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L’Oréal Takes Rich New Spin on Hair Color

While still celebrating its 100-year anniversary this week, L’Oréal Professionnel unveiled a product it believes will redefine the salon hair coloring industry.

Inoa debuts on a catwalk.

PARIS — In the midst of celebrating its 100-year anniversary this week, L’Oréal Professionnel unveiled a product it believes will redefine the salon hair coloring industry for the next century.

Inoa, which stands for Innovation No Ammonia, is being billed by L’Oréal as the most revolutionary colorant to come out of its labs in decades. Thanks to a formula discovered after years of research, Inoa’s creators claim the three-step treatment will color uniformly and leave hair soft, shiny and silky — all without odor or any of the discomforts associated with ammonia application, like an itchy scalp. While it is not the first salon offering that is ammonia free, the company said it is the first ammonia-free product that lifts up to three levels, covers gray and has true-to-tone color results.

“Inoa will be to the hair coloring industry what the CD was to vinyl,” claimed Laurent Dubois, L’Oréal Professionnel’s managing director France, at the brand’s catwalk-style launch in Paris’ Tuileries Gardens Tuesday before a packed house of hairstylists and journalists. Like the CD, he said, Inoa would take a while to render its predecessors irrelevant. But he strongly hinted that Inoa will slowly replace L’Oréal Professionnel’s existing salon color lines. These include Majirel, introduced in 1978 and now the division’s leading colorant with 126 shades.

The science behind Inoa is deceptively simple. Instead of ammonia, the product contains monoethanolamine, which traditionally does not cover gray as well and cannot lighten hair as much as traditional products. But by adding an oil-based gel to the monoethanolamine color concentrate, plus the cream developer, L’Oréal researchers determined it provides an optimum result, including up to three levels of lift and 100 percent gray coverage, according to the company.

Initially, Inoa will be offered in 50 shades.

L’Oréal executives declined to divulge sales projections for Inoa, nor would they give its price tag. However, they said its products would cost 10 percent more than traditional salon treatments. L’Oréal’s overall salon portfolio generates about $3 billion in yearly sales, with around half of that stemming from hair color, according to the company.

Inoa is expected to launch in 2,000 salons in Europe on Sept. 22. By yearend, L’Oréal Professionnel aims for the product to be in 8,000 doors on the Continent and expects to have trained up to 10,000 hairstylists on using the product.

The rollout will continue in January in the U.S. and Canada, followed by South America in April and Eastern Europe next June. Advertising visuals will be revealed later this summer, and will run in trade press.