When Michael Gordon, a New York City transplant and dedicated yogi founded Bumble & Bumble in 1977, little did he know he had launched a hair empire that would spawn an array of hair products, a haircutting school, and endless fashion designer collaborations. His Bumble & Bumble Surf Spray inspired a legion of imitators.
Gordon, sold the company to Estée Lauder in 2000. He then took some time to think, do lots of yoga, make a film about Vidal Sassoon. It all led to an epiphany: everything he had created at Bumble & Bumble was to counteract the damage caused by the detergents in shampoo. The co-washing trend—basically using only conditioner to (try to) clean your hair—was evidence that people were catching on and wanted an alternative.
And this was the start of Gordon’s second empire, the cornerstone of which is New Wash (originally launched in 2013 as Purely Perfect; rebranded, reformulated and re-released in 2015). It contains no sodium lauryl sulfate, a sudsing detergent used by nearly every company on earth that makes cleansers, including Method and the The Honest Company. But many people find it irritating, and Gordon says it’s terrible for your hair, drying it out and perpetuating the need for endless hair products.
Because New Wash is so gentle and packs in so many good-for-hair ingredients, it’s the only product you’ll need—no conditioner, no masks. Skeptical? So was I. I have very long, thick, highlighted and colored hair, and it’s historically impossible to comb through without conditioner. But when I met Gordon at a panel discussion at StyleSeat’s headquarters in San Francisco, he promised I would not need conditioner.
He was right. I’ve gone from using shampoo and gobs of conditioner, plus a styling balm, plus a mask at least once a week, to using only New Wash. I comb it through in the shower and the comb glides effortlessly through. My scalp feels tingly and clean, and my hair looks and feels shiny, soft and healthier than ever. When I noticed my free sample was nearly gone, I re-upped with the $90 Fan Club subscription (paid for out-of-pocket), which includes a refillable stainless-steel bottle.
Gordon has also created Hairstory, an online media outlet and physical space in New York City where independent hairstylists in can learn Hairstory methods and even cash in on sales of the brand’s four products, which also include an air-drying balm, a blow-dry cream, and a texturizing spray. Read on to learn more in my interview with Gordon.
What makes New Wash different from shampoo or conditioner? Did you work with scientists on the formulation? Can you talk a bit about how you chose the ingredients? Are the ingredients all non toxic?
“To put it really simply, the magic here is not what’s in New Wash, but what isn’t in it. What people don’t realize is that what’s in shampoo, no matter the price, is essentially water and some version of sodium lauryl sulfate or a derivative of that. Surfactants that are used, whether they are sulfate free or not, if they foam, they will dry your hair out.
New Wash is a combination of aloe vera and essential oils and doesn’t have detergent, doesn’t foam, doesn’t strip hair but effectively cleans hair and scalp. It’s not a co-wash, it cleans hair thoroughly, simply, but leaves hair feeling much better than before without the use of conditioner. When you touch your hair after using New Wash you can immediately feel a difference. The other amazing part is that it works equally well on any hair type: very fine, color treated, naturally thick, curly, African American hair, Latina hair. We’ve never found a hair type that it doesn’t work on.
Think about that in comparison to the endless new shampoos that companies are constantly releasing. There are so many that you lose count, all of them claiming to address a certain type of ‘problem’ with your hair that doesn’t exist. The problem here is basically caused by detergent. Detergent is very bad for hair and scalp, it encourages the scalp to get oilier quicker which means that you’ll have to wash your hair more often. With New Wash you’ll find that you need to wash it less frequently and that your hair will have a lot more bounce and life to it.”
How does it work? My hair is damaged from lightening it… how does the product counteract that?
“If you think about it, coloring your hair is an aggressive process, even more so if it’s bleached or highlighted, so putting detergent on your hair is going to aggravate it even further. Since New Wash does not contain detergent of any kind it doesn’t contain the agitators which strip the hair in the first place, and as a result, New Wash actually helps to preserve your color longer. New Wash is particularly effective on color treated hair, in fact, you’ll notice that it immediately improves the quality of your hair. For those people who do color, we also often recommend using a bit of our Hair Balm after you wash. It is a moisturizing and conditioning creme which is fantastic for air drying.”
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