EXCLUSIVE: K18’s New Item – and Molecule – Solve Dry Shampoo’s Usual Pain Points

K18 is aiming to grow another category with its newest launch.

The brand, which debuted in 2020 with a biotechnology-backed leave-in mask and was sold to Unilever Prestige late last year, is getting in on the dry shampoo game with Airwash Dry Shampoo, which launches on the Sephora App on March 25 and will retail for $48. The following day it will roll out to Sephora and the brand’s website.

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It’s the first time K18 has introduced new technology since its 2020 launch, with its patented OdorBind molecule that eliminates odors. Suveen Sahib, the brand’s cofounder and chief executive officer, said the new molecule — and the product itself — were years in the making.

“K18 has always been about creating synergistic tools that solve problems. One of the areas we’ve been working on for almost eight years is understanding olfactory senses,” he said. “Fragrances are polarizing for people…and we built a molecule powered by proteins, and that was where the genesis of this product started.”

Airwash Dry Shampoo eliminates odors with no added fragrance and boasts the claim of adding three days to a hairstyle’s longevity.

“The whole idea is extending the wash of your hair,” Sahib said. “But a lot of [users] often have an irritated scalp, and a cocktail of overpowering fragrances. Our goal with this was to go back to the drawing board.”

To that end, Sahib also addressed other issues, such as product buildup. “Day-to-day, you’re washing your hair, and then you have chemicals, heat styling and environmental aggressors, and odor signals when you need to wash your hair,” Sahib said. “The idea was not to mask the odor but to encapsulate odor and neutralize it. It eliminates the feeling of wanting to wash your hair.”

To mitigate oiliness, the brand used translucent microbeads. That way, Sahib said, “it doesn’t leave those powdery starches, and it doesn’t irritate the scalp.”

Prestige hair is still outpacing other categories in the market, as well as hair care’s growth in the mass channel. Circana data from 2023 indicates that the prestige hair category grew 14 percent.

At the time of the Unilever deal, K18’s net sales were said to be above $100 million. Sahib didn’t comment on sales for the dry shampoo launch, but did note that he anticipates it to be among the brand’s top sellers.

“Look at the impact of the leave-in mask, and of the hair oil,” he said. “The dry shampoo matches that level of performance. They follow the architecture of how you build something that can grow and expand a category. Even with the oil — consumers started using it that would never put oil in their hair.”

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