Kevin Murphy on how to tackle the beauty industry’s issue with plastic waste
The Australian-born hairdresser shares the latest innovations — including those that are yet to be fully revealed.
20 Dec 2022

Next year, Kevin Murphy celebrates 20 years. At the time he started it, he describes the industry as ”dead”.

— It was one size fits all. There was no natural haircare, except for useless options, and nothing that had a balance. And, again, nothing was specific but very general. People made shampoo for fine hair and then another one for coloured hair but never in the same bottle. When I did one for fine, coloured hair, I wouldn’t have thought about that as an innovation — but everyone else did. Then came Brazilian Blowout and other innovations and the biggest thing after that was the Bond Builders with a unique protein chain that creates new bonds of protein within the hair and is the first time that a product will actually repair the hair, he says.

80 billion plastic bottles are produced every year just from shampoo and conditioner alone. In 2015, Kevin Murphy started using Ocean Waste Plastic — ”we wanted to lead the pack” — and the next big focus is a new program, focusing on the recyclability of the packaging.

— We’re working on a substance that’s using 70% less plastic, he says. We need plastic, so for us, it’s about reducing the amount and the types of plastic and instead having a package that is all made of the same thing. Many times you see packaging made of many different kinds of plastics and then they can’t be recycled. We’re going to work with PCR (Post Consumer Resin) and the whole packaging is PET, so the bottle can go into the recycling program, and people won’t have to lift the caps off. We’re going away from HDEPE (High-density polyethylene), which can’t be recycled, into 100% recyclable products with post-consumer waste in them.

— The idea of ’no-packaging’ products — it’s not that fun. If you’ve got short hair, it’s easy to rub your hair with a soap bar but with long hair, it’s messy. And, if you go to a salon, that bar has been used on someone else, so it’s always a hygiene question.

You mentioned a substance. Will plastic be the packaging of the future or how do you work with packaging material innovations?

— For me, it’s one bottle for life — one bottle forever — and we do have some really interesting refill options, made of 100% PET and recyclable. If you take, for instance, wooden packaging, I can’t see how that can fit into my demographic. Instead, it’s about using one kind of plastic and reducing the amount of that plastic, says Murphy.

In terms of sustainability, where do you see your biggest footprint?

— We’ve done a really big analysis on this and there are many areas but most of our own ’unsustainable activity’ is in the making of the product and the shipping — the factories that we work with and the ships that ship it and the planes that sometimes have to fly it. That’s also our biggest challenge because it’s the most uncontrollable challenge as well. We can control our own factories and we can use solar power and reclaimed water for ourselves but not for the companies that make our products.

And when we look at ingredients and formulations, do you have any particular coming now that we may see booming?

— We are working together with one particular brand, a French company based in America, that has ’tunnelled’ all the way down to the ground to get water from way down under the Earth. I don’t quite know how it works but they have their own factory where they use that water, recycle it, and grow all of their own crops inside. It’s probably the most modern facility I’ve seen in my entire life and we are in to make some really good, next-level products with them, which will be above our core lines. It’s a line that will be about not so much anti-ageing but embracing age. Most of the population is going to be over 55 in the next five or six years and no one caters for them. I’m also that person and I’m not ’anti-age’, I want to age but I want to age well, so I want to embrace age and I want my grey hair to look good and not covered up. I’m not hiding who I am, I want to show it, and I think that there will be a whole amount of people who want the same thing, which is why we’re really working towards that customer.

This fall also sees the launch of Gloss, an innovation combining colour and treatment.

— In the past, if you wanted to have conditioner or repair and colour, we relied on a colour conditioner. Here, we take the Bond Builders in a hair colour with two unique protein chains which rebuild the hair from the inside out and colour it. That protein chain is the most innovative thing because it permanents the hair colour and repairs and strengthens from the inside out. It works on the same principle as laser — it’s like laser in your hair.


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