Beauty launches are all similarly extravagant: A parade of publicists and executives make speeches using key words like “innovative” or “ground breaking”, there’s a promotional video, a slideshow filled with flawed data, loads of food, tons of beverages, maybe a flamenco dancer or two -- you get the idea. Beauty is a behemoth and since the market is saturated, each company needs to partake in a bit of showboating to make their butt lifting creams and miracle face serums stand out in a crowd.
I’m a beauty curmudgeon in the sense that I don’t drink the industry Kool-Aid. I’m not impressed by fancy events because at the end of the day, I only care about results. I’m an avid tester, notoriously picky and I love weeding through the B.S. and finding a gem that backs up their grandiose claims.
My latest obsession is a hair care line that lived up to the hype. Purely Perfect quietly launched during the winter and is the brainchild of Bumble & Bumble founder Michael Gordon. My meeting with the hair guru and his publicist Kim Smith was my second press preview of the day and unlike the presentation I attended earlier that morning, there were no bells and whistles. We had a straight-to-the-point, low-key chat at his sprawling loft on Liberty Street to discuss his latest venture. I sat on a sofa about the size of my living room, sipped coffee and watched a myriad of slim, attractive hipster types wander about. Gordon is a man of few words, so Smith was his mouthpiece and gave me the rundown on the line. After Gordon sold Bumble & Bumble to Estee Lauder in 2006, he created a company called Hairstory in 2009, which is part hair salon, part product company and part creative melting pot (this explains the random pretty people walking around).
Essentially, Smith explained how conventional shampoos cause stripping and dryness, which leaves hair begging for conditioner. Of course I heard this before.
She then claimed the non-foaming, detergent-free cleanser (don’t call it a shampoo!) loaded with essential oils was so nourishing, conditioners and masques were obsolete. The motto is, “The First Cleanser That Won’t F*** Up Your Hair.” As she described how the line changed her hair and leaves strands free of buildup, I said to myself, “Here’s another publicist playing her violin.” Smith is white with short hair and I’m black with long hair. Even though my hair is relaxed, I still use about six products on average to keep the pouf at bay. I was skeptical that one cleanser and two styling products could do the trick. After I toured the facility and made small talk with the staff, I promised Smith I would give the line a fair shake and would report the results in about a month.
Testing day: I hopped in the shower and did a quick lather. Despite the anti-foaming rhetoric, I’m still a sucker for suds, so at first I couldn’t tell if I applied enough. Am I washing my hair? Is this doing anything? I had no idea what was going on, but as soon as I rinsed, I felt the difference. My hair was soft and slick and I immediately felt warm and fuzzy on the inside. After I rinsed lather two, I proceeded with my usual towel dry, which at times leaves my hair a tangled mess. I ran the comb from the crown to the ends with ease and without hitting a single snag along the way. I worked in a pump of the Foundation Crème (leave-in moisturizer) and Smooth Finish (for heat styling), did a quick blow dry and curl (no flatiron) and voila- my hair was über straight, smooth, shiny and bouncy after using only three products instead of the usual half dozen.
After testing countless shampoos over a 14-year period -- both high end and mass market -- I’ve never had my mind blown after a single use. I’m fond of L’Oréal’s Liss Ultime and Mizani’s Thermasmooth and Moisturfusion lines, but neither sparked me to send a, “ DDDDDDUUUUDDDEEE, you HAVE to test this shampoo I just used!” text message to my best friend in Italy.