By  on September 19, 2008

Put a well-known scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the same room with a group of venture capitalists, and what do you get? Living Proof, a company searching for the solution to frizzy hair and other vexing hair problems.

“The company started as a conversation between a Boston stylist and Polaris Venture Partners [a $3 billion venture capital fund] three years ago,” said Rob Robillard, Living Proof’s chief executive officer, who formerly held the same post for Kiehl’s Since 1851. “The aim was to create products that actually solved problems, like frizz. Next, MIT scientist Robert Langer, who has basically spent his life finding solutions to medical issues, got involved.

“We asked him to create beauty products based on three premises,” continued Robillard. “It had to be a big problem; that problem couldn’t have an existing good solution, and what we came up with had to create results you could see from across the room.”

The company hired a staff of scientists from outside the beauty industry, so there would be no preconceived notions about ingredients, Robillard said. Their first project: an antifrizz hair care line.

Robillard said he wanted to avoid using silicone or oil because he thinks they make hair look greasy. He also contends those ingredients aren’t effective in high humidity.

The scientists came up with polyfluoroester, similar to a compound that has been used as a coating for internal medical devices. “It coats the hair with a very thin vapor barrier, which prevents moisture from moving in and out of the hair, and penetrates the hair shaft so it has been shown to work even after shampoos,” said Robillard. “It has a low surface energy, so it also repels dirt and particles and doesn’t attract oils and dirt.”

The team created six products: Straight-Making No Frizz Styling Spray and Wave Shaping Curl Defining No Frizz Styling Spray, each formulated for fine to medium hair; Straight-Making No Frizz Styling Cream and Wave Shaping Curl Defining No Frizz Styling Cream, both for medium to thick hair, and Straight-Making No Frizz Styling Treatment and Wave Shaping Curl Defining No Frizz Styling Treatment, both for thick to coarse hair. Each retails for $24 for a 4-oz. cream or 3.4-oz. spray. Travel sizes, of 2 oz. for the creams and 1.7 oz. for the sprays, will retail for $14 apiece.

The products roll out this fall on livingproof.com, and are slated to enter Sephora and QVC in February 2009. At full distribution, Robillard expects the products to be in about 160 doors in the U.S.

While Robillard declined to discuss sales figures, industry sources estimated that the Living Proof frizz collection would do upward of $20 million at retail in its first year on counter.

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