Cindy Crawford was in her 30s when she introduced the world to Meaningful Beauty — and its French melon-sourced antioxidant extract, superoxide dismutase — in infomercials alongside her partner and go-to skin care expert, Dr. Jean-Louis Sebagh.
The format may have been counterintuitive to her image as a supermodel, but from the beginning, Crawford has had a knack for how best to relate to her consumer base.
“Doing the infomercial at that time, for where I was in my career and coming from a more high fashion background, was definitely not an obvious move,” Crawford said over the phone, calling from Palm Spring, Calif. “But I knew why I was making that decision.”
Meaningful Beauty, launched in 2004 with Guthy-Renker, was a business endeavor of her own after years of appearing as the face of major campaigns. (“As a model, multiple times you get paid to represent a brand, but you don’t have skin in the game.”) Utilizing infomercials, though perhaps unexpected, was a marketing tactic that allowed her to speak directly to her fans as she revealed the “natural secret” behind her looks.
Crawford, now 55, has since grown the California-based, direct-to-consumer skin care brand, while exploring various distribution channels (Ulta Beauty, Amazon, QVC) and attracting more than 4 million shoppers. Today, she unveils the next stage of business; she’s expanding into hair care.
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“We expect our skin is going to age…and your hair, you know it’s going to go gray, but no one really talks about your hair aging,” she said.
She noticed a change in her own hair after having kids. It became “brittle, dull, thin,” and she even experienced some hair loss.
“I look at my daughter’s hair, and it’s so bouncy and shiny,” she said with a laugh, bringing up her mini-me, 19-year-old fellow model Kaia Gerber. “It’s not frizzy. It doesn’t break…I always tease her, like ‘You have my old hair. Give it back.’”
Crawford wondered if the ingredients in her skin care products — particularly the antioxidants from the melon — would be beneficial for hair. It turns out that they are, she said, based on clinical results.
“It’s a healthy scalp that creates a healthy environment for good hair,” Crawford said.
Out June 21 on MeaningfulBeauty.com (and available on Amazon in the fall), the line features a $59 shampoo, $59 conditioner and $45 scalp treatment — each made with a plant-based alternative to keratin (KeraVeg18) and extramel, an antioxidant complex from the proprietary melon extract. The collection, which aims to restore hair thickness, hydration, strength and shine, also includes a $36 leave-in spray (made to condition and heat-protect), as well as a $45 colored root touch-up product (available in six shades to conceal gray roots between salon visits). The merchandise can also be purchased in sets for discounted prices.
“There wasn’t a product out there or any solutions to address this concept of bringing antiaging treatments to hair…and this is where we really saw the opportunity,” said Shauna Lahiri, chief marketing officer of Guthy-Renker, of the white space the company hopes to fill in hair care. “It was a real issue that Cindy was facing herself, so this was a natural progression for us in moving into a hair care category and bringing the fundamentals that we have always brought to the customer around meaningful, purpose-driven, results-driven solutions.”
Meaningful Beauty is well positioned in the market today. In 2020, with in-store retailers closing and brands focusing on d-to-c, the pandemic brought challenges to every beauty category except hair, which grew 7 percent last year, and that momentum is expected to continue, according to NPD Group.
“We’ve always been direct-to-consumer, so that wasn’t a challenge for us,” Crawford said of navigating the impact of COVID-19. “We had other challenges, just in terms of getting our components because China shut down and then the U.S. shut down. We had challenges with getting our products. We had some hiccups there, but not in terms of how to reach our consumer, because we’ve been doing d-to-c for years.”
Hair is emotional for women, she said of a lesson learned while expanding into the new category.
“We don’t talk about it,” Crawford said. “We might say we had a bad haircut, but I think it’s very vulnerable for women to talk about like, ‘Oh my god, my hair is thinning a little bit.’ I know for me, one time a hairdresser took my ponytail when I was 18 years old and chopped it off, and that is why I’ve never really had short hair since then, because he traumatized me.”
It comes down to self-confidence, she added.
“I didn’t vote myself in,” she said. “Hair is like my security blanket. And I think for a lot of women, you can hide behind it if you’re having that kind of day. When I wear my hair back in a ponytail, in a weird way that’s my most vulnerable self. I’m showing my full face. I think women’s emotional attachment to hair and what it means, in a weird way it’s more emotional than skin.”
She credits Sebagh for helping her form a healthy outlook on aging.
“Antiaging, as you know, is a hot-button word right now, but it’s impossible to do — as much as we would like to,” she continued. “This whole thing is more about age maintenance, like how do you maintain? How do you take care of yourself? We do that through exercise. We do that through eating right. We do that through mental health, taking care of ourselves in every way. That can be your skin and your hair, too. It’s not about fighting aging, because then you’re setting yourself up for a battle with something that is happening anyway.”
She paused, and asked, “So, how do we just embrace that? How do we be kind to ourselves? Why does skin care matter? Why does this matter? Because it gives us confidence, and then we’re unstoppable as women.”