A product from OWA’s shampoo range
Liquid shampoo contains, on average, around 80% of water. And in an increasingly water-stricken world, that can have a considerable impact on natural resources.
Kailey Bradt, a 26-year-old originally from New York, wants to challenge the status quo and make non-liquid shampoo the norm.
“I’ve even seen hair gel formulas made up of 95% water. Why? Well that’s what I asked myself and when I couldn’t find a good answer I decided to reinvent liquid products, starting with shampoo.”
Bradt’s company OWA Haircare launched in June 2019, to make water-activated personal products.
OWA’s haircare innovation is unique, says Bradt, because most of it has occurred in the professional space.
“What we’re doing in haircare hasn’t been done in this format before,” Bradt continues. “There are solid shampoo and conditioner bars, but that’s where the lines stop. There are no styling products. The solid bar format doesn’t present any opportunity in the professional space.
“Water-activated powder haircare is a completely new format with new opportunities for sustainability, travel and innovation.”
Bradt’s inspiration for starting her company came when she became frustrated over continually running out of travel-sized shampoo and conditioner, and the refillable containers exploding “almost every single time”.
“The other problem was space. I was thinking if I could leave out the haircare, I could almost take everything I wanted from my skincare routine,” Bradt recalls.
She started researching alternatives and, with her background in chemical engineering, started digging into product formulations and immediately saw how much water was in them.
“Immediately I thought a water-activated powder could be the solution.”
As Bradt discovered, it is no mean feat to create a new product format, but she wanted to “blow minds” with her company’s first product, as well as making it simple to switch to a new type of routine.
“When I began to develop the formula I was told over and over again if it could be done one of the large corporations would have done it by now. Some may find that demotivating, but I used it as fuel.”
Bradt struggled to find a manufacturing partner for more than a year; “Most manufacturers that deal with powders manufacture color cosmetics- not bath and body.” Now, she says, her biggest challenge is educating people how to use it and why it’s better.
“No one thought water-activated powder shampoo could be possible, but beyond that be effective and preferable to use over the most-water liquid formulations.”
OWA’s products are completely water-free.
The current brands with solid hair care products, such as Lush, By Humankind and Ethique, But, as Bradt points out, address shampoo and conditioner, rather than styling and treatment. Bradt sees her competitors as Bumble & Bumble, R&Co and Living Proof as her company’s products are aimed at the prestige market.
Bradt is in the process of raising seed capital, and will launch the brand in full later this year. Her aim is to set a new standard for haircare brands. “Haircare has lacked environmental sustainability, transparency and innovation and it’s time to change. Why don’t consumers know they are paying for mostly water?”
Bradt adds: “Sustainability is not a product differentiator for brands- it’s a requirement. If there is a brand that doesn’t have sustainability in their values, they won’t be here much longer.”