
UK salon volume sales of 1.6million litres in 2002 are also higher than in Germany, although they are behind France.
"Salons are far more commercialised in the UK than France or Germany," said Band. "At salon chains like Toni and Guy, the stylist will try hard to sell you their products to take home - which is why T&G's own-brand products are one of the most popular salon brands in the UK. But in Germany and France, where the salon culture has been established for longer, the chains tend to be owner-managed - they don't have an empire of own-label products to upsell, or any desire to build one."
The biggest buyers of hair colourants are the Finns - the average Finn buys 1.8 packets of hair colourant a year. This compares to 1.2 packets in France, one packet in Germany, and just 0.6 in the UK. And the Finns are getting blonder, while coloured hair is becoming less popular in the UK.
Finnish consumption per head rose 5.4 per cent from 2001-2002 - UK consumption fell 6.1 per cent.
However, the biggest consumption growth in 2002 came in South Africa - the average South African used 26.4 per cent more hair colorant in 2002 than in 2001. South Africans are also using more and more relaxants (straighteners) and perms at home. Consumption rose 14.6 per cent in 2002, even as people in most markets around the world desert these products. For example, perm and relaxant sales per Briton fell by 2.5 per cent over the same time period. France and Germany saw even greater falls.
So why is this? "In economically developed countries," commented Band, "people are deserting perms as they become unfashionable - and the people who are having their hair permed or straightened are going to the salon rather than do it at home.
Home hair dye consumption is just as limited - while DIY dying can be fashionable, many people prefer the more consistent and guaranteed results of a salon."
"However, in many developing countries hair straightening is seen as highly fashionable and desirable. Low but rising incomes mean that many people can now afford to buy home-use products - but not to make> regular visits to the salon."