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How Instagram tells about our relationship with hair (Tips & Trends)

John Lahr
February 02, 2021

We analyzed 8 million hearts to understand what we like best and why, when it comes to hair on social media.

By Francesco Magnocavallo and Vanessa Perilli


This article originally appeared on Marieclaire.com/it posted here with permission from the authors.

What goes around comes around. That everything has changed with the arrival of social media and artificial intelligence, no one can deny. That basically many dynamics have remained the same, we will try to prove it with this analysis conducted thanks to the sophisticated Cortex software . Together, we processed 4000 Instagram images from the haircare world: salons, hair product brands, hair stylists, influencers. More than 8 million Likes in 2020 that revealed what they like and what works, which shots move the indicators and which are stylistic mistakes.

We said, what goes around. The superhuman battle of women to control their own aesthetic canon. Once it was the Photoshop tweaks of magazines like ours, today it is the Instagram face Colby Smith talked about with Jia Tolentino here in the New Yorker : the tyranny of algorithms that determine visibility, models, social status. The new conformism denounced by accounts like Insta Repeat , where we all adapt to a prevailing canon: in the worst case, a homogenized with a taste of fluorescent plastic, in the best of cases a rediscovery of the rules of artistic composition.

In the slides that follow you will find, alongside some stereotypes of digital aesthetics, some funny surprises and many signs of the fact that not even artificial intelligence can defeat our deep humanity. You will find the blockbuster concepts of a female in the days of social media. You will not find instead the long tail, that of the foundation in 40 shades suitable for all skin types. The one where niches and trend setters thrive. For that still the analysis software do not have sufficient sensitivity, at least for now

1. Hair and social media: nostalgia for beauty salons

interior design cortex cluster

At the top of the topics with the greatest response we find beauty salons: in this 2020 they are the thing that we missed the most - even if they accompanied us in the weeks of lockdown with precious tutorials - and that most catalyzed our Likes.

2. Hair and social media: the favorite hair campaigns

human face black and white cortex cluster

The second thematic cluster also tells us about a pandemic: 25% increase in the interaction rate for close-ups in black and white. In the center, the campaign of Aldo Coppola, I remember the moment of maximum crisis when it was normal to see the tricolor on the balconies.

3. Hair and social media: the need to get excited

black and white portrait cortex cluster

If black and white seemed an easy key to attracting our Likes, in reality this second cluster shows us a lower than average interaction rate. The sense? Reward for the shot in the foreground, penalized for the bust and wider shots where the expressiveness of features and emotions is lost.

4. Hair and social media: blonde hair trend

long hair blonde cortex cluster

And if blonde hair confirmed itself once again as maxi trend of the year, we noticed that the interaction increased if blond hair was enhanced by shatush and balayage, even more if sublimated by messy hairstyles such as romantic weaves and low tails.

5. Hair and social media: romantic hairstyles

long hair bun cortex cluster

From ash to honey passing through the dark, the cold up to copper and peach. Light colors - from platinum blonde to strawberry - have always worked, particularly when gathered in braided hairstyles or decorated with pearls or ribbons.

6. Hair and social media: coloring and lightening

coloring and lightening cortex cluster

The reopening of the salons has generated a surge in "hair color" searches born from the desire and need for professional coloring after weeks of home dyeing. The interaction rate increased in posts where hair was sublimated by lightening and beach waves.

7. Hair and social media: eyes laid bare

eye contact cortex cluster

Let's see a basic concept work again: in the Instagram shot we first look for contact with the eye. The foreground makes it the protagonist and facilitates it, also allowing us a better understanding of the hairstyle.

8. Hair and social media: the free gaze

glasses cortex cluster

We said that the eye immediately seeks the eye of others in a portrait. Here the glasses become a barrier capable of bringing down the interaction. At least when it comes to hair, eyewear seems like a tactical mistake.

9. Hair and social media: the face at the center

centered face cortex cluster

Funny to see how Cortex's algorithm identifies the type of shot as it focuses on the nose. The photos are all very different, but have somehow common geometry.

10. Hair and social media: the search for expressiveness

close up smiles cortex cluster

Close-ups are back, rewarded across the board by above-average interaction. What the algorithm may not have detected is a funny and very human detail: in most of the photos you smile!

11. Hair and social media: the importance of detail

bust angle cortex cluster

The bust still has a few percentage points of advantage in terms of interactivity. The more the picture opens, the lower the interest. Space on Instagram is scarce and, at least for haircare, the reader doesn't like to lose detail.

12. Hair and social media: yes to the first, or very first, plan

large field cortex cluster

The algorithm identifies this group as clothing shots. The photoeditor's eye also recognizes too large a field. The relationship between the two factors is not clear: what is certain is that the combination does not pay. The interaction decreases.

13. Hair and social media: silver-gray

sliver-gray cortex cluster

We close the visual analysis roundup with two shots that indicate the shades most capable of attracting our Likes. We have chosen colors with at least three different brands, to filter colors that are too tied to a specific product campaign. First: silver gray.

14. Hair and social media: dusty blue

powder blue cortex cluster

Secondly: a dusty blue, poetic, delicate, gentle, romantic, luminous, reassuring, with fairytale implications, devoid of the masculine, and sometimes authoritarian associations, typical of the most intense and deep blue.

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