Despite the hurting economy, the hair care category has seen an explosion of innovation. And women are responding, showing themselves willing to spend when new technologies emerge to improve existing categories.
This story first appeared in the April 10, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
One of the biggest success stories in prestige hair care is Living Proof, a company backed by venture capitalists that taps the knowledge of professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to address some of beauty’s biggest challenges. Its fi rst line, No Frizz, approaches fighting frizz from an engineering perspective rather than a beauty perspective. “We weren’t impeded by preconceived notions of what could work in the beauty industry and what couldn’t,” says Dr. Robert S. Langer, founder and scientific adviser for Living Proof, who is also one of 13 Institute Professors at MIT. “All we really knew was that we didn’t want [to use] silicones because they have great limitations and, in our estimation, weren’t real solutions. We were particularly inspired by looking at medical devices and some of our specific polymer science because they naturally delivered the benefits we needed to solve the problem of frizz once and for all.” Rather than silicones, No Frizz uses a polyfluoroester, which the firm says is more efficacious because it is a smaller molecule than the traditional materials used for frizz control. “Due to its small size, it creates a weightless shield on the hair to prevent moisture flux in and out, and it coats the cuticles to reduce the friction between fibers,” Langer says.
Other companies are coming at hair care from an entirely new angle—by formulating hair care products according to a woman’s hair cut rather than by her hair type. HerCut, founded by hair care executive Bob Salem, makes products addressing such classic styles as The Bob, The Blunt, The Shag, The Long Layers and The Pixie. Each range has its own star product, or catalyst, as the firm calls it, meant to “optimize the haircut’s behavior from beginning to end,” says Salem. For example, the catalyst in The Bob uses macromolecules that continually encourage the haircut to move forward, says Joe Cincotta, HerCut’s lead scientist. The Long Layers catalyst uses an oblong macromolecule to create a flexible connection between adjacent hair fibers and hair layers.
Some lines are combining technology with the benefits of natural ingredients. Celebrity stylist Oribe’s new line of shampoos, conditioners and styling products taps into a variety of extracts and oils to deliver desired end results. For example, extracts of edelweiss flower and kaempferia galanga root aim to protect hair from the damaging and color-depleting effects of the sun. Extracts of watermelon and lychee look to provide natural protection against oxidative stress and deterioration of natural keratin, while argan and jojoba oils moisturize and add a silky effect to hair. The products, which are selling at select salons, have been formulated to address shine, volume, curl and color.