This March, The Tease is bringing you stories from women who are #MakingHairstory, #BakingBeauty and #DoingItForTheCultuHer. Learn how these influential women are breaking barriers, disrupting their industries and empowering others to do the same all month long.
After 25+ years on the business side of beauty at L’Oréal and P&G, Sonsoles Gonzalez found herself wondering where the product for aging hair was. When she couldn’t find it, she decided to create it. Enter Better Not Younger. Formulated for women in their 40s and beyond, Better Not Younger is the only hair care line that acknowledges, repairs and restores women’s aging hair.
We had the pleasure of speaking to Gonzalez about the demand for more inclusive hair care products, and the inspiration and conception behind her brand.
What inspired you to create your own hair care brand?
Before becoming an entrepreneur, I worked in big beauty companies where I would sit in innovation and marketing meetings talking about how best to reach the 18-44-year-old consumer. I would always joke “What happens to women after 44? They disappear?” Then one day, it wasn’t so funny. It was me. I was in my late 40’s and noticing changes in my skin and hair, and yet, no one was talking about that. Fast forward a couple of years, I had “retired” from my corporate role, but didn’t feel at all ready to disappear.
I looked around at my friends and didn’t see us reflected accurately in the media. I became obsessed with wanting to somehow change the narrative society has around women and aging—but how? Then it came to me. I knew from my time running the global Pantene business that hair is one of the most important things that factor into how women feel about themselves. Hair changes as we age. And no one was talking about it. So, I combined what I was passionate about with what I knew, and Better Not Younger was born.
How would you describe your relationship to hair?
It’s a personal and professional relationship. Growing up, I always had long, thick, shiny hair. It was part of my identity. As I reached my 40s, I remember noticing my ponytail shrinking; I looked at my daughter’s ponytail and thought, “wow, mine used to be like that.” It was a surprise and it wasn’t. I had spent my career working at L’Oréal and P&G in the beauty and hair care categories, so I knew hair experienced physiological changes as we aged and why. But it’s one thing to understand the research and biology of hair, and quite another when it happens to you.
Women are often discouraged from sharing their accomplishments, but we want to hear about them. List some of your career highlights. What are you most proud of?
I was very lucky to have worked for companies like P&G and L’Oreal where I learnt so much and had great role models. I’m very proud of being the first woman to run the NA Hair Care business which at the time was a $2B business. I was also the Global Franchise leader for Pantene for 5+ years. Back then, very few female Latinas held roles this big.
At L’Oréal, I was the head of their CPG Division across Spain. Moving to a completely different company in a different part of the world was a courageous move, and I’m so happy to have taken on the challenge. And I’m proud of having started my own business at age 53, becoming an “fiftypreneur.”
And last but not least, I’m very proud that I was able to have a successful, high profile career while always managing to be there for my family. I’ve been married for 31 years and [have] three grown kids who are proud of me because they’ve seen me launch myself into uncomfortable, challenging situations, and [because of this,] they feel more comfortable living life on their terms.
What are the biggest challenges you have experienced within the industry and how did you overcome them?
Hair care is a very crowded space—so many brands and so many outlets (drug, mass, salons, e-retailers). There’s skepticism; women have tried many products and have been disappointed. So, for me, it was clear that our products had to be the very best, [and] they had to work. We have very high satisfaction amongst our users (80% rate us 5/4). And that’s because we were extremely clear and focused [on] serving the changing hair of women 40+. They need products different from the ones they used in their 20’s and 30’s.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned throughout your career?
Success has no age limit. No matter what society tells you, just because we reach a certain age or lifestyle doesn’t mean it’s too late to achieve your dreams. I believe I’ve gotten better with age in so many areas: [I’m] more confident in my power, more aware of what I’m good at (and what I am not) and more resilient when faced with the invariable setback. My network is better. So is my experience in pulling together a talented team and the expertise I’ve gained across all areas of running a business from supply chain to logistics, accounting to formulation. Aging has definitely unlocked my potential; this would not have been possible in my 20s.
Do what you’re good at. When I first started thinking about becoming a fiftypreneur, I knew it would have to involve changing society’s narrative around women and aging, because at 50 I wasn’t ready to disappear. I had my passion and purpose worked out before I even knew what the product was going to be! Then I thought, “well what am I good at?” Hair care naturally rose to the top given all my years running the global Pantene business at P&G. I knew the changes hair went through as we aged, that it is one of the top drivers in how we feel about ourselves and that no other brands were addressing aging hair. And voila! Better Not Younger was born.
Quality is the best business plan. All my years working in the beauty industry told me that the product has to be the best. Our consumer has been there, done that and has a high BS meter and plenty of other choices. That’s why we went through at least 15 to 20 rounds of development until I was satisfied that these products delivered what they said they would. As they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression.
Just ask. One of the biggest things I have had to do since starting Better Not Younger is ask for help. Starting my own business was a step into the unknown, and there were (and still are!) so many things that I would have never done before. I have been amazed by how many people have offered to help me over the last year. It really restores your faith in humanity. So, thank you everyone!
Are there any women in the industry who inspire you or your work? If so, who?
The community of women in their 40’s and 50’s and beyond who email us saying how happy they are with our products and thank us for having thought about them —that’s what really inspires me every day!
What’s next for you?
I’m happy and so grateful with where I am now in life. For me, it’s all about continuing to grow awareness around Better Not Younger and continuing to find ways to celebrate women 40+ in a way that’s authentic and inspiring.