Hair care is the fastest-growing category in beauty, but appealing to the new wave of shoppers is less about saying what’s inside your products and more about what isn’t. As consumer interest and knowledge of ingredients grows, brands are investing more on providing excluded ingredients lists over the lengthy ingredient libraries that once flanked product images on their sites.

The growth of ingredient-inclusive search terms slowed while ingredient-exclusionary search terms increased over the year, indicating that customers have shifted from wanting products with specific key ingredients to wanting products without specific damaging ingredients. As such, 62% of brands in 2018 have a list of excluded ingredients on their product pages, such as “sulfate-free” and “paraben-free.” This trend might be reflective of a wider interest amongst beauty consumers in products that promise inner wellness and beauty from within. A similar trend has emerged in the fragrance industry as consumers seek out more natural, stripped-down scents.

Leading retailers like Sephora are helping propel this shift, according to Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Hair Care & Color. Sephora’s renewed focus on ingredients is demonstrated by the launch of its Clean at Sephora initiative, which rewards the absence of certain ingredients with clean badges, both online and offline. Products with these badges receive outsize attention on category pages: up to 50% of top products on hair treatment pages are labeled with the Clean badge. The result? A handful of indie brands such as Briogeo and other natural hair care brands score improved discoverability.

Sephora has added a filter for ingredient preferences on category landing pages that allows consumers to filter for products labeled fragrance-free and sulfate-free or Clean at Sephora products. However, only seventeen hair brands on Sephora currently sell one or more Clean products, with only two tracked brands, Briogeo and FORM, on the list so far. As the clean craze continues to overtake the hair care category, brands should refresh keyword lists often to maximize spending efficiency and stay ahead of trending searches. Most importantly, they should consider trimming excess ingredients from their products to appeal to the new wave of beauty consumers.

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