In the Age of the 100-year Life, We Aim to Develop Hair Colors for Regular Use by Gray-haired Women

In July 2020, LUVIONA, a series of hair colors for the gray-haired to give them sleek hair and a healthy scalp, added new colors to expand its color selection to seven shades and 37 colors. Today, LUVIONA is used at barbershops and beauty salons across Japan. In this new age of the 100-year life, middle-aged women who live in the moment have more complex concerns and needs regarding their hair- and scalp-care than ever. To help them live a beautiful, healthy life, what can we do as a manufacturer of professional haircare products? We interviewed two of our employees, who tackled this question from the angle of colors (dyes) for gray hair.

Kentaro Okamoto, researcher
Laboratory 1, Cosmetics Research & Development Dept., LebeL Business Unit.

In terms of basic product development, research on colors for gray hair is similar to
drug discovery research for aging-related diseases

At a graduate school of pharmaceutical sciences, I majored in clinical pharmacology. My mentors were a professor whose main field was internal medicine and an associate professor who specialized in neuropharmacology. Studying under them, I focused on drug discovery research for aging-related diseases, including diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Most of the other students in the same year at the graduate school aspired to be researchers at pharmaceutical companies. Unlike them, I was interested in beauty care, and took a recruitment exam for Takara Belmont, which I passed. As a college student, I used to go to a certain beauty salon, and I admired a beautician who worked there. When I told him that I had passed the employment exam for Takara Belmont, he congratulated me saying, “Good for you! That’s a really great company.” So I joined the company. For the eight years since I started working here, I have devoted myself solely to research on hair colors. I have been engaged in the recently launched LUVIONA from the phase of basic research. I used to study diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other aging-induced diseases, and now am researching gray hair. These fields may seem quite unrelated, but my previous knowledge of pharmaceutical sciences now helps me in my work on colors for gray hair. When you develop hair colors, you are always faced with the research challenge of dealing with scalp irritation. I believe that research on colors for gray hair is basically similar to drug discovery research. In both fields, we assume that aging is an inevitable process for us humans, and aim to figure out how to deal with this process and what products serve the purpose, rather than taking the term “aging” negatively.


Diligence led to formula modification No. 53

Early in my research career, I once devised a formula that would give so much bounce and firmness to hair that the hair would straighten out unnaturally, and my senior colleagues scolded me severely. Ms. Matsuno, the Manager, in particular, shot the formula down saying, “Can you really imagine what would happen to customers’ hair if they used this? Who on earth would buy such a thing?!” (Smiles wryly.) When I saw the test results, I realized that the criticism was fully warranted. Discovering so many corrections needed to be made, however, I felt galvanized to rectify them all by myself.

Later, in the process of developing LUVIONA, I engaged in the repeated process of giving prototype samples to external cooperative salons, receiving feedback, and making modifications. Before I knew it, I had made 53 modified versions. I feel that behind my eager attitude toward developing LUVIONA and other products lay this advice from my mentors back in my graduate school days: dedicate yourself diligently to your research, and give thorough thought to the results.

Kazuko Matsuno, Manager
Product Development Section, Cosmetics Marketing Dept., LebeL Div.

Pursuing ideal additional services to accompany gray-hair coloring from the client’s perspective

I have been engaged in the development of LUVIONA products since the summer of 2014, when I myself was entering middle age. It all started when I was unable to find any ideal services for my gray hair. So why don’t I make them? I thought, and I launched the LUVIONA series. As I work for a company that manufactures and sells brand-name cosmetics exclusively to beauty salons, I am very well aware of the circumstances in salons. Nevertheless, I sometimes visited a salon without an appointment or, after setting foot in one, changed my mind about the pre-ordered services. When I glanced at the service menu at a salon and asked for a head spa on a whim, my request was often declined because the time slots were booked up. As I work on weekdays, I can only visit a salon on weekends or holidays. I wanted to have extra services available when I visited a salon to have my gray hair colored—a rich variety of services that could easily be squeezed into my short stay at the salon at any time. I believed that such ideal services would be welcomed by barbershops and beauty salons as well as by their clients.

Gray-hair coloring is “true anti-aging care”*

When I started the LUVIONA project, I was entering middle age myself. I asked myself for days what gray-hair coloring actually was. I also pondered why gray-haired women colored their hair. I thought about these questions hard and arrived at an answer: gray-hair coloring is “true anti-aging care,” which is why women color their gray hair.

There was once an anti-aging hair care boom, but when it comes to aging, most women are more concerned about their skin than their hair, and invest more in anti-aging products for their skin than for their hair. In fact, however, gray hair is the most obvious sign of aging, since your gray hair is easily noticeable. In my case, I became aware of my aging for the first time when I found a few streaks of gray hair on my head, and I thought I should take good care of my hair. So I believed that an offer of comprehensive anti-aging coloring services for gray hair would be more readily accepted than simple gray-hair dyeing. Moreover, as Japan is well on its way to becoming an aging society, these comprehensive anti-aging coloring services for gray hair are needed not only by consumers but also by barbershops and beauty salons for business stability.

*Age-appropriate hair care

An idea to make the 30-minute waiting time worthwhile

Although it took us about two-and-a-half years to launch LUVIONA onto the market, we developed some of the items in an uncommonly short time—about four months from conception to formulation. In those days, my work was really hectic: I just went to the office, visited the lab and salons, and came straight home. When we completed the products, I was sure they would definitely be appreciated.

What we struggled with the most was the development of LUVIONA Scalp Moisture, an agent to be used before applying the color. We designed this item to not only serve as a pre-coloring agent for the scalp but also to provide the effect of a quick head spa. If you have ever had your hair colored, you will know that you need to wait a while until the hair color properly fixes in your hair. This processing time is an integral part of the coloring procedure, but clients need to kill their boredom during this time. I wanted to somehow make it worthwhile to them.

What if LUVIONA Scalp Moisture, which is applied as a pre-coloring agent, were to penetrate into the stratum corneum and provide scalp care while you were having your hair colored? Then, the 30 minutes you used to simply idle away would become more productive. I believe our success in such product development from the customer’s viewpoint comprises the skeleton of LUVIONA.

Hair colors for regular use by gray-haired women make their lives more enjoyable. What hair colors for gray hair do these two pursue?

Okamoto: My future dream is to research and develop hair colors that are super gentle to the scalp but have super-strong dyeing power. What matters more than anything is that they can be used by anyone. I believe that this is a crucial element of hair colors for gray hair. I hope to devote myself to such dream products in the future.

Matsuno: From a product developer’s standpoint, I would like to stay thoroughly committed to damage reduction and strive to develop dream products with Okamoto.

I believe that hair colors for regular use by gray-haired women give them the joy of enjoying different hairstyles and the pleasure of having their hair permed. I would be happy if our products could help these women believe that life becomes more enjoyable as you get older.

The ability to be used regularly is an appealing value. We believe this will not only serve female clients who enjoy having their gray hair colored, but also become a key pillar to support the management base of salons that have been struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.