What was the true start to K18?
I became obsessed with studying the science behind hair damage. That led me down the rabbit hole. I started buying a lot of academic books on biochemistry, the physics of hair—trying to understand what happens to hair that’s most vulnerable (when it’s wet). It’s the most overlooked element of hair care—yet it has the biggest impact. Through this research, I learned that chemically compromised hair is the most in danger of damage.
Searching for a solve to this damage, I started studying the keratin chains and disulfide bonds inside the hair. I collaborated with Dr. Elsa Jungman, who has her own skincare brand. We knew there had to be another path to healing hair damage from the inside out, in the same way people were thinking about skincare. There had to be a way to make the hair robust from the inside for better looking and feeling hair on the outside.
So we asked, “is there a way a peptide can enter hair and repair its biological function?”
We came across a research paper by a team of biological engineers out of Portugal that was led by Professor Artur M. Cavaco-Paulo. What we had been working on for the last two years, he had been doing for more than ten.
We connected with his team, and that’s where we then began working together. He had scanned the entire genome that makes up human hair DNA, analyzing all of these sequences. He discovered the one peptide that repaired those broken keratin chains responsible for weakened hair structure— the most revolutionary thing was that this peptide reconnected broken keratin chains and stayed put, not washing away with water or shampoo. That’s where biomimetics comes in. Bioscience really is driving everything—life, humanity. It’s the root of so much.
What was it like the first time you used it on your hair?
Once we discovered and patented the K18Peptide ™ it was then a long process to bottle it and turn it into a product. We shared samples with our team around 2017, and then we went through a learning curve, figuring out how it works on the hair and how to optimize usage. Learning that you couldn’t use conditioner in the shower...that you had to let it set for four minutes...we had to learn the ins and outs of how the peptide worked best. Then we tested it out on color, in salons in Australia, and with L’Oreal educators. It started off as a way to heal damaged hair, but then along the way we saw how valuable it would also be paired with color or bleaching services.
The final mask formulation was when we really saw the elasticity come back to the hair. It had bounce and shine and a life of its own in a way we had never seen with anything else.
There’s this eternal struggle between hair looking good and hair feeling good. The past 100 years in the hair industry, people just think if hair looks good, it’s healthy. Hair is struggling with the products and the routines that we’ve been taught to rely on, and because it’s actually not what’s best for hair, we in turn continue to struggle with our hair and not achieve the results we wanted. When I saw that the hair looked good and felt good after using K18, I knew this was the future of haircare.
What is wrong with hair-healers in the market today?
Everything up to this point has been all about cosmetic chemistry, and most recently repairing bonds. It’s a lot like how skincare was in the ‘90s. It was all about masking imperfections to look good, instead of focusing on the problem and repair at the core.
We’ve discovered it has to be biochemistry to truly heal hair because that’s what reaches the damage on a deeper level. Cosmetic chemistry only addressing the issues on a surface level and doesn’t actually impact hair’s health. K18 penetrates the hair and heals every element of it inside and out.
You talk a lot about hair freedom, what does that mean to you?
Self-expression is so important and I think we all want to say something with our hair or our style. Trying out new colors or hair artistry, straightening hair, perming it, all of those expressions also chemically compromise hair. And if normal, untreated hair can’t handle all the products you put on it, your bleached or chemically treated hair definitely can’t. Up until now, people have always had to make the choice—healthy hair, or the hair that looks the way I want it to. You’re always losing something when you have to choose between expression or damage.
If you had healthy hair as a base, and a product that brought hair back to that healthy state from the inside out, you could have the hair you want. We want to create a world where you can change your hair as often as you change your clothes and not think twice about it. And stylists will have an easier time providing that when they can start with a healthy canvas. With K18 they can spend more time creating magic with less effort.
What are some innovators that inspire you?
Tesla is an amazing example of innovation. It’s not about a car, it’s about how to manage mobility in a different way. SpaceX has reimagined every dimension of space innovation. I’m less interested in beauty in the traditional sense, it’s those kinds of companies that inspire us.
What do you see for K18 in the future?
What’s most meaningful to me right now is when a stylist uses K18 and says that this is something they’ve never experienced before. That they can delight their customer and do it in less time, that is so fulfilling for me to hear. When someone’s client leaves the salon feeling amazing, when someone says that their hair not only looks good but feels good, that is a key differentiator. That shows me that what we have is something really innovative and special.