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by: Better Not Younger
February 28, 2022
With aging comes change, but it also brings benefits—like wisdom, confidence and above all, gratitude. It is these gifts of time that inspired Sonsoles Gonzalez to develop Better Not Younger three years ago—and she harnesses these blessings each and every day as she builds a hair-care brand that’s breaking biases around aging and what it means to be a woman in her 40s, 50s and 60s+.
Through Better Not Younger, Sonsoles and her team are pushing boundaries, championing age inclusion and diversity, empowering women and above all, normalizing conversations around menopause and female hair loss.
So who better to chat with than the founder and CEO herself! Better Not Younger has been on an extraordinary journey these past three years—and she’ll be the first to tell you that she owes it all to the amazing community of women who have inspired and supported the brand along the way.
Better Not Younger has made great strides in the clean hair-care movement through the development of plant-based hair products and sulfate-free hair care designed specifically for women over 40. With a mission to enhance—not conceal!—aging hair, Better Not Younger gives women access to high-quality clean hair products that are cruelty-free and designed to improve hair, scalp and inner health.
Keep reading as Sonsoles talks about her secrets to #AgingGratefully, becoming an entrepreneur and building a business in her 50s, and how she believes that it is absolutely possible to look better without looking younger.
For me, aging gratefully means taking a moment to thank and recognize the many people in my life that have cared for me, supported me and guided me. My parents, my many mentors, my husband, my children (usually my biggest critics!) and my friends—all of these people have played a huge role in shaping who I am today.
Our third anniversary marks the achievement of several important milestones, the most important one being the expansion into brick and mortar and launching in over 700 Ulta stores. With this move, more and more women will become aware of Better Not Younger and will have the opportunity to physically interact with our products before purchasing them.
Both. It is more challenging because we are now a true omnichannel brand, and with that comes complexity and investments. We want to make sure the brand shows up as best as possible, that women can understand the assortment of products and pick the right regimen for themselves. We also have to be able to respond to increases in demand and make sure our products are always in stock.
But in many ways, it does get easier. When I launched Better Not Younger, I had never run my own business. I had always been surrounded by the immense support that comes with working in a large corporation like P&G and L’Oréal. But I have learned how to maximize my time and where I need to focus to really make a difference. We also know so much more about the Better Not Younger woman, what messages resonate with her and in what media outlets. And most members of the team have been with us for at least 2 years, so we now know each other well and it just feels like family!
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- to 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 40s and noticing changes in my skin and hair, and yet no one was talking about that.
Fast-forward a few 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 had 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.
Better Not Younger gives women the tools and the inspiration to age with confidence. It gives her the freedom to say, “Yes, I’m aging, and damn proud of it. And I love how I look.”
Women over 50 are very often misrepresented. I wanted to portray women as they really are. Women in their 50s and 60s are active, attractive, have many interests (beyond gardening and grandkids!) and are having a huge impact in society. We want to celebrate them for who they are, and give them the best hair ever in the process!
My favorite one is that older women should not wear their hair long. To hell with all that! If you want to shave your head, dye your hair pink, show your natural curls or go gray, go for it. Do whatever makes you happy—there’s no age barrier to choosing how you want to look!
Society has traditionally placed a certain level of shame around aging. Menopause was seen as a signal of your decline and a decline in your value to society, so nobody talked about it and everyone tried to hide the fact they were getting older. Hair loss in women was also shameful.
But today women think differently about aging. We feel empowered to shatter old stereotypes and are choosing to live our lives as we please, not as society expects us to. And as part of that, we opened conversations about menopause. We will experience tremendous changes in our bodies that will affect how we look, how we feel, how we sleep, how we relate with our partners, etc. And we want to find the solutions that will help improve our lives as best as possible as we go through these changes. By normalizing the conversation, our lives will improve.
I think the most important change has been how much the world is openly talking about menopause and everything that surrounds this stage in a woman’s life. When we first started, editors would openly tell us they would never talk about aging in their magazines. Fortunately, that has begun to change. The world has definitely become more inclusive.
COVID brought the silver revolution. Many women stopped coloring during lockdown and decided to ditch dyes all together and say, screw it, I’m wearing my unpigmented hair with pride and feel just as beautiful. And of course, there’s been a huge focus on self-care which means doing home-treatments on your hair.
There are a number of reasons why—the first being the perceived size of the opportunity. Until recently, millennials were seen as the largest group to go after. But as the population continues to age and life expectancy increases, the over-40 and especially the over-50 consumer is becoming a more and more attractive target to go after. It was also traditionally believed that “older” women were set in their habits and not eager to try new products, while if you marketed to younger people, you would “hook them early and get them for life.”
Better Not Younger was the first brand to recognize that hair ages and to offer a comprehensive solution to help women address aging hair issues. We do so by tackling the root cause as well as the signs of aging hair, offering products that work at the scalp, hair and inner health levels. And we were also the first brand to openly talk about aging with pride and optimism.
