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Patrick McIvor Guest Blog: 2016 Haircolor Year in Review

We may look back at 2016 as a pivotal year in the world of professional haircolor. For many years it has been the big companies that offered us new opportunities with haircolor, from new ranges to new technologies. It seemed like it was always the big players who moved us forward.  But 2016 had lots of acknowledgements from the big guys that they may not be the only place for innovation and maybe not the only place to look for what is next.

Just a couple years ago Olaplex came along, and just like innovators before, this was something the big guys would have never thought of. Why would a company that thinks they are making something that is the best at what it does, make a product that fixes problems that product can create? The problem with haircolor and breakage before was always put on the user, therefore the problems, if there were problems, were put on the operators error and many times poor applications or poor application skills. And honestly with the caliber of haircolor and lighteners out there right now that could be true, but the reality is, in a salon environment stuff happens.  Olaplex had nothing on the line, they weren’t part of any problems or he said she said discussions. They just had an answer that one side liked.  

For the past year, it seems many publicly dismissed the need for a bond builder with their colors and lighteners, while privately developing their own me too products. What many don’t realize is that is how many of our biggest names started that have changed our industry in the past. Before Paula Kent and Redken, treatments were not widely used and with the new regular use of products that people were doing, she made products with Jerry Redding that were more gentle and ph balanced for daily use. No one thought you could perm hair highlighted with 40 volume and lightener in the 1980’s but Arnie Miller and a company named Matrix did, changing the look of the 1980’s. From Wella with the wave, Schwarzkopf selling direct to consumers, Sebastian’s crimping iron, Clairol’s “Does she or doesn't she” campaign (plus a wife named Clair of the owner) to the Golden Wave, to Goldwell’s innovative color delivery system —all these company’s and more have one thing in common. They all solved a problem or created an innovation others that were around at the time weren’t even thinking about.

Think about time before Pureology. Can you remember big name color brands who had sulfate and paraben free shampoos and conditioners that keep your color from fading? Not that many can be remembered because before Pureology broke through, haircolor didn't fade because of the shampoo and conditioner we were using. It's funny when you realize how much all of our shampoos and conditioners have changed since the name Pureology.

This year we have been hit by an avalanche of “plex”-like products and with a boom of direct colors. These products bring big players to both arenas and new emerging players showing us new ways to speak. I am excited to see what companies like Pulp Riot and Butterfly Circus do, and I am excited to see color continue to innovate. I think 2016 was the year direct colors and bond builders found a permanent spot in every salon and colorist's tool kits. 2017 looks to be another big year with social media speeding up the way brands can grow, and if all goes well I hope to add a few ideas to that list. How about you?

—Patrick McIvor