Mike Sabag knows a thing or two about launching a successful business in the hair space. The Israeli-born serial entrepreneur is the creative mastermind behind not one, but two highly-regarded brands in the hair industry — Saryna Key and the original Moroccanoil. Now Sabag is back to disrupting haircare once again with his most recent venture The Crown, a revolutionary in-salon smoothing treatment that prides itself on being formaldehyde-free.
The Tease had the pleasure of chatting with Sabag to discuss how he got his start in the hair industry, the inspiration behind The Crown, and why he believes in saying “no” to formaldehyde.
The Tease: You previously founded two successful haircare brands, those brands being Saryna Key and Moroccanoil. Tell us a little bit about your background and why you first decided to build a career in the hair industry.
Sabag: I was a young rebel, with long hair, who dropped out of school, and headed to Paris, France for the next year. The year was 1989 — the salon scene was the peak of the beauty industry, with new tectonic technologies available to stylists, beautiful brands, excellent new products and tools. I knew that I wanted to be a part of it, so when I returned home to Israel, I immediately began my education at the best academy at the time, and then went to practice in the original Vidal Sasson academy in the U.K.
That’s a very quick beginning in this amazing industry, but as a guy with severe ADHD, I knew I couldn’t stay in one place from morning to evening. I soon left to become a salesman for the first professional made-in-Israel brand, Mon Platin, and met some of the best people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Years later, I was lucky enough to redefine the global market, taking it from oily, greasy silicones to a new age of oils — my first beloved brand Moroccanoil. It was cathartic for me to then create another brand, Saryna Key, putting pure African Shea Butter into professional hair care for the first time. Today, I am so happy to introduce The Crown and redefine the category once again, with the best team anyone could have.
What did you feel was lacking in the hair industry that made you want to launch The Crown?
Sabag: I wanted the opportunity to get inside the stylist’s kitchen — The Crown is my first step into salon-only procedures. I’ve never been connected to other stylists in this capacity and it is fascinating, overwhelming, and so fun to work with other stylists like that again.
In Israel, we stand out from the rest in one of the biggest in-salon services categories, and it is our goal to do that globally as well, by saying no to formaldehyde — this is the core foundation of all our product recipes. There is simply no need to use toxic products anymore, and it is neither good for the stylist himself nor his clients. We have the solution and the way to achieve best-in-class results of smoothing, stretching, relaxing, and deep conditioning that can all occur with no toxicity or danger. I always enjoy using a car metaphor to explain it — before The Crown, this category was like a combustion engine, bringing fumes and chemicals into the world in a bad way. Now, we’ve invented cars that can run clean, green, and electric, and still allow you to get where you need to go. Until now, the only tool that stylists had to treat their clients was a toxic and very dangerous solution.
You worked with Israel’s top chemist and product developers to create your treatments. What did you tell them was the most important thing when it came to developing The Crown’s product formulations?
Sabag: Most importantly, it had to be non-toxic and leave no buildup. It was also important that our results lasted longer than other treatments on the market, and could be done in one visit as our clients are busy and do not have the time to keep coming back multiple times for one treatment. We wanted to use a smart recipe. I had the luck to collaborate with a visionary Israeli group of people, to deliver an in-salon procedure to salons that previously would have turned his type of treatment down.
What is the science behind The Crown treatments and how do they work on a molecular level?
Sabag: I am proud to introduce a molecular algorithm that has combined science and Israeli creativity to produce this groundbreaking treatment for long-term hair repair and smoothing, while preserving the hair’s texture, elasticity, and natural shine.
Let’s think about this for a moment — hair is made up of segments, some of which are dry, some which lack moisture and nourishment, and some with split ends. At the same time, the hair at the root is still healthy and nourished. Current hair treatments, while adequate, are unable to diagnose the specific needs of each hair segment, and therefore weigh down healthy segments with unnecessary additives. It is at this point that we enter the picture. The Crown has devised a patent-protected method called Acro-Core that is based on five smart molecules composed of natural ingredients: bio ceramide, wheat germ, mustard oil, keratin, and acai juice. Every molecule has hundreds of thousands of product agents, each of which is engineered to pinpoint the segment of the hair in which it is needed, so that it doesn’t waste its strength on areas that don’t require it. We call this the “less is more” philosophy.
The Acro-Core molecules operate in a cyclical way, one after the other, until they have penetrated the hair. At the end of the process, they come together to give the hair a perfectly-uniform appearance. Each molecule carries out its own treatment action without interfering with the work of the other molecules. In this way, they create a flawless, healthy, and uniform appearance.
The Crown prides itself on offering formaldehyde-free hair treatments. Why was having this distinction important to you and your brand?
Sabag: It makes no sense to create a professional product that uses a dangerous ingredient at its core. Introducing a product that is safe to use, and with better performance, is a challenge that I encourage all the players in the industry to do. We owe that to our clients and to ourselves.
What has the reception been like from stylists since launching The Crown?
Sabag: Absolutely amazing. Jaws always fall a few times during The Crown’s one-on-one demonstrations. The initial shock comes from the lack of a toxic environment, because the product does not have the strong dizzying smell that formaldehyde products have.
We are at a point where stylists who have never allowed other solutions into their salons are trying The Crown, and bringing our safer and more effective solution to their clients. Unlike existing products, The Crown is a one-visit procedure — there is no need to go home with toxic chemicals in your hair for a few nights. Once stylists have their clients come back for their next salon visit after having the treatment, stylists have been blown away by the results that The Crown delivers.
What sets The Crown apart from other smoothening and straightening treatments on the market?
Sabag: All other solutions on the market attach to the hair and cover the cuticle with formaldehyde, which then starts to deteriorate right after the client washes their hair and often leaves buildup. The Crown, in a simple, smart, and elegant way, makes the hair go through temporary shock and then each section gets exactly the right amount of what the hair really needs in a weighless way, leaving the hair soft, shiny, and voluminous.
You recently brought onboard celebrity hairstylists Jason Backe and Ted Gibson as North American brand ambassadors. How has their involvement in The Crown impacted the brand?
Sabag: As entrepreneurs, product developers, global educators, and public figures, their influence, reach, and network are invaluable to us at The Crown. Both Ted and Jason thrive on innovation and change —they are out-of-the-box thinkers and have opened the first smart salon in the world, which is also the first salon in North America to carry The Crown. Their help with strategy and sales have been opening doors globally. More importantly, they have become great friends who truly believe in the product.
How has haircare changed since you first started in the industry and what changes would you still like to see in the space?
Sabag: In 1991, I had just finished my studies and started to do women’s hair using finishing products. What was available at that time in Israel was so limited, that actually the first product I created was a basic mix in a color bowl using styling gel and a conditioning rinse to get the balance between soft, yet defined curls. Today, we mix everything with everything on a molecular level, manipulate the active ingredients, and above all the tools and technology available are incredible.
What does the future of The Crown look like to you?
Sabag: Please ask me this in five years…