- Edition 1, Chapter 17 -
An Eco Essay
When I first met Michael Gordon, founder of the cult hair product company and salon Bumble and bumble, I had absolutely no idea who he was. While waiting in the wings at a hair modeling gig, I had a brief but memorable conversation with a soft-spoken and eloquent gentleman with a head full of curls, a british accent, and an astonishing knowledge of fashion illustration. Shortly after, he took the stage and gave an overwhelmingly moving talk on the importance of observation in hairdressing. Although speaking to a room full of stylists, the message felt remarkably relevant to me as well. It wasn’t until we’d exchanged contact information that I learned who he was – and I was even more impressed.
Although I knew almost nothing about Bumble and Michael’s history at the time, I knew enough to understand that the salon and product line that he created had a profound impact. After all, Bb products had even made their way onto shelves in Minnesota, where I spent my childhood and adolescence relatively unaware of trends, marching to the beat of my own drum. The impact of what Michael created was extensive, and the model he developed – infusing education, culture and craftsmanship into hairdressing – was not only remarkable within the realm of hair, but changed the history of the beauty world as well.
Knowing all this, I was taken aback when Michael first told me that he was developing a hair product company that would render shampoo and conditioner obsolete – a company that he also intended to be environmentally sound. This last statement was more powerfully shocking to me than the first. At the time, I had been struggling to come to terms with a career in the fashion industry where products were generally fast, disposable, and had abhorrently detrimental effects on the environment. I was finding these issues harder and harder to swallow, and it seemed that Michael had found himself on a similar train of thought when reflecting on the beauty industry.
After watching An Inconvenient Truth in 2006, something was sparked inside him, and as he read and watched more on the matter of climate change, he realized that he had contributed to a larger global problem. Mass production, waste, plastic, and harsh chemicals were all standard byproducts of manufacturing hair products, and astonishingly, although the knowledge was fairly common, few in the industry were proactive about change. Change equals money, and large companies found themselves stuck between rocks and hard places, while smaller ones had no voice. Feeling some responsibility to the craft that had given him so much, Michael decided to take matters into his own hands – and Hairstory was born.
With a mission like that, it was easy to get behind Hairstory. Working in beauty, I have slowly learned a number of unpleasant truths. For example: the cosmetics industry goes almost entirely unregulated by the FDA; while sulfates are bad for you, most sulfate-free shampoos still contain harsh detergents; 95% of the chemicals in most commercial fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum and natural gas. Consider all of this with the fact that we apply these substances directly onto our skin (the largest organ in the body) which absorbs it all, and it’s no small wonder that our scalps itch, our hair breaks off, and our faces break out after a sudsy shower.
The products that Michael and the Hairstory team have developed are our best efforts to seek natural solutions to these issues. Our product line is an attempt to challenge the industry and the consumer to think differently about the origins and effects of the products that we use on our bodies. While nothing is ever perfect, we’re confident we have a worthy and wonderful product line on our hands. If nothing else, we are standing up for change in an industry that has too long ignored the cracks in its foundation.
– Gina Schiappacasse, Press Liaison
Here are ways we’re making positive changes in our approach to products:
More natural ingredients
New Wash is a revolutionary new product. Instead of using harsh detergent, (sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, or glucosides) we have substituted fatty alcohols which naturally occur in plants like jojoba, aloe, and sunflower. These act as gentle cleansing agents without stripping away the natural protective layer on the scalp and hair. In addition, the formula is biodegradable once it has done its (amazing) job.
Less is more
With a gentle cleanser like New Wash, the scalp isn’t being tricked into overproducing oil to compensate for the loss of its protective layer. This means that hair gets less oily less quickly, allowing you to go longer between washes. And, as a result of not over-drying hair with harsh detergents, New Wash replaces not only shampoos, but conditioners, and masques as well! Finally, since you don’t need to condition, you’ll be using a lot less water in the shower.
No Synthetic Fragrance
Because manufacturers in the U.S. are not legally required to list the ingredients of fragrances, they often include synthetic substances such as phthalates which have been linked to issues with certain forms of cancer, diabetes and obesity. We proudly list all of our naturally-derived fragrance ingredients (ranging from damask rose to ylang ylang flower oils) for your knowledge and well-being. And, we think the real thing smells a lot better than imitation.
Because we believe that waste is a serious and growing problem worldwide, we are happy to offer a way to use fewer products and throw away less packaging. In addition, we offer reusable packaging to our hairdressers and consumers. For fans of New Wash, and professional hairdressers, we have created durable aluminum bottles that can be refilled from flexible pouches.
Less Money, Fewer Products, Better Hair
Need we say more? A concentrated cleanser that doesn’t strip away all of the good things means less product used less often, and less money down the drain. Better hair means you’ll need fewer products to style your way out of bad hair days – which you won’t have anymore!
A few resources that opened our eyes:
Trashed – A documentary about waste and its impacts by Jeremy Irons
An Inconvenient Truth – Al Gore and director Davis Guggenheim’s film on the dangers of Global Warming
Greenwashing: The Beauty Industry’s Dirty Little Secret – by beauty writer Phillip Picardi
SLS Free – The facts on Sulfates
Five ‘Must Knows’ on the Dangers of Synthetic Fragrance – Huffington Post
Cradle to Cradle – by Michael Braungart and William McDonough: the argument for Upcycling