I must have tried a gazillion hair masks in my day. You can virtually hear my bleached-to-high-heaven hair slurping them up from the next county. But just sometimes, I try a product that makes me do a double-take – and It’s A 10 Miracle Mask was one of them. From distressed to silk-tressed, in a few minutes: that’s the best way I can put it. Converted, delighted and surprised, I then figured I’d try something else in the range – the spritz-on conditioner that’s had the beauty world buzzing.
Now, no leave-in conditioner on the planet has ever managed to smooth and soften my monstrously hungry hair to my satisfaction – till It’s A 10 Leave-In Conditioner, which turned my feelings about leave-in conditioners upside-down. And I’m really not kidding here. (Which is of course, duh, why it’s America’s bestselling leave-in product, with 13 million sold every year.)
Who ARE these guys?, I started to ask. And then Gill – brand-sleuthing Indiana Jones of the beauty world that she is – told me It’s A 10 would be landing on Victoria Health, and would I like to interview the founder & CEO, Carolyn Aronson…? You betcha, I replied. So: one seriously fun Zoom call later (not something you can often say, actually), here’s the gen on this just-landed-at-VH haircare name and its dynamic founder.
What made you think the world needed ANOTHER haircare line?
My whole career was spent as a hairdresser, behind the chair for 20 years with my own salon. I started in beauty school at the age of 16, having been torn between being a nurse and a hairdresser; hairdressing won and I’ve lived and breathed hair for over 30 years. This isn’t my first venture – my first company completely failed and I lost everything, so I started It’s A 10 from nothing. It was born out of the fact that when I had my salon, I used to cherry-pick the best products from different lines; I could never understand why there wasn’t one range that did everything I needed it to. Well, now there is!
Why the name?
It comes from the idea that every single It’s A 10 product offers 10 different, easy-to-understand hair benefits. I wanted to create hair products that worked across many different hairtypes, rather than a complicated range with too many different collections that just bamboozled the customer. Working as a hairdresser with every type of hair on the planet from the finest baby blonde to black coils has given me an insight into how to create a hybrid hair product that would work across multiple hairtypes, something that was easy for the customer to grasp. Even hairdressers get confused by the ranges out there! I would layer products to get the results I wanted; my products do it all, in one. At the beginning, we had no budget for advertising or promotion, so we just got it into hairdressers’ hands – and it became a huge word-of-mouth hit, in salons and beyond.
What’s your fundamental philosophy for the range?
It all begins with healthy hair. We help you bring hair to its natural, healthy state, nourishing the scalp, protecting with antioxidants, protecting the hair shaft… When you do that, natural body is restored, hair will behave better – and I’ve had countless women tell me their hair grows better and faster, including many black customers who we’ve reunited with their roots because It’s A 10 has enabled them to return to their beautiful, natural hair state. Most haircare just delivers cosmetic benefits, but the idea behind It’s A 10 is that it really feeds the hair. So depending on the particular product, we pack it with ingredients like sunflower seeds, panthenol, silk amino acids, green tea leaf extract, sweet almond oil, linseed extract, marshmallow extract, oat kernel extract… It’s not an organic line but I am very particular about the ingredients within products, and we source these botanical wonder ingredients literally from all over the world.
How involved are you in the creation of the products?
I am very appreciative of the experts, I partake in their knowledge, but to me it’s like building a house: you want your dream house, and nobody understands what you want like you do. All my years behind the chair made It’s A 10 what it is. I am totally hands-on; I develop each and every product, pick every fragrance, every Pantone colour for the bottles – and incidentally, it’s no coincidence that the bottles are colour-coded, because I wanted to stand out from the other products out there.
You live in Florida now, but where did it all begin for Carolyn?
I grew up in Michigan, with lots of snow – and let me tell you, I prefer the Florida sunshine. But Michigan was a very diversified area, which meant I was working with many, many different types of hair. There are many, many different types of hair even within my own family, my own kids; I am Puerto Rican so I have brothers with Afros, and my blended family of kids have different hairtypes; my biological daughter is half-Nigerian and half-Puerto Rican, so they’re great for trialling products on a range of hairtypes, outside our own team.
Why IS our hair so bound up with our confidence?
It’s part of our identity. When we feel pulled-together and groomed, we just beam. It’s totally an expression of who we are. I got into hairdressing, to make people feel and look beautiful. And it just doesn’t matter who you are. I have several brothers, and during lockdown one of them drove across the border to Ohio, an hour south of Michigan, to get a haircut, because he didn’t want to have an Afro again. So this isn’t just something that impacts on women!
You’re a female founder and a mother of four, though. How do you keep healthy, so that you’re not running on empty while running your business?
It’s so crucial to stay at the top of your game when you have your own company, because so many people rely on you. Diet is very important to me. I’m not perfect, but I try to eat lots of protein and lots of veg, and stay away from sugar. If I drink, it’s limited amounts otherwise I really suffer the next day. I go through workout phases; sometimes I get busy and can’t work out but when I do, I like to build muscle. I watch my weight, but it’s more important to keep my body strong. My grooming routine is also a huge part of my mental wellbeing. So I get up every morning, wash my hair, do it properly, put oils on my skin, use body scrubs, style my hair and do my make-up. I am not very good at relaxing but I can relax in a bathtub in an oil bath, and breathe. I’m out of whack if I don’t do this stuff. My other solace is to float on the ocean in a boat. I love the outdoors, and I love the ocean.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I like to make people not only feel and look better, but feel empowered. Because it may be a cliché but when you have a Good Hair Day, it’s a good day, full-stop. And if it’s a Bad Hair Day, it puts a little cloud over you…