Nu Standard has launched the first bond builder designed specifically for textured hair. The emerging hair-care brand — which was spotlighted at Cosmo Prof’s virtual World of Texture educational summit on Feb. 27 — has an exclusive partnership with Cosmo Prof as its wholesale beauty distributor. Among launches from the hair label’s 11 products is the Hydrasilk Hydrating Bond System trio, made up of a bond builder and two identical bond silkners. It hit Cosmo Prof’s 1,300-plus stores in Jan. 2023.
Founded in 2020 by Autumn Yarbrough, who was born into a family of hair-care founders, and formulated by decades-long cosmetic chemist Tracy Ashley, Nu Standard is Black-curated care for anyone with textured hair, regardless of ethnicity. The line stemmed from Yarbrough’s recognition of a gap in the bond-building space. The category was initially popularized by Olaplex and, later, K18, thanks to the brands’ claimed abilities to repair severely damaged strands at a molecular level. While Olaplex offers over-the-counter bond repair products that support curls, the brand doesn’t supply a salon-grade system like Nu Standard. K18’s products, including its signature Leave-In Molecular Repair Hair Mask, is marketed “for all hair types.”
The ingredient story of Nu Standard’s bond builder focuses on malic acid, for conditioning and restructuring, and argan oil. The latter is high in antioxidants, essential fatty acids and vitamin E, providing added shine, hydration and elasticity, according to the brand.
The system’s silkner is formulated with polydimethylsiloxane, which is commonly known as dimethicone and is an often debated ingredient. While the silicone-based polymer has been popularized thanks to its glossy sealing properties, it’s also been associated with hair loss and buildup over time.
In defense of its inclusion, Yarbrough said, “It’s a safe ingredient when used properly.” But she acknowledged that excess use of any silicone product can cause buildup on the hair that leads to breakage.
“When overused and not properly shampooed out, silicones can make the hair too hydrophobic,” Yarbrough said. “This prevents moisture from penetrating the hair strand, resulting in hair that becomes brittle.”
She added, “Most silicones belong in the hands of the licensed professional, who can define the proper dosage amount and can safely remove them.”
Formulation experts unaffiliated with the brand agree.
“The right molecular weight and type of polydimethylsiloxane can be very beneficial to all hair types,” said Valerie George, cosmetic chemist and founder of hair-care and hair-color development house Simply Formulas. “It just has to be formulated in the right way. If the product is intended for fine hair, you don’t want to choose something too heavy.”
In support of George’s point, Mary Berry — founder of the Cosmo Labs personal care manufacturing lab and also Vanessa Hudgens’s newly relaunched Know Beauty line — said the ingredient is generally safe if it complies with global regulations and is rinsed with clarifying shampoo to avoid buildup and breakage.
Pertaining to textured, hair in particular, Berry called dimethicone “a big ally.” She pointed out that it will coat curly strands while smoothing and softening hair fibers, which allows for easier combing and brushing.
In addition to its hero bond system, Nu Standard relies on a holistic, nourish-treat-care approach to hair, with Yarbrough noting that hair health depends on internal and external maintenance. Nu Standard also offers daily hair and scalp vitamins, which are encouraged accompaniments to the bond repair products.
Another major component separating Nu Standard’s bond system from its predecessors is the latter’s salon-meets-retail strategy. Nu Standard, on the other hand, takes a “leave it to the pros” stance.
“Our motto is ‘respect the license,’” Yarbrough said. “We’ve committed to the professional community by designing [our bond products] for professional use only and ensuring top-notch education for licensed experts. We strongly believe a professional stylist is vital to a healthy hair journey. They understand the physiology of hair, hair damage and chemicals usage, which allows them to provide performing results and circumvent any product misuse or overuse.”
A lack of adequate education, when it comes to stylists, consumers and salons, is, in part, what Olaplex CEO JuE Wong attributes to the former industry leader’s decline. This coincides with the brand’s recent hair loss lawsuit, which Olaplex plans to fight back against aggressively.
Nu Standard’s introduction to the professional hair community is another step toward inclusivity in what was often viewed as a one-size-fits-all category. Mielle Organics and Briogeo are breakout brands in the space, with blonde-haired TikTok sensation Alix Earle drawing attention to the former by hyping up its Rosemary Mint Scalp Hair Strengthening Oil.
What can be said across the board is the bond- building category isn’t going anywhere. As of the publish date of this story, #bondrepair has been hashtagged almost 60 million times on TikTok. And in the last six months, the space has welcomed relevant launches from major brands, including Marc Anthony’s Repair Bond +Rescuplex system, original Olaplex developer Eric Pressly’s Epres, Not Your Mother’s Curl Talk Bonding Collection, L’Oréal Paris Elvive Bond Repair Bundle and Vegamour’s HYDR-8 Essentials Kit.