Sarah Jones knows hair. Throughout her life, she has worked it from every angle: as a stylist, then a traveling salesperson for Redken and now CEO of Joico, an Arcadia-based midlevel beauty line known for restoring damaged hair. Under her 14-year reign, the company has expanded into producing a full line of products that reaches 89 countries.
Jones was hired in 2005 to turn the company around, three years after it was bought by Shiseido, a high-end Japanese beauty multinational. Mission accomplished: instead of bleeding money, Joico is today worth $160 million, according to the company.
Friendly and direct, Jones says she has always wanted to work in hair. Her ultimate dream was to own a salon one day. She passed on college in favor of cosmetology school, and she’s been working in the field ever since.
What sets Joico apart from the multitudes of hair products on the market? The company was a pioneer in infusing its products with keratin, the protein naturally found in healthy hair. “The original owner, Steve Stephano, was a hairdresser who could never get the conditioning results he wanted,” Jones says. “He was a chemistry buff and he had chemist friends. They decided it made sense to replenish compromised hair with the purest essence of healthy hair. They created this original keratin protein [formula] that went into the products [in the K-Pak collection]. It’s hairdressers’ go-to for severely damaged hair.”
That’s more important now than ever. Jones says the days of severe cuts are over. Today, her own tresses are a glossy, shoulder-length tawny blond. And she’s on a mission to help you achieve a healthy, natural look as well. “I used to think everyone needed help,” says the Claremont resident. “Now nothing makes me happier than to simply see beautiful, bouncy, shiny healthy hair. I really appreciate that because I know what it takes.”
Joico also surfs the wave of rainbow hair colors for people who like to stand out in a crowd. The company launched a vivid color palette in 2009. “We introduced blue, green and purple for a stylist who wanted it for his fantasy work. We never dreamed it would take off, especially on the East Coast,” says Jones, adding that Joico now offers hundreds of hues, including 30 metallic shades alone. Last month, the company introduced several new InstaTint Temporary Color Shimmer Spray shades for adventurous fashionistas (Hot Pink, Ruby Red, Light Purple, Periwinkle and Titanium). Also new are several Color Intensity “Metallic Muse” collection hues “that mimic the muted luster of liquid metal” (Moonstone, Violet, Bronze, Mauve Quartz and Pewter) and Color Intensity Confetti shades (Mint, Sky, Lila, Rose and Peach). If it’s in the rainbow, Joico has it covered. Customers can upload a photo and “try on” bold shades with the company’s new JoiColor System App.
Of course, the general West Coast trend has long been “blondie,” she observes. Hair lightening has always come with a certain degree of risk because it takes harsh chemicals to remove natural pigment. That hasn’t stopped legions of women from seeking sunnier pastures. Many women opt for home coloring because a $12 box is much cheaper than a $90 pro treatment, although Jones notes that sometimes you get what you pay for. “It’s a tricky biz,” she says. “It doesn’t always cover the gray, or it’s too harsh. Or you want to lighten slightly but it lifts too much and then you have that brassy color.”
The other nemesis of healthy hair is hot tools. “Ten years ago, the tools you’d buy at the store didn’t have the heat of salon products. Today the tools are just as progressive as those in a salon. The girls are stripping their hair of moisture and protein, making it frizzy, lifeless and dry.” Somewhat paradoxically, “what’s bad for hair is good for business,” she says. “We sell a lot of blow-dryers, curling irons, flat irons.”
Fortunately, hair care tends to be recession-proof, since it’s relatively affordable — a cut and color seem to slice through whatever is going on with the economy. “It’s a great business in terms of sustainability and income,” Jones says. In rough times, a person may choose not to buy a new car or eat out as much, but he or she will usually continue to get haircuts and highlights. And when times are good, salons are booming.
That’s true in part because hairdressers typically have the “expertise to analyze and prescribe,” she observes. “Think about it: you’re with your stylist for every big event in your life. As we get older, hair thins. A high percentage of women have balding problems. It’s devastating. So the stylist and client develop a relationship that deals with touchy personal issues as well as hair.”
Jones is as proud of Joico’s sustainability platform as she is of its products. The company invested in wind turbines as an alternative source of electricity to help power its plant in Geneva, New York. In 2011, it launched new packaging using a bioplastic resin hybrid, one of the first beauty companies to use this innovative material.
Jones is also an active philanthropist. She won the City of Hope’s Spirit of Life Award in 2011, partly in honor of her efforts to recruit beauty industry insiders to help raise funds for the top cancer hospital: in 2010, Joico created Beauty for A Cure, offering free online support for salons raising funds in their communities. “It started with Joico,” Jones said in a statement, “but the City of Hope Salon Industry. Leadership Council is very excited about exploring ways to take the program industrywide, as well as finding more ways to engage salons.” Beauty for a Cure has also helped salon pros raise funds for breast cancer and Hurricane Sandy charities.
Jones is in the office before 7 a.m. to make those East Coast calls to the corporate office in Connecticut. She heads home at 3:30 p.m. because, although it’s only a 17-mile drive, the traffic can be murder. She learned early on, during those traveling salesperson days, how to avoid burnout by balancing work and life. “My work is a passion, not a burden,” says Jones, whose 24-year-old daughter, Chelsea, works as a wedding planner in Oahu. Jones always takes her vacation time; not surprisingly, it involves plenty of visits to Hawaii. She and her retired husband of 26 years, Wayne, are avid golfers.
But Jones considers her work at Joico among her most gratifying pursuits. She frequently refers to a 2014 study that revealed the prime ingredient in a woman’s self-confidence — good hair. “You can have Manolo shoes, a Chanel jacket,” she says, “but if the hair isn’t good, you’re having a bad day. You’re not going to feel good if the hair isn’t right.”