By  on September 14, 2007

LOS ANGELES — Protecting the hair, skin and body from environmental factors will be a dominant theme in a line of new products that the ayurvedic-inspired brand Sundari is planning to launch next year.

The company, which moved its headquarters from New York to Los Angeles two years ago because it viewed the West Coast as more amenable to its holistic philosophy, has added to its established repertoire of skin care products by focusing on the hair and body. It has just started shipping a Neem & Coconut Hair Oil, and a slew of body creams and exfoliating lotions that is the retail version of its professional products. Neem is a common ingredient in many of the products; the plant, which is native to India, is known for its antifungal and antibacterial properties. 

Rahul Koul, Sundari's chief executive officer, said that while new categories are being embraced, including a new lip balm and holiday and travel-sized kits, the company is going for gradual growth and limited seasonal launches that target specific beauty problems, instead of rolling out multiple new products at a time.

"What we have in the pipeline now is environmental care, which is the theme we are developing as a new line," said Koul, adding that pollution and sun exposure counted as among the greatest threats to skin health.

"Our perspective is that there is a gap in the spa market where certain products and concept opportunities are very important right now, and this is one of them." Spas are now Sundari's largest distribution outlet, with the brand being in some 200 high-end resorts and spas around the country, and another 100 internationally. He said that some are developing environmental protection treatments, and the new line would complement that. Koul anticipates "four or five" stockkeeping units in the collection.

"In the past couple of years, we have gone from 20 stockkeeping units to more than 60, and we are able to address the needs that a large spa has in terms of retail products. There has been rapid expansion to our product portfolio. But I don't see it becoming a much larger line because, in the context of a spa channel, growing a line too big makes it very difficult for a spa professional to be able to meaningfully make recommendations. Our thought process is that we design treatments and then develop products to go with those treatments."The hair oil, which retails for $30, might have seemed a surprise addition to the inventory because hair oil is hardly used in America. In India — Sundari is based on the ancient Indian science of ayurveda — hair oils make up the largest beauty category, and within that, coconut oils are exceptionally popular.

"It's a generations-old medium of hair care, but now we are giving it a new twist by using it as a carrier," he said. The product is to be massaged into the hair and scalp once a week, and then shampooed out after 30 minutes. The coconut oil carries nutrients into the hair, and is considered the most powerful hair regenerator in nature.

"We were playing with the idea of using a traditional format and talking about the benefits of oiling hair. It's almost unheard of in this part of the world, but it's proven to be very interesting to spas here. They are finding a lot of intrigue and interest in it. I was personally surprised by the kind of response we received, with reorders coming in very rapidly."

Continuing to stick to its ayurvedic principles, Sundari is gearing up for the November launch of the Neem & Copper Repairing Cream Cleanser, a $40 at retail product that contains lavender oil, Roman chamomile, sugar cane, apple and green tea extracts in addition to neem and copper. Around the same time, Sundari is launching Gotu Kola & Yucca Facial Serum, a $70 product that also contains algae and acetyl hexapeptide 3 to help firm and hydrate the skin. Gotu Kola has also been used as a topical application in hair and skin care in India for centuries. New holiday gift sets in packages are modeled on patterns of woven Oriental carpets, and contain a range of neem-based face and body products.

And for next spring, Koul will introduce Omega 3 & Mandarin Lip Treatment that will include avocado and sunflower oil, soybean lipids, beeswax and essential oils from Mandarin orange, orange peel and lemon peel that will again be sold through spa channels.

"Spas are staring to see ayurveda as a more mainstream concept," he said. "It's simply more accepted within that environment."

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