SAN FRANCISCO— Women are on track to spend about $1 billion to have their hair professionally straightened, and Helen of Troy is planning to leverage this trend by offering a retail product for home use. Salons are straightening hair via such patented systems as Thermal Reconditioning, which originated in Japan and has been in the U.S. for about four years. Those who undergo one of these treatments purportedly can then straighten hair at home in minutes. With the launch of its new Ionicare system, Helen of Troy seeks to offer a less expensive option than a salon straightening treatment. “A lot of people who have this done have frizzy, uncontrollable hair that is really nasty and difficult to work with,” said Jeff Katz, marketing director at Helen of Troy. “They are willing to shell out $500 to get silky smooth hair not affected by humidity.” Professional treatments typically involve various liquids and a straightening iron, and can take up to six hours and cost more than $1,000. Such treatments lasts until new hair grows in, usually about four months. Women who don’t undergo such treatments often can take up to 90 minutes to straighten their hair. Safety and dramatically reduced styling time were chief considerations in the Ionicare development. After using Ionicare once, consumers will be able to replenish their straightened hair in about 10 minutes with a flat iron, said Katz, adding the results will last up to 8 weeks. The Ionicare kit includes a single treatment of the active hair-straightening ingredient created via the ionic reaction of a powder and liquid combination. Also included are a specially formulated shampoo and conditioner and a pro-grade ceramic flat iron. To use the system, the consumer shampoos and towel-dries her hair, then pours the included liquid into the powder, creating an ionic reaction that turns the bottle cold. The active ingredient is applied to the hair, and the hair is combed straight for about 10 minutes. Then the hair is rinsed, conditioned, and styled with the flat iron. Obtaining 80% of the professional result was the goal. “We wanted to cut the styling time down to about 12 minutes and also wanted some benefit regarding humidity,” Katz said. Ionicare also includes a how-to video, combs and a mirror. The minimum advertised price is $99.99. Helen of Troy plans to sell liquids separately. Ionicare will launch with a half-hour infomercial in June. By Mother’s Day, select department and specialty store accounts will have the Ionicare product. A full rollout is planned for the fourth quarter. “We want two to three months to build demand on TV,” said Katz. Helen of Troy expects to launch several products under the Ionicare name featuring liquids combined with appliances.
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