SOJOURN Vanity Fair Magazine


Finding the Correct pH Balance with Elan Sassoon


Elan Sasson.Go to your shower, grab your shampoo and conditioner bottles, and check to see if the products have a pH level of 4.5 to 5.5. “That’s the natural P.H. of your skin,” says Elan Sassoon, son of legendary hairstylist and businessman Vidal Sassoon, “and that’s the range hair products should have.”

Not only is it unlikely that your shampoo and conditioner will fall into that pH range—“I don’t care what product you test on the marketplace, they all start at 6.7 and up,” Elan says—but it would also be surprising if you could find the P.H. level listed at all. But it didn’t always used to be that way.

“Back in the 80s, every single shampoo was in the range of 4.5 to 5.5—every single one,” Elan says. He’s sitting at the glamorous Peninsula Hotel, in Midtown Manhattan, sipping a soy latte, exuding an understated, quiet cool. “And then someone said, you know, it’s too expensive to keep it in that range; you have to do double the time in the tank, add citric acid, all this stuff. So someone came up with a marketing segue: ‘pH balanced.’ Which means nothing. They started taking the pH off the bottle, saying the product is ‘pH balanced,’ but it could be balanced at a 9, a 10, whatever.”

So why should you care?

Let’s say you want to color your hair. A colorist raises your hair’s pH, maybe to a 9, 10, or 11, to open the cuticle. A color molecule is added into your hair, and then the colorist slams the pH back down to a 4.5 to 5.5 range to close the cuticle. You spend $300 on your treatment, and start washing the color out the day you walk out the salon door because your products don’t fall in the pH range that keeps your cuticle closed.Or, lets say your hair needs volume. Most shampoos deliver volume by raising the pH to open the cuticle, which gives you kind of a frizzy look. So not only are you losing color with the open cuticle, but you are also losing protein, which is unhealthy for your hair.“It’s absurd,” Elan says. “You don’t really think about it. It’s not talked about.”Elan is trying to change all that back and would like to educate the consumers to take care of the hair that they have with Sojourn, his new hair care line.Along with chemist Rob Guimond, Elan spent the last two years working on Sojourn, which hit shelves about four months ago. The 15 salon-only products, which clearly list the pH range—4. 5 to 5.5—on the front of the bottle when applicable, have already made their way into more than 250 salons across the United States, from New York to Los Angeles to places in between, such as Minneapolis.“I’ve always been in and around the hair industry, and one of the things that I felt was really lacking was the ability to deliver quality education in the city that the stylists actually reside in,” Elan says. “My concept is that since I grew up around all of the Sassoon educators, and a lot of them have moved on, is to put together and amazing artistic team.” So he lined up 13 superstar artistic directors who teach stylists around the country the foundation for a great haircut and healthy hair.Hair is made of Keratin protein, so the only way to fix dry, damaged hair is to replace the lost Keratin. But most products aren’t infused with Keratin because of the protein’s cost. “Everyone is putting in soy protein and this and that,” says Elan, whose expression indicates this is just another marketing ploy. “But every single one of the Sojourn products has Keratin cashmere protein.”sojourn hair

Mizu salon’s NY and Boston locations.

Furthermore, Sojourn contains cystine amino acid, which is one of the main building blocks of the Keratin complex. The combination of Keratin cashmere and cystine amino acid prevents hair breakage and split ends.And that’s not all. The products are also 100 percent biodegradable with a net-zero environmental impact, and contain no sulfates, formaldehyde, denatured alcohol, parabens, salt, or artificial colors or dyes—things Elan coins “junk artificial stuff.”“I think there is a lot of unfinished business in the hair industry,” he says. “There are still a lot of things going on that can be improved upon, including products and education.”Given all of the genuine transparency in his business practices, it might come as a surprise that the only thing about the product line that seems to be not out in the open is Elan’s connection to the Sassoon fame: the bottles simply say “Elan S.” on the top of the lids. (He calls his line Sojourn because it means a “journey” in French. “It is about taking responsibility for your sojourn in life,” Elan says. “Taking responsibility for the products you use.”) He’s also a partner in about six salons, including Mizu in Boston and New York. None of them bare his father’s name. He likes it like that. He’s on his own journey.“There’s this picture—I was like 10 and my dad dragging was me to shows in Poland,” Elan continues. “He would take me around quite a bit. I’ve always been in and around [the hair industry]. I dabbled in a few things after college, but I was like, Oh, forget it, and I went back in. I love it. I just love the energy of being in the salon.”



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