Her products live on the shelves of Sephora and Bluemercury, and are beloved by such celebrities as Jennifer Garner and Maria Sharapova. Melisse Shaban has worked at some of the world’s most iconic beauty brands and now serves as founder and CEO of Virtue Labs, the only science-based hair care brand of its kind. We chatted with Shaban about Virtue’s unique keratin technology, the product she thinks everyone should try and why brands need to be taking a stand right now.
I have to say, I have tried so many luxury hair care products, and my hair has never been healthier than when I’m using Virtue. What makes your products so effective and unique?
Really, it starts with this breakthrough technology, which was never intended for use in hair care at all. Alpha Keratin 60ku is a patented form of the human protein keratin that was developed in the study of regenerative medicine to help severely wounded military soldiers. As opposed to other keratins that are highly processed with animal byproducts, this unique protein is derived from human hair that is carefully extracted to remain whole and fully functional. Because it is essentially hair, it sees the cracks of damage and goes where it’s needed to heal and repave to provide you with your healthiest, most beautiful hair possible.
Our difference is that we have technology that really does something. It’s clinically proven to improve the health and quality of hair in as little as five uses. We are extraordinarily fortunate to have it. And it is exclusive to Virtue.
How did you discover the technology that Virtue is rooted in?
It was a bit of a fluke. Luke Burnett, the chief scientist behind the development of this technology, is a retired colonel from the U.S. Army. After two tours in Iraq, he made it his mission back home to find ways to speed healing and improve quality of life for wounded soldiers. It was all based on this newly patented form of the human protein keratin.
An intern working in his lab had family members in the beauty industry, and she asked if she could perform some experiments on the side using leftover material. She had heard of keratin in hair and wanted to test to see if this particular protein could also have benefits for hair. A few experiments later, they liked what they saw, but hair care was not their mission or expertise. That’s when I was called in to take a look. Seeing the extraordinary results that this technology has on damaged hair made me want to share it with the world. And about four years after that, Virtue Labs was born.
For someone new to the brand, what’s the one product you recommend?
For me, it’s the Restorative Treatment Mask. This product is amazing and can be used once or twice a week for intensive repair and conditioning without any added weight to the hair. It works in just three minutes in the shower in place of your regular conditioner. It’s perfect for any hair type or texture, and like all Virtue products, it is safe for color-treated hair. If you only ever try one of our products, this should be it.
Does every hair type benefit from all of the products?
With Virtue, it all starts with the unique technology, and the technology doesn’t see ethnicity or hair type at all. It just sees damage, which can manifest in different ways. It’s the other ingredients that we partner with our protein that make certain products more suited to individual needs. For example, our Recovery line is the most universal in the care category; pretty much anyone will see immediate benefits from using any product in this line. The Full category is aimed toward finer hair types for consumers who want more volume. And the Smooth line is for thicker, more highly textured hair that may be more prone to frizz. Virtue is for anyone who wants to experience their healthiest hair possible.
Virtue is very vocal when it comes to current events and issues. What initiatives are you working on right now?
In our three short years of being in business, we have supported a number of causes ranging from providing help for wounded veterans to raising money to help stylists during the coronavirus outbreak. This year, we’re all about encouraging all people to use their voice and exercise their right to vote. We have partnered with When We All Vote, an organization founded by Michelle Obama that helps people register to vote and encourages them to use their vote to create the kind of world they want to live in.
As a brand with a large following, how important is it for you to take a stand during this time?
Now more than ever before, consumers are looking to connect with and support brands that align with their personal values. Sometimes it seems that we don’t have many choices in life, but we do get to choose where we spend our money — and we want to feel good about where we spend it.
What is it like being a female CEO in an industry dominated by men?
Running a company is hard, especially a startup — it’s hard for anyone. But for women in particular, I think it’s important to let go of what others think of us. Let go of the notion that we don’t deserve to be here or to be heard. I think for a long time, women defining themselves based on what men thought about them or by what they thought men thought of them was the norm. Now that this notion is becoming less prevalent, women will become the resource and conduit to self-esteem, confidence