In a saturated landscape of celebrity beauty brands, Jonathan Van Ness has turned to the power of purpose to differentiate his products.
At WWD’s 2021 Beauty CEO Summit, the hairstylist, “Queer Eye” star and hair care brand founder outlined his sweet spot between sustainability and inclusivity, during a wide-ranging conversation with executive editor Booth Moore. “We really like to say to ‘come as you are,’ and that really comes from this idea that everyone, wherever we are, however you identify: age, race, gender spectrum, you’re welcome to play and learn how to play with your hair and feel good about it,” said Van Ness.
Van Ness’ hair care line launched earlier this year and includes hemisqualane, a derivative of popular skin care ingredient squalane, which is touted for its moisturizing benefits. Its applications are universal, Van Ness said, adding that the sugarcane-derived hero ingredient is more sustainably harvested than the natural alternative, which comes from shark liver.
“When it came to hair care, I felt like there was a real lack of innovation in science that was sustainable,” they said. “I was a very overeager person who wanted to learn everything about every molecule in every formulation in all of our products.”
Hemisqualane is produced by JVN Hair’s parent company, Amyris, which also owns Biossance. That brand was Van Ness’ first introduction to the ingredient.
“I had the pleasure to start working with Biossance two years ago, and prior to that, I could see that squalane didn’t come to play,” Van Ness said. “All of our products have hemisqualane, and it’s sort of the Beyoncé of ingredients. It makes other people in the group bring out their best and natural qualities.”
The ingredient’s benefits are as wide-ranging as the consumers it’s suited for. “It gives you better shine and better protection against heat [than silicones], and it’s universally efficacious for all hair types,” he said.
Creating universally beneficial and “clean” products was Van Ness’ top priority when he set out to create his range. More broadly, though, his mission is to eliminate societal expectations on how one should handle their hair.
“There’s a lot of shame around men wanting to be curious about health care, hair care and beauty, and there’s also this argument and expectation for women to want to participate in this industry,” he said. “For me, I really wanted to take that idea of either the continued lack of expectation, or too much expectation, and no matter where you are on the gender spectrum, I permit people to feel comfortable, to be curious about their hair care, to ask questions and to be able to be educated about how you achieve different hair textures, different hair styles, and we’ll all feel better when we look in the mirror.
“There’s such a specific identification of what’s worth celebrating in the beauty industry, and I want to start to teach people that you are enough, that you already were enough,” he continued.
To that end, Van Ness gave a quick no when asked whether or not beauty had done enough to address social inequities.
“We’re all in this particular industry, and it’s hard to affect change in industries that you may not be a part of, but we are all a part of beauty here,” he said. “We all need to use our platforms.”
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