Welcome to our FEKKAI Flashback series, in which we look back at the rich heritage of our brand, salons, and founder, Frédéric Fekkai.
In recent years, the "skinification" of haircare has been a big trend in the beauty business. But the roots of the movement—in which formulas for hair are made with high-quality ingredients that treat while they style—can be traced back to the ‘90s and to one man: our founder (and celebrity hairstylist) Frédéric Fekkai. Always a forward-thinker, he was inspired to elevate his line with luxurious nourishers and textures that rivaled the most sought-after face serums.
The original spark for the idea came from working in his high-profile FEKKAI hair salons, where models and stars came to get their hair done in a pampering, hotel-like environment. Determined to make sure the FEKKAI haircare line he launched in 1995 rose to meet the same standards, he set out to do what no one else was doing at the time: approach his brand as if he were making skincare with ingredients that didn’t just mask trouble spots but gave lasting benefits to the hair and scalp. Here, he tells the tale of how it all happened—and his take on where he sees the movement's future going from here.
Q: Where did the idea first strike you to approach your haircare line this way?
FF: In my salons. With my clients, I would ask them about the products they were using, and I was wondering why the haircare they were using was so basic. They would spend $300 on a face cream and then $5 on a shampoo—but why? People care about both.
I realized it was just that there was nothing out there, and there was a need for it. I looked at the haircare at the time—all the products were pretty much just for dry hair or dandruff but nothing else. This customer was eager to have new technology, new innovation, and a point of difference. So as I said, “Why don't we do something a little bit more sharp and specific like skincare?” And that's how I came up with the idea of going to the skincare lab as opposed to the usual route.
Q: Can you give some examples of what needs you were looking to meet?
FF: Well, for example, there are different benefits that can help color-treated hair or unruly hair that’s dry—that’s where my Shea Butter collection came in. And then also a lot of the hair that had been bleached at the time was getting brassy. I wanted to use Apple Cider Vinegar to make sure we take all the brassiness and yellow cast out of the hair. I love to look to natural ingredients when I can, but always the best version of it—organic, pure. The Olive Oil in our Brilliant Gloss collection today is cold-pressed, for example, and if you see how olives grow in the South of France, they stay moisturized and juicy in the sun. Olive Oil can do wonderful things for the hair.
I coupled that attitude with science. I wanted to make sure the product was just a little bit more innovative and ahead of the curve in technology.
Q: Was it easy?
FF: It wasn’t easy, but it was fun, and it was exciting! We were doing something different, and we could see the difference in the hair. And everyone I was working with, they were excited—it made sense, and it was great to be part of something so innovative.
Q: How did texture play into this?
FF: I wanted to make sure my products felt great but also spread easily, that they were easy to work with. They shouldn’t be sticky. They should feel light and be light so you can layer them on like a skincare routine. It also allows you to customize your routine so you can get a tailored experience. That’s really important.
Q: Are you surprised to see that the skinification of haircare took off over the years?
FF: No, no. Because when you use better ingredients and better technologies, it makes a difference. You can see it in the hair. It’s shiny, it has movement. I really believe in treating your scalp and hair well. It shows. And our clients talk about how they can see a difference.
Q: Why do you think the idea of skinification has been getting attention lately?
FF: With the state of the world, people are looking to be pampered. It’s something we’ve seen in our salons; people are just so grateful to be taken care of or feel like they have a little luxury. Using better formulas is a part of that.
Q: How do you see your approach to formulating haircare evolving?
FF: We’re always looking to push the envelope of performance so we can find the most amazing ingredients and great solutions. I can’t talk about what exactly we’re working on right now, but it’s really exciting and innovative—the science is there. And we’re always striving to try to stay clean and sustainable. That can be hard when looking at aerosol sprays, for example, but we’re working on that right now. We’re looking to meet all hair needs while also honoring the planet.