Mostly hard work and effort, quite honestly. That’s not to say I haven’t been lucky or that luck has not played a role. For example, I “stumbled” upon some of the most valuable people on my team out of sheer luck—they were transitioning roles, or just happened to have had a chat with someone who then sent them over to me.
It is the most exciting thing I have done in a long time! After almost 30 years working in large corporations, I felt like I was beginning all over again. It was so refreshing to be able to make decisions fast, to learn new skills, to be able to follow my instincts, to create products and ideas—and not need to prove anything to anyone except to myself.
It's important to be humble and ready to listen and learn from those who’ve done it before you. Surround yourself with people that complement your skills so you can concentrate on doing what you do best. Be patient. And be ready to do just about anything!
I truly admire Sara Blakely (the founder of Spanx). Hearing her story, I was really inspired by her grit, her can-do mentality and how she got buyers to believe in her product. I also find inspiration in newer entrepreneurs, women or men who had never run a business, yet were able to create compelling products or services and navigate the entrepreneurial waters without ever giving up.
Being a woman! Aside from this, I think my biggest superpower is to be very action oriented. I like to see problems solved and to see things come to life—and I won’t stop until they actually happen.
I simply put the task away and come back to it later. Staying off subject and reading interesting articles will get my mind back into creativity.
Make sure you are clear about your idea. Whether it’s a product or a service, it’s important that you are clear about what problem you are trying to solve and how your product uniquely does this. Stay away from naysayers and surround yourself with people that can help you because they have either done it before or genuinely want to help you. And make sure you understand that starting a business is a multi-year commitment. Even if you succeed, it will not happen overnight.
My focus this year is really making sure that we are successful with our retail partners—Ulta, Sephora, HSN and Amazon. Each requires a different strategy to win, but I’m confident it can be done. And of course, keeping women interested in what we have to offer by launching unique new products and connecting with them.
One of the biggest challenges was to succeed with HSN. Selling on TV is a completely different experience altogether—and it’s not an easy one! I’ve had to learn a lot about which products sell well on TV, which stories and visuals resonate with the audience, and most importantly for me, how to tell the story on live TV!
Practice, practice, practice—alone! Never in front of others.
I go shopping!
I’m terrified of public speaking.
Hair is the first step toward feeling confident because hair changes so much and these changes can leave women feeling self-conscious and ashamed of how they look. Many women have actually told us that since using Better Not Younger products, they feel they have more control over their hair, and they feel confident and enjoy getting a compliment! When they look good, they feel so much better.
We stay close to the women in our community—asking them what products they’re loving and why, and what else they’re looking for. For example, vegan hair products and cruelty-free hair care are two topics that are extremely important to the women who are buying our products. We read all the reviews for our products, but also for other brands. We also stay in touch with societal trends.
To me, clean hair care is first and foremost about safety. It’s about asking ourselves, can I trust this brand to pick ingredients that have been proven to be safe? Older women are very savvy, they read the back labels, they have been around and they will not be fooled. And Better Not Younger will always stay at the forefront of clean beauty and clean hair products, and this includes vegan hair products and plant-based hair products that are free of sulfates and parabens.
Because we want our users and our community to trust the brand. We want to make sure that the products we create are safe for her and that means non-toxic hair products. Many of our customers have sensitive scalps (perhaps because of many years of coloring and other treatments), some are taking medication, others have gone through chemotherapy and are growing back their hair. All of this makes our commitment to clean hair products and sulfate-free hair care even more important.
The Superpower Fortifying Hair & Scalp Serum has been a game changer. My hair loss has really diminished. I used to see hair everywhere—the sink, my pillow, the shower drain… But now, I see much less hair everywhere, and I feel like my hair’s quality has improved over time. And it also helps with my itchy scalp, which I get every once in a while.
I’m very grateful that women, the media and our investors have recognized and understood our message, our purpose and the gap that existed in the market. We made a bold move calling the brand Better Not Younger—it’s a long name and very uncommon in the category. But women were ready for it and have understood it!
We believe that Better Not Younger is a platform that can serve women over 40 in many ways. We are constantly seeking to uncover areas in her beauty and wellness routine where we can serve her better. This means entering new adjacent categories and offering her content that is uniquely helpful to her.
In April, we will launch our Full Transparency Pure Revitalizing Shampoo.
It’s a hypoallergenic, dermatologist-approved, cruelty-free, naturally-derived shampoo that cleanses and removes impurities without stripping. It gives strength and shine back to thin, fragile, aging hair and encourages scalp and follicle health. We developed it because many women in this demographic have told us that they have very sensitive scalps and are also sensitive to fragrances. And the bottle is eco-friendly, too! It’s made from 25% post-consumer resin. Sustainability and clean hair products are so important to our customers and to the Better Not Younger brand, so we’re thrilled it’s on the way!
Tell Us: Have you been a part of our journey these past three years? Share what you love about the brand and what you’d love to see more of in the comments below!
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