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Clean Salon Brand O&M Extends Into Sephora

Consumer demand for clean beauty products has caught up with the pillars of Australia's O&M hair care.

The U.S. market has caught up to demand for natural and clean hair-care formulas. That’s creating a buzz for an Australian brand, Original & Mineral, that has always adhered to formulas composed of naturally derived ingredients.

In fact, O&M made its debut on this month and will be in Sephora stores the end of August, as part of the Clean at Sephora initiative. Products from O&M’s 196-item range are also stocked at Neiman Marcus and Net-a-porter. On the salon side, O&M’s lineup is sold at 1,000 locations. “We will continue to grow the salon business and the retail business alongside each other, it works well for us,” said O&M’s founder Jose Bryce Smith.

It is a good time to have a one-two punch. According to Kline statistics, salon hair-care sales are growing at a decent 3 percent annual clip. However, clients are cutting down on visits. Conversely, they are buying more professional-grade products for home use. Sephora executives, in fact, cited hair care as the fastest-growing category right now. At Ulta Beauty, prestige is the briskest-growing subsegment in hair, according to company officials. That could explain the 19 percent sales leap in the hair category for the 12 months ended in May tracked by The NPD Group. Add to that the fact natural beauty growth is outpacing the general market and O&M hits a sweet spot in the market.

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“Australia has been at the forefront of natural and organic for many years and always been a country concerned with health, I think that there is a lot of innovation in this area coming out of Australia now and they are being recognized around the world,” said Bryce Smith.

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She opened her first salon in 2000 in Sydney, Australia. Frustrated with the harsh chemicals used on salons, she branched into her O&M Method care and styling line in 2010. O&M opened its first New York City salon in Manhattan five years ago.  “As O&M was born in a hair salon, our aim was always to have a hair care line that bridged the gap between natural and luxury, performance has always been key,” said Bryce Smith. “There are lots of natural ingredients that perform as well as synthetics and we did all of our testing against mainstream products. We had the first ammonia-free color in salons in 2000 and the first sulfate-free shampoo that really foamed and that put us on the map.” Furthermore, the entire line is 100 percent recyclable, is not tested on animals, does not contain animal by-products and is gluten-free.

When O&M approached Sephora eight years ago, the retailer acknowledged the U.S. shopper wasn’t quite ready for the level of clean the brand offered. “They told us we were a bit ahead of our game in terms of what the U.S. consumer wanted,” Bryce Smith said. Fast-forwarding eight years, O&M is also PETA-approved and vegan — attributes high on American shoppers’ lists. “It seems that the U.S. consumer is more aware about harsh chemicals and natural and luxury is a focus for Sephora.”

Newest in the range is Cor.color, which the company said is the next generation in ammonia, PPD and Resorcinol-free hair color.

Among the brand’s best sellers are the Hydrate & Conquer Shampoo and Conditioner for dry and thirsty hair, Seven Day Miracle Masque and Know Knott. The latter is a detangler Bryce Smith made for her daughter’s unruly hair. Other hero items include Maintain the Mane shampoo and conditioner, Frizzy Logic, Surf Bomb and Rootalicious, a root lift. Ingredients used range from Quandong and Red Spider Flower to Banksia and cold pressed organic argan oil. Prices range from $27.90 to $49.90.

With a focus on growing in Sephora, the company also is casting anew for future distribution in the U.S. From a salon growth vantage point, Bryce Smith said she hopes to expand further into Europe.