A New Option in the Men’s Hair Color Market

Carl Sandler has been involved with biotech and Internet start-ups, but his latest creation hit a personal note.
“When I turned 40, my father suggested I dye my beard,” said Sandler, who promptly went to the drugstore to buy a box of the leading men’s hair color. “I put it on, waited five minutes and it was completely black. I couldn’t leave my house and eventually shaved my beard.”
The experience prompted him to research the options in the $200 million men’s at-home hair-color market. “I figured out I had picked the wrong shade and had used it too long. It took me over a year to learn how to dye well and I found out others had the same problem.”
Sandler uncovered that there was a lack of choices for men looking to dye. Since 1987, Just for Men has dominated the segment. For the 12-week period ended Aug. 12, according to IRI, Just for Men’s portfolio of hair colors produced sales in food, drug and mass doors exceeding $43 million. The closest competitor’s sales totaled less than $1.5 million. Sandler, noting an opportunity, decided to make men’s hair color his next start-up.
Borrowing from direct-to-consumer models such as Harry’s, Dollar Shave Club and Warby Parker, he’s launched True Sons, a dye system that lets men color their head, beard and body hair at home without a trip to a store. His kit has everything needed from gloves and wipes to a unique hair dye foam. True Sons is currently only available on the brand's web site (truesons.com) through a monthly ($30) or quarterly ($72) subscription model and offers men a personal dye and grooming expert to provide tips for those who may be leery of taking the plunge. There are six shades with more in the works.
“I hated going to the store to purchase that product. It was embarrassing and overwhelming with 15 different boxes and you don’t know if you could use on hair or beard,” he recalled. Mixing the formulas was cumbersome and there was very little education available. “I started thinking about what I’d want from as a product. I didn’t want to have to mix and I wanted it to be as easy as shaving.” The patent-pending foam is similar to a shaving cream that doesn’t require mixing. “I had to find my own chemists and get an aerosol manufacturer. It was a labor that took over three years.”

He is vying for a slice of a large market. Men actually start graying earlier than women — at age 30 versus 35. Fifty percent of the population will have 50 percent of their gray hair by the age of 50. However, Sandler said fewer than 8 percent of men color their hair versus 80 percent of women. He thinks his system, where men can easily control the amount of coverage, will help build users. While direct-to-consumer is his vehicle for the launch, he does think physical stores could work for True Sons.
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