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Ammonia-Free At-home Color to Enter U.S.

Garnier's Olia is designed to provide “maximum color performance” while remaining extremely gentle.

Women who color their hair and prefer an ammonia-free experience will have an at-home option in January with Garnier Olia.

Featuring similar technology to Inoa, L’Oréal Professionnel’s ammonia-free professional product, Olia is designed to provide “maximum color performance” while remaining extremely gentle, according to Emilie Poisson, assistant vice president of marketing for Garnier Haircolor. “Olia elevates the hair color experience and, because there is no ammonia, it helps restore hair quality.”

Introduced in September to Europe, Olia comes in 24 shades, including two blacks, 10 browns, five reds and seven blondes. Although the brand declined to provide numbers, industry sources estimate the range, which will be available in 30,000 mass, drug and food store doors in early 2013, could generate more than $70 million in its first year at retail.

According to Poisson, L’Oréal had been working on an at-home version of Inoa since its 2009 launch, but the Olia formula had to be perfected for the mass channel. “It had to be velvety enough to not drip but also go through the bottle applicator. It’s very thick and creamy and almost like a skin-care product,” said Poisson, adding that the formula stars a oil-based technology containing natural oils from sunflower, passion flower, camellia and meadow foam to “maximize” the coloring process.

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When it came to shades, Poisson said the brand wanted to offer a wide range of colors so that salon consumers felt they had the options they would in the professional sector. “We really needed a beautiful shade palette because in the salon a stylist can mix anything to get what they want,” she said. “We made sure our palette ranged from natural to more vibrant shades in order to appeal to more of the marketplace.”

There are 21 patents pending on the $9.99 formula, which utilizes an ammonia-substitute called monoethanolamine, or MEA, to impart permanent color. “MEA mimics what ammonia can do without the big chemical changes that can damage hair,” said Patricia Slattery, assistant vice president of education and technical training for L’Oréal USA. “MEA is gentler than ammonia [as] it only slightly opens the cuticle to make way for color. It also allows hair color to lift, giving the same benefit of permanent hair color, but there is a much more minimal disruption to the hair shaft, creating better, shiner smoother hair and hair color.”

Additionally because Olia is oil-based rather than water-based, hair fibers are coated with color more effectively, with minimal disruption to the hair shaft. “You will get all the vividness and permanency but, because there is no damaging ammonia, it helps restore the hair quality,” said Poisson, adding, “Oil boosts the effectiveness of MEA.”

Olia’s formula was given a floral fragrance, with fresh, sweet, woody and citrus notes, for a “sensorial” coloring experience.