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Time-Tested Tress Care

November 29, 2007

Formulators look to the past for ingredients to create modern, healthy hair.

Time-Tested Tress Care

Formulators look to the past for ingredients to create modern, healthy hair.

By Joanna Cosgrove
Online Editor

It’s been said that a woman’s hair is her crowning glory. For centuries women have tried all sorts of preparations to boost shine, manageability and luster. While deep conditioners, glosses and serums all have their place in today’s hi-tech tress industry, there’s a small but buzz-generating group of new brands that have successfully tapped into the ancient promise of lesser known ingredients that have been revered by generations of women from Morocco and Asia, as well as the indigenous women of the remote tropical rainforests of Central America.

One of the most renowned brands to tap into the hair care wisdom of the ancients is Ojon, whose signature product, its Restorative Hair Treatment, is a hair conditioning treatment formulated with a rare, rich palm nut oil extracted from the tropical Ojon tree that grows only in the rainforest of the Mosquitia region of Central America. The product was inspired by a 500 year old hair care tradition of the Miskito Indians, known in their native language as the Tawira, or “the people of beautiful hair.”

The Treatment is a “highly concentrated and versatile hair rejuvenator” that contains 100% pure Ojon palm nut oil to hydrate and improve the condition of damaged, color-treated or processed hair, without weighing it down. Included with the product is a wooden comb with which consumers can scoop out a dollop of product. The oil is emulsified by rubbing it between the hands then distributed evenly from scalp to hair ends and left on for 10-20 minutes, or overnight. Fortifying, rebuilding and nourishing, it leaves hair shiny, silky and manageable. It is color safe and is ideal for dry, dull, damaged or chemically treated hair.

A 150 ml container of Ojon Restorative Hair Treatment retails for $55.00. A portion of product sales go directly to the Miskito Indian tribes to help preserve the rainforests and their traditional way of life.

The company’s latest offerings delve even deeper into the realm of rare ingredients. Inspired by the harmony between the diverse plant life and the indigenous people of the world’s largely unexplored tropical rainforests, Ojon’s Rare Harvest Tawaka Collection is a series of highly concentrated, one-of-a-kind tribal treatments for hair, face and body that, until now, have been used exclusively by the Tawaka and Tawira tribes. Each product is available in limited quantities only during the peak harvest period of their natural potent ingredients. The company said “sustainable harvesting allows us to share the powerful benefits of these rainforest treasures without destruction or depletion of the resource, while providing a sustainable source of income for the Indigenous groups that harvest them.”

Ojon was acquired earlier this year by Estée Lauder, and although products are sold by Sephora, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Fred Segal, they have been a perennial hit with QVC shoppers. In fact, the line garnered two 2007 QStar awards from the television shopping network, one for Product Concept of the Year and anther recognizing the brand’s Internet Teamwork.

Journey to Morocco

Moroccan women have traditionally prided themselves on their beautifully shiny hair. Their secret? Argan oil derived from the Argan tree, which grows in southwestern Morocco. Argan oil has remained a treasured beauty secret for centuries but when Carmen Tal’s sister-in-law took her to a small salon in Israel to try to revive her hair after a bad color service, she enjoyed a treatment that left her hair soft, shiny, silky, smooth and manageable. Since she couldn’t find the same benefits anywhere else during her travels around the world, Ms. Tal and her husband, Ofer, set out to learn more about the treatment and to make the product available to salons and spas. The result was Moroccanoil, a company and eponymous four-product line that launched in salons and spas this fall.The line spent 18 months in development and was tested for more than three years in Israel prior to its North American launch.

The signature product in the line, Moroccanoil, an all-in-one weightless finishing, styling and shine treatment. Its patented formula absorbs into the hair instantly, leaving a natural, silky finish and brilliant shine, softening thick, unmanageable hair, restoring shine and softness to dull hair and imparting a suppleness to brittle hair. It also nourishes the hair and scalp, promoting healing and repair and relieving dry, itchy conditions. Finally, it protects against UV damage and other environmental hazards.

Applied to damp hair, it reduces drying time and speeds up styling time, leaving no build up. Prior to styling, a small amount is applied to the palms and worked through clean, damp hair from roots to ends. It can be applied again to dry hair for extra conditioning and shine. Salon stylists are also encouraged to massage a small amount throughout the hair before a color service to enhance the hair’s ability to absorb color.

The product is packaged in an amber glass bottle to protect the oil from UV rays, which can cause oxidation.

Other products in the line are Moroccanoil Hydrating Styling Cream, a leave-in styling cream formulated to eliminate frizz, condition and hydrate, while adding definition and shine; Moroccanoil Intense Curl Cream, a leave-in styling cream formulated to enhance and define curly hair; and Moroccanoil Intense Hydrating Mask, a deep conditioning treatment for dry and damaged hair.

Argan oil is naturally rich Omega 6, an unsaturated fatty acid composed primarily of linoleic and oleic acids, which help keep the hair and scalp moisturized and supple; vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, UV protector and free radical neutralizer (argan oil contains twice the vitamin E of olive oil); vitamin A which strengthens the hair and increases the hair and skin’s elasticity; phenols which provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, to help prevent damage caused by the environment; and    antioxidant tocopherols.

Extracting the argan oil is a laborious process, Ms. Tal explained. “The fruit has a green, fleshy exterior like an olive but is larger and rounder. Inside, there is a nut with an extremely hard shell, which in turn contains one, two or three almond-shaped kernels,” she said. “The production of argan oil is mainly managed by women, and is mostly done by traditional methods, is a lengthy proccess. Each nut has to be cracked open to remove the kernels. And it is said that producing one liter of oil takes 20 hours (of) work.”

Because of the advantages to sustaining the harvest of argan oil, the International Development Research Center has funded The Targanine Cooperative, which strives to preserve the argan forest, so it can continue to sustain the local environment, as well as to help the social and economic status of rural women in the region.

Secrets of Asia

Asia has long relied on the healing powers of nature, both for medicinal and personal care purposes. Launched in 2004, Cibu: Ancient Secrets For Modern Hair, tapped into the ingredients revered by Asian women to create a range of products formulated to nourish modern hair, while imparting shine and moisture.

Cibu shampoos, conditioners and finishing products are formulated with a patented blend of bamboo, water lily, lotus flower extracts and vitamin B5 which “add shine, retain moisture and promote hair cell regeneration,” according to Jennifer P. Mapp, the company’s brand manager. “Additional Cibu botanical and vegetable ‘Ancient Secrets’ include sesame seed oil, hydrolyzed silk, hydrolyzed soy and soy protein, panax ginseng, white and green tea extract (and) Rhatany Root extract (which protects hair color from the elements), to name a few.”

The line spans shampoos, conditioners, leave-in detanglers and an array of tongue-in-cheek styling products like Sticky Rice Pomade, Wok This Way Sculpting Sauce and Mousse Lee Foaming Volumizer. Developed by stylists from Salon Cielo and Bubbles Hair Salon (hence the name Cibu), Cibu products are available exclusively in those salon chains as well as online, with retail prices ranging from $6 to $19.

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