Hair-care executive Sonsoles Gonzalez recalls sitting around a table with her marketing team, working on products focused exclusively on the 18-to-44 market.
“I remember asking what happens to women 45 and older. Do they disappear?,” recalls Gonzales, who spent 25 years of working on haircare brands for Procter & Gamble and L’Oréal.
She said it jokingly, but for Gonzales, in her 50s, that joke was no longer funny. “That’s me,” she says.
I see aging as a daily opportunity to look better and I wanted a brand that spoke to an empowered woman.
Unfortunately, in the eyes of many brands, women like her—and the rest of us—have been all but invisible. The few brands that have addressed aging hair too often felt clinical or were cloaked in silver branding—gray-haired retirees toddling around with their grandchildren.
Gonzalez, 54, hopes to change that with Better Not Younger (BNY)—a haircare line she just launched to meet the needs of women like her, whose body and hair may have changed as they’ve aged.
“We’re on a mission to change the industry,” says Gonzalez. “Although aging women have unique needs, they don’t love brands that point it out. I see aging as a daily opportunity to look better, and I wanted a brand that spoke to an empowered woman that believes you can look better without looking younger, because in my opinion this woman is not being served.”
The BNY line includes 12 products that address the many aspects of aging hair and scalp. The products have fun names—Super Star, Second Chance, Super Power—and elegant packaging with a pop of color. “I might be old but I’m not beige,” she laughs.
When she searched for products to address her thinning hair, she couldn’t find any.
Born and raised in Venezuela, Gonzalez calls herself a “fiftypreneur.” She joins the growing ranks of women who launch their own ventures after the age of 50. For Gonzalez, like a lot of entrepreneurs, the spark was something affecting her own life, in her case the changes she saw in her hair in her late 40s.
“I saw it getting thinner and thinner,” she says. “I have young daughters and I looked at how thick their hair was, and I realized that used to be my hair.”
When she searched for products to address her thinning hair, she couldn’t find any. From her own experience in the haircare industry—she was Pantene’s global president—she knew little research and development had been done on consumers over 45. What products did exist focused on the most evident change to the hair—hair color to cover gray. But there wasn’t anything else.
“I thought, there is really a space in the market,” says Gonzalez. “I can create a brand around this”
Using her own ideas and the help of an MIT-trained chemist, she created BNY’s range of shampoos, conditioners, serums, stylers, and supplements. Each was created to address the root causes of why our scalp and hair change with age.
The Ripple Effect?
Gonzelez hopes that BNY will have a ripple effect within the beauty industry, encouraging more companies to go after the 45-and-older market.
Up until now, the strategy for most beauty brands was to hook consumers young and keep them for life. Marketers believed that after a certain age, it’s hard to change a consumer’s mind.
What women are telling us is they don’t want to be younger, they just want to look better.
But savvy brands are increasingly seeing value of the consumer, fueled by data that shows she cares about how she looks, she spends money and she’s willing to try new things. “We spend 2.5 times more than the average consumer,” says Gonzalez. “And 85 percent are willing to try new cosmetic products.”
Too often—through messaging and images—beauty brands send a message that youth equals beauty. “What women are telling us is they don’t want to be younger, they just want to look better,” she says. “They feel confident in their own skin and know what works for them—from their jeans to their hairstyle.”
Gonzalez says she wants to make sure it doesn’t fall into the all-too-common trap of airbrushing away wrinkles and creating an idealized and unrealistic image of what a woman over 50 should look like. When looking for models for a photo shoot, she found a dearth of over-50 models to choose from. Her husband suggested she ask her friends, which was a successful strategy. She says the photos are truly authentic, with no retouching.
“We like to call ourselves the anti anti-aging brand,” she says.