Insights / Haircare
”I call it ’The Matrix’!”
On how science is continuously revolutionizing how we care for our hair
21 Mar 2023

Who are you?

— I’m the global creative director for Living Proof, responsible for product development, shoots, and the look of what we’re doing. Our brand is based in MIT science and we’re really having a moment right now with our shampoos and conditioners, after pandemic and everything that we’ve been through. The care of the hair has become more important than the quick styler. It’s not that we don’t have stylers — they still do very well — but we’re finding that care is really what’s working best for us right now, Corby shares. He continues:

— Triple Bond Complex, which we’ve just launched, is a great example. We’re obviously not the first to make a bond builder (various haircare products that chemically repair the hair’s damaged and broken protein bonds, Ed’s note) but with our team of MIT scientists, we went to really figure out what’s going on with bonds, and how we can be different. We’ve come up with a way to connect all three types of bonds and whether you have broken or healthy bonds, we can actually make new bonds and make your hair eight times stronger. It works in 10 minutes. Nobody has anywhere been near that claim.

Triple Bond Complex.

You obviously have your specialities and we can get back to that but from an industry perspective, what’s big within science and haircare now?

— That a lot of people are jumping on to the science program, says Corby. Everything you see on the market, both in Mass and more Prestige, has a science story. When I look at us as a brand, we rarely take something from a marketing idea and then create it. Instead, we usually work from discoveries and what they can do and how they will impact our customers. It’s a different approach. And, I would say that more people are probably going to start doing that. We’re getting more toward a problem-solution situation and the biggest trend I see is bespoke solutions, getting a product that has different performance on different hair types so that each customer can find their own bespoke solution. Both women and men want more from one product, and this move towards science means that the customer is much smarter. I’ve been doing this forever — I won’t say for how long — but being in Beverly Hills in the 80s, we could say anything and sell anything just because I said so. Now, everyone’s like a two-year-old baby: ’Why?’ ’How come?’ ’Why?’ And it’s smart that people are asking questions…

We see a lot of biotech coming into skincare but it’s perhaps not as common within haircare. How do you work with it?

— It’s really how we’re born. Our scalp products balance the bacteria on your scalp and if you think about something you’re taking with probiotics for your stomach, we’re doing much of that with haircare now. I think it’s very easy for companies to find a science and then ride that science pony. But if you find that thing, that can’t be the thing for all people and to all hair types — you have to continuously evolve. If I was told that I had some disease and my doctor said: ’Don’t worry, I’ve got something from 1975 for you, it’s the best from 1975.’ You wouldn’t want that, right? You would want evolved sciences, the latest and greatest. And we feel that that’s what people want.

How do you work with the science you mentioned in your daily operations?

— The labs are, really, half of our offices, including a Discovery department where we’re developing our own molecules. So, we’re not really following a trend or an ingredient but developing our own in there. After partnerships with MIT and Harvard, we now have a new one, with P2, which is through Yale. So yes, we’re going for all the Ivy Leagues! Together with P2, we’ll continue developing molecules and utilize some other ones that they already have in development to move the needle on science. Most of our scientists are women, which I think helps us to make products that are useful to anyone who has more than just super short hair since they think about things like: ’Is this something I need?’ 

They can make a personal reference as a consumer. 

— Yes, exactly. We also have something quite special; between our marketing department and the laboratories is something we call The Res. It’s the Research and Development Centre where we’re paying people all day long to come in and get their hair done with our products. Take the Curl franchise as an example, where we had 1,200 people coming in and out, asking them to bring the things that they use for their own hair. What we found is that the curly customer is insanely loyal. And also, which was the main opportunity for us, was that people weren’t dealing with the lack of strength in their curly hair, so we thought that we should work towards making curly hair stronger.

It is damaged, after all. 

— It is damaged. If you think about it, straight hair grows just nicely straight out from the follicle while curly hair actually grows in a series of bends. So, you have protein concentrations on the inside of the bend and then other parts are exposed and weak. It’s just like straws which you bend — that’s what curly hair is doing. If you bend the straw, it’s ’proteinized’ and very strong in one part of it and then it’s weak and open on the outside of it. So that’s what’s going on with your hair.

And which is the most interesting technology for you right now?

— I would say the ’3D network’ and 3D technology in the Triple Bond. I call it the Matrix! It’s not only about fixing broken things and to me, it’s so crazy to think we’re actually building brand-new bonds. I call it bionic hair and for me, that’s the future, Shawn Corby states. He continues:

— I think people are more understanding that many things related to skin could relate to hair as well. Keratin is dead, yes, but it’s about the way it grows and keeping the scalp nourished — a healthy scalp grows healthier hair. So I would look for more along those lines from us as well as those bespoke solutions in each of our franchises. I’d say you haven’t seen anything yet. We already have 40 patents — now we have 22 more in the pipeline.

Michael Shawn Corby’s key takeaways

— Science-backed products are taking over various market segments
— Curly customers are ’insanely loyal’
— Huge growth potential for problem-soluting and bespoke products