The delicious aroma of rich, sweet vanilla always lured Miko Branch through the hallways of her grandmother’s home, straight into the kitchen with Miss Jessie.
“It was beautiful, and you could smell it a mile away,” says Branch, owner of Miss Jessie’s Salon and hair care products in Brooklyn, N.Y. “She put a lot of love into her food. It all meant love for us.”
Branch would spend hours watching her grandmother prepare scrumptious desserts at the oversized, wood kitchen table.
“If you wanted to talk to Miss Jessie, you had to talk to her in her kitchen,” Branch says.
These are childhood memories she will never forget.
“You can’t help but think of food references, when you think of Miss Jessie,” Branch says. “When my grandmother whipped anything up, be it cake batter, the consistency and texture of her concoctions made a big difference. She liked it to be rich in consistency. My grandmother had so much influence that the company was named after her.”
Blended Beauty Curly Frizz Pudding
And when Branch decided to launch her own hair-care line two years ago, she couldn’t help but return to the rich, decadent, sweet-scented memories of her grandmother. Inspired by Miss Jessie, Branch cooked up Miss Jessie's Curly Pudding, Baby Buttercreme, Curly Buttercreme and Curly Meringue.
“Everything you put on your hair, you want that experience to be pleasant. You want to make it inviting,” Branch says. “We strive to make the products yummy in texture and yummy smelling.”
In an effort to appeal to our love of sweets, a growing number of hair care companies are dishing up decadent, sweet-smelling products that sound like they belong more on an irresistible dessert tray than a salon shelf.
Long Lovely Locks whips up a heavenly Curly Custard and and Ginger Gel-O. Blended Beauty serves up Curly Frizz Pudding and Styling Butter Cream. Alaparf refreshes the senses with Sublime Sorbet Curl Enhancer. And the tantalizing list goes on and on.
Why make hair care products sound and smell so scrumptious?
Many of us, especially women, think of a rich, creamy dessert as soothing and comforting, especially if we can enjoy it without the guilt of ever taking a bite, says Marcella Doyle, co-owner of Salon Michael in Chicago, who handles the marketing and business aspects of the salon.
“They feel like they’re pampering themselves with the smell of a dessert,” Doyle explains. “With dessert-like hair care products, you can still get the same kind of personal sensation and satisfaction without having to eat the chocolate chip cookie, literally. And vanilla, from an aromatherapy perspective, is very calming and soothing.”
The sweetness of vanilla, chocolate, almond, and especially honey, are favorite scents for Jamyla, owner of Oyin Handmade, a line of hair-care and body-care products.
In fact, Oyin (which means “honey” in Yoruba -- a West African language), has been her favorite word since she was a child. After learning about the benefits of honey for the hair and skin, she says the name of her product line flowed naturally.
“Whipped pudding and honey sticks were actually our first products,” Jamyla says. “The name for the pudding was inspired by the texture of the product because it’s soft, creamy and rich. Then, when we started to scent it with a chocolate-and-vanilla fragrance, that took it over the top.”
While delicious names are a draw, Jamyla found that some men think her products are too “girly,” and they didn’t really want to smell like food. She has since added more funky, offbeat product names, like Greg Juice and Grand Poo Bar, to offer an appealing alternative for men.
Still, those sweet-smelling products keep women coming back. Jamyla shared some feedback from her customers.
“They say, ‘When I put burnt sugar on my hair, I get followed around in the store and I just want to eat it!’” Jamyla recalls with a chuckle. “We have a body butter bar called Candy Bar, and they say, ‘When I put the Candy Bar on my skin, I just want to chew on my arm all day!’ I do think people enjoy the names. They think it’s fun.”
It's not just smaller companies that are getting in on this trend. The creative folks at Alberto VO5 also want to inspire playful fun with delicious names for some of their hair care products, like Alberto VO5’s Whipped Volume and Smoothing Souffle.
“Hair care, and styling in particular, is about expressing yourself and your personality,” says Katherine White, brand manager for VO5 Premium. “We try to do the same thing with our products.”
Alterna, an upscale hair care product company, expresses the luxurious experience of its products through indulgent names as well, such as Hemp Seed Styling Souffle.
“Souffle is not only a luxurious dessert,,” Michael Sean Corby, global creative director for Alterna. “We called it souffle for the way the product functions. For example, when you start a meal, you’re asked if you’d like to order a souffle early because it takes 30 minutes and expands into this big, full delicious thing. Like our souffle, you use a small amount of product and it helps expand the hair shaft and give it the kind of coating found on the exterior of the souffle. You can use a little bit of product, massage it into the cuticle layer and then it expands and doubles or triples the size, just like a souffle.”
Alterna also plans to serve up a new sweet-smelling line of concoctions (including shampoo, conditioner, styling aids and body care products) in November called “10.” The name is in honor of the company’s first decade in the industry, as well as the 10 greatest advances in hair care. And although the new line may not have a delicious name, the ingredients surely tempt the taste buds, including African cacao (the root of cocoa), vanilla musk, and even a touch of lime and basil.
“It gives it a bit of that romantic flavor,” Corby says. “People associate a lot of things with fragrance. So, if it’s like food, they may choose to get a little chocolate in their shampoo as opposed to chocolate that goes to their waistline.”
As for Branch, it’s the sweet smell of vanilla wafting through her grandmother’s kitchen that still lingers in her mind -- and in Miss Jessie’s salon.
“There are some smells in our products, like the Baby Buttercreme, that still remind me of a vanilla cake she used to make!” Branch says.