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Wella Goes for the Glow With New Illumina Color

The Procter & Gamble salon hair care brand is being trumpeted as the biggest color innovation of the last 20 years.

BERLIN — Wella Professionals’ new hair dye formula, called Illumina Color, is stepping into the limelight.

The Procter & Gamble salon hair care brand is being trumpeted as the biggest color innovation of the last 20 years. Inspired by luminosity of natural light on hair, Illumina is designed to deliver multitonal, natural-looking shades while minimizing damage to hair and providing 100 percent gray coverage. Five years in development, the new line will be launched in the U.S. in January, following its roll out in the U.K. and Western Europe.

Illumina’s range of 20 cool-toned colors was developed to lighten up to three levels, but has some limitations. The darkest hair shades, including deep blacks (think Liza Minnelli or Dita Von Teese) are not served by Illumina, but better met with the brand’s Koleston. Wella says the Illumina color portfolio will be expanded, but tones will stay in the natural zone. Additionally, the company says its Illumina colors are also suited to men, due to the subtle nuances of the product’s colors.

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Illumina also bucks the trend for ammonia-free hair color, which was sparked by L’Oréal’s Inoa, launched in 2009, and has trickled down into the consumer home coloring market.

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“We have not seen in the lab a product that works better than ammonia,” said Maria Castan, science specialist for P&G’s Salon Professionals division. “If we have a better product, we’ll launch it.”

Instead, enemy number one is copper, which Castan says is found in water pipes all over the world, from Berlin to Buenos Aires. As a side effect of washing, tiny particles of copper residue adhere to the hair’s outer layer, the cuticle. During coloring, these copper particles bond with ingredients in the dye, damaging the cuticle and leaving a rough surface that doesn’t reflect as much light. Wella says Illumina color includes special micro-particles that surround the copper and keep damage at bay. Healthier hair is shinier, more transparent, and more reflective, explains Castan. “We are trying to create light with the color,” she says, noting the very specific inspiration was morning light in Los Angeles at 9 a.m., and how it makes hair gleam.

Wella suggests that stylists price Illumina treatments about 20 percent higher than their classic color services. The company hopes that Illumina scores a name-brand recognition. To this end, Wella is offering salons a variety of extended advertising and marketing tools in the hopes of helping their clients see the light about Illumina. The company’s faith in the demand for the product is illustrated by its suggestion to salons that Illumina treatments should be priced 20 percent higher than standard color services.

As a brand, Wella generates an estimated $1 billion a year in sales, including the consumer and salon hair care and coloring products. Illumina could give the salon unit a positive boost. According to P&G’s recently released first-quarter figures, Wella innovations helped increase organic sales year-on-year in the salon professional business.