LOS ANGELES — Dean Christal swears that very small things can do very big things for hair — and he has followed his brother and father into the beauty industry to prove it.
Science-driven hair care line Liqwd is Christal’s first contribution to the family’s beauty legacy. His late brother Don founded what is now called Alterna Professional Haircare. Prior to Alterna, Don and his father Jeff, who also helped grow Helene Curtis and Payless Beauty Supply, established California Tan.
Longtime apparel insider Christal didn’t coast into the family business. He spent five years developing Liqwd, which uses nano-hydraspheres to get nutrients and volumizers to become tiny, microscopic bits. “I was always a formula fanatic. I love formulas that actually do what they promise,” said Christal. “It was something clear to me that manufacturers had gotten away from. It was about clever marketing and packaging.”
The process of getting the right compounds to the right size to penetrate the hair shaft was painstaking. Christal describes reducing 100-plus ingredients by 25 percent, 35 percent, 50 percent and more before testing them on hair in various combinations to judge their effectiveness. “It was a pleasant surprise that after we made things smaller and coated the hair, we could get the benefits and not feel them weighing down the hair,” he said.
Liqwd certainly isn’t the only hair care line to employ nanotechnology. PureOlogy’s NanoWorks products are probably the most well known, but Warren-Tricomi and Kérastase are among other hair care brands that have tapped nanotechnology as well. But Christal asserts the hours and hours in the lab — and scientific advancement over the years — makes Liqwd stand out from the nanotechnology pack. “We harnessed that idea and really took it to a level that is far superior,” he insisted.
Liqwd is launching with eight products priced from $32 to $38: Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner, Volumizing Shampoo and Conditioner, Sliqwd to both smooth and texturize, Liqwdity for intensive hair repair, Professional Smoothing Catalyst for flat-iron sleekness and Professional Volumizing Catalyst for producing body. Christal pegged the two catalyst products as the heroes of the line so far.
Westlake Packaging in Agoura Hills, Calif., helped with the packaging, which features matte black boxes encasing brightly colored bottles each with a signature design element Christal labeled a “nano bug.” Lona Vigi, who handled Jennifer Aniston’s locks on her upcoming movie “The Baster” and Cameron Diaz’s on “My Sister’s Keeper,” has signed on as the celebrity hairstylist for Liqwd.
Christal’s goal for Liqwd’s first year on the market is to be in 100 to 150 salons and generate wholesale sales of $1.2 million to $1.5 million. In four to five years, he believes Liqwd will be in 2,000 to 3,000 salons in the U.S. Christal has chosen to sell to direct to salons partly as a safeguard against diversion.
Christal is not building the business alone. His wife, Darcy, coowns Liqwd with him and he often goes to his father for advice. “From the very beginning,” recounted Christal, “he kept telling me, ‘Dean, create a line that will not be diverted and make the products perform.’”
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