Soft Sheen-Carson’s new Optimum Oil Therapy line.

NEW YORK — Soft Sheen-Carson is out to launch the newest technology in ethnic maintenance hair care with a five-item line that promises conditioning qualities without a heavy feel.<BR><BR>The new line, Optimum Oil Therapy, is formulated with a...

NEW YORK — Soft Sheen-Carson is out to launch the newest technology in ethnic maintenance hair care with a five-item line that promises conditioning qualities without a heavy feel.

The new line, Optimum Oil Therapy, is formulated with a micro-oil technology — a blend of micro beads made up of natural oils — designed to penetrate deep inside the hair shaft. Four oils are included in the formula, each with a different effect. Avocado oil is used for softness. Olive oil is used to moisturize hair. Coconut oil aims to give hair a sheen and shine, and jojoba oil is added for nourishment to repair and strengthen hair.

What makes Optimum Oil Therapy different from other hair products, according to Soft Sheen-Carson president Candace Matthews, is that for the first time a blend of light oils has been combined to condition hair, as opposed to heavier types of ingredients.

“In the past, hairdresses have been laden with petrolatum, which weighs the hair down,” Matthews said.

Included in the line is a 3-in-1 Creme Oil Moisturizer to restore essential oils and prevent dryness and breakage; a Shine Booster to add sheen and control friz; an Over-Nite Strengthener to nourish hair; a Dry Hair Healer for deep moisturization, and a Hair & Scalp Quencher to soothe dry scalps. Each product retails for $3.99.

Optimum Oil Therapy, which landed in stores last month, is expected to generate between $15 million and $20 million during its first year in stores. It will be supported with outdoor advertising campaigns, print and sampling efforts. Ads will focus on the product, but also will show its lightness by featuring a woman with hair in a “light position,” Matthews said. Bus shelters, billboards and subway cars will receive many of the company’s outdoor ads.

A four-store beauty supply test in Chicago earlier this year revealed that the “sea of yellow” created on store shelves by Optimum’s bright packaging helped draw attention to the line, which competes directly with brands such as Luster’s Pink Oil Moisturizer and Namaste’s Organic Root Stimulator.

Hairdress products make up 23 percent of the overall ethnic hair care category, with styling products and relaxers at about 20 percent each of the category. The balance of ethnic hair care sales are made up of hair color, men’s shaving and children’s products.

This story first appeared in the September 17, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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The ethnic hair care category, which on a worldwide basis generates about $1.7 billion — with the U.S. making up 40 percent of that figure — is in need of a boost. Year-to-date data show sales are up less than 3 percent in food, drug and mass stores, excluding Wal-Mart, according to Matthews.

But growth within Soft Sheen-Carson is meeting expectations. The Dark & Lovely product re-launch, which features Kelly Rowland as a spokeswoman in advertisements, is boosting company sales. On the professional side of Soft Sheen-Carson’s business is the restage of Optimum, which is driving sales at the Chicago-based company. Additionally, the company is gearing up for the October introduction of Optimum Crème hair color, which will launch in Sally Beauty Supply stores.

The company is also preparing for its move to New York, which will take place in November, to be near parent L’Oréal.