Why Unilever Acquired K18 Hair

Alex Rawitz
Alex Rawitz
Dec 27, 2023

No matter how wonderful your Christmas was, Unilever and K18 Hair probably had a merrier time. Stocking stuffers are great and all, but unless you received either A. Financial backing from one of the world’s most powerful conglomerates, or B. Ownership of one of the world’s hottest haircare brands, our friends at Unilever and K18 Hair have you beat.

When Unilever acquired K18 Hair on December 22, it was more than a Christmas miracle, or a union of two of CreatorIQ’s favorite clients, or an event that sent us scrambling for social coverage just a few days before a major holiday (thanks, Kimi!). It was a culmination of a long-gestating acquisition process, with plenty of speculation and competition from multiple parties. Now that the dust has settled, we’re prepared to say that Unilever and K18 will make for a perfect partnership.

In this blog post, we’ll examine K18 Hair’s success, and how the brand complements Unilever’s portfolio of top beauty brands.

Why Is K18 Such a Hot Target?

Reversing hair damage via proprietary chemical technology is pretty nifty. But just in case K18Peptides don’t do it for you, K18 Hair has plenty of impressive growth to point at, which made the brand much-desired within private equity circles.

From January to November 2023, K18 Hair collected $120.9M EMV. This figure not only cemented K18 Hair as the No. 2 brand in our Haircare EMV Index, which tracks the industry’s top brands, but also proved an impressive 117% year-over-year growth. Clearly, K18 Hair is on an upward trajectory. The brand’s 117% YoY surge was the fourth-highest rate within the Haircare EMV Index, with brands in the Index averaging a 19% YoY growth. K18 Hair’s progress was surpassed only by:

  • Gisou’s 181% growth (it’s worth noting that at $66.7M EMV, Gisou’s total is roughly half of K18 Hair’s total)
  • Shark Haircare’s 205% growth (with $21.2M EMV, Shark also came in well below K18 Hair)
  • Nexxus’ 177% YoY growth ($8.1M EMV for Nexxus, which is another Unilever brand—not a coincidence)


In addition to its EMV growth, K18 Hair boasts impressive momentum across a range of other metrics:

  • From January to November 2023, the brand earned mentions from 7.2k creators, a 108% YoY community expansion.
  • You can’t double your community size without adding new creators. Sure enough, incoming creators drove nearly half ($56.9M EMV) of K18 Hair’s EMV during the time period monitored.
  • K18 Hair garnered 80.3M Engagements from January to November 2023, a cool 222% YoY surge. Translation: more people were liking, commenting on, and sharing content about K18 Hair than ever before.
  • More people were seeing that content, too: K18 Hair enjoyed 1.6B—with a ‘B’—Impressions during that time period. So basically, content about K18 Hair was viewed once by everyone in China (population 1.4B), and then once by everyone in Brazil (population 214M) for good measure.

K18 hair products unileverCredit: K18 Hair

What’s Driving Growth for K18 Hair?

So we know that K18 Hair is taking the internet by storm. And it’s also clear that all this online buzz is translating directly into sales: as noted by Business of Fashion, K18 Hair cleared $300M in sales in 2023, with $410M projected in 2024. But how did K18 Hair win over fans in the notoriously crowded haircare market?

By mastering TikTok, of course.

Now, we’ve written about TikTok a few times before. But K18 Hair is one of the standout examples of effective TikTok marketing that we’ve seen in any industry. Thanks to its creative campaigns and prioritization of TikTok creators, the brand has become a fixture on the short-form video platform. And it’s not just #HairTok hyping up those amazing peptides—K18 Hair has also achieved trending status, earning shoutouts from creators across different verticals.

Take K18 Hair’s top hashtag, #K18Results. In January 2023, K18 Hair tapped brand partner and TikTok-darling Alix Earle (@alixearle) to front the evergreen campaign, with Earle bringing followers to the salon to watch her hair transformation. As a result, #K18Results accrued $34.6M EMV in January alone, and $56.1M EMV from January to November.

To put it another way: if #K18Result’s January EMV total was a brand, it would rank at No. 15 in our Haircare EMV Index. The hashtag’s January-November total would come in at No. 7. And that’s just a single hashtag.

To date, #K18Results has accrued 13.7B views on TikTok, which is basically like everyone on earth (population 8.1B) watching one #K18Results TikTok, and then most of a second TikTok.

K18 Biommimetic hairscienceCredit: K18 Hair

How Will K18 Hair Complement Unilever’s Portfolio?

In case it wasn’t clear, we expect K18 Hair to be pretty popular in the Unilever lunchroom, or wherever these brands hang out. But it’s hardly alone in bringing astronomical growth under the Unilever banner.

We already mentioned Nexxus’ impressive 177% YoY surge, but when looking at other high-growth brands on the Haircare leaderboard, a clear trend emerges:

  • TRESemmé: 104% YoY growth
  • Dove Haircare: 107% YoY growth
  • Living Proof: 36% YoY growth


It’s not just haircare where Unilever brands are excelling. Across beauty, personal care, and F&B, Unilever brands are on the move:

  • Hourglass Cosmetics: 76% YoY growth
  • Murad: 49% YoY growth
  • Knorr: 72% YoY growth
  • Hellman’s: 75% YoY growth
  • Seventh Generation: 255% YoY growth
  • Dollar Shave Club: 58% YoY growth
  • SmartyPants Vitamins: 109% YoY growth


When you take a brand that’s already mastered the do’s and don’ts of influencer marketing and infuse it with the Unilever growth engine, big things are bound to happen. With 2024 just around the corner, we’re excited to see how K18 Hair can extend its dominance over the haircare space—and which challengers will emerge.

For more exclusive haircare insights, and to keep up with all things influencer marketing, continue reading CreatorIQ’s blog. Oh, and while you’re at it, have a happy New Year!