After 25 years working on haircare brands for Procter & Gamble and L’Oréal, Sonsoles Gonzalez knows a thing or two about hair.
But when the former global brand franchise leader for Pantene began noticing changes in her own hair when she hit her late 40s — thinner, drier strands and less volume — she struggled to find products that met her changing needs. What few products exist are uninspired, overly clinical or designed to cover the signs of the grays.
So, like a lot of entrepreneurs, Gonzales used her knowledge and passion to create a solution herself for women like her. At the age of 54 — she calls herself a “fiftypreneur” — she launched Better Not Younger (BNY) a revolutionary haircare collection developed to address both the signs and the root causes of aging hair. With BNY, she’s on a mission to change the way the beauty industry thinks of women as they age.
“The fact is that there aren’t many haircare brands out there that are talking to women over 40 and addressing the fact that their hair really changes with age,” says Sonsoles. And 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 she can look better without looking younger.”
The BNY line includes 12 products — shampoos, conditioners, serums, stylers and supplements — that address the many aspects of aging hair and scalp. We had the chance to talk with Gonzalez about her new haircare line and her efforts to change the way the beauty industry views women over 45.
We Spend 2.5 Times More
AGEIST: Why do you think the over-45 market has been underserved/ignored?
Gonzalez: Large CPGs (consumer product companies) have a playbook to go after the largest demographic they can influence. They want to get them young and keep them for life. There was a belief that after a certain age it’s hard to change their minds. Most companies focus on the most evident changes in hair — going gray — and nothing else. There is a lot of technology in hair coloring.
That’s really changing as the population of women over 45 has gotten bigger. And we spend 2.5 times more than the average consumer, and 85 percent of us are willing to try new cosmetic products. Marketers are starting to realize this demographic is the super consumer: she’s spending money, she cares how she looks and she’s willing to try new things.
AGEIST: Tell me how you came up with the idea for BNY.
A Non-Apologetic Brand
Gonzalez: I spent my whole professional career at P&G and L’Oréal working in beauty and haircare and have a lot of experience with the category. On a personal level, I started feeling my hair changing in my late 40s. It was getting thinner and thinner. I looked at my young daughters’ hair and thought, “That used to be my hair.”
I started looking for products for me and there weren’t any. I knew from my own experience in the category that brands didn’t focus on this consumer. They weren’t doing any research and development. I realized there is really a space in this market, and I can create a brand around this. I wanted a brand that addressed these changes but also spoke to me in a relatable, contemporary and non-apologetic package.
I knew the areas of the hair and scalp we wanted to work with. I hired a scientist who helped with the formulations and brought it to life.
Wanting to Feel Better, Not Younger
AGEIST: How did you come up with the name?
Gonzalez: Early on, we were working with a boutique agency, and when I briefed them, I described the woman we were creating this for and how she felt. We talked about how this woman wants to feel better about herself, but doesn’t want to be younger. I honestly never thought it would be the name.
One day, when we were brainstorming, I decided we should call it Better Not Younger because I don’t think there are brands in the category that reflect the purpose of the brand as well as that name. I really like it.
AGEIST: How does hair change with age?
Gonzalez: Physiologically, the hair changes a lot with age. Hormones cause follicles to shrink, making them thinner. There is less sebum being produced, so the hair gets drier. And we’re coloring our hair more, which is hard on the hair and scalp. We’re also still styling our hair (she straightens her hair regularly) when our hair is weaker and more vulnerable. BNY addresses both the signs and the causes of aging hair, supporting both the scalp and the hair.
The Anti Anti-Aging Brand
AGEIST: Many beauty companies have been focused on an anti-aging message, but there is a trend toward age empowerment. Is that your focus with BNY?
Gonzalez: Yes, we call ourselves the anti anti-aging brand. Our mission is to change the narrative in the industry about women and aging. We don’t feel like the industry is representing us. It’s telling us, “You have to be younger to be beautiful.” Too often we’re misrepresented with old stereotypes of elderly women with their grandchildren. I look at those images and think, “That’s not me.” We want to empower women to celebrate their hair and feel good about their age.
I feel like it’s starting to change. As we’re seeing gender equality, we’re seeing a move toward age equality. I always say that the future is female, and the future will be female and over 50.
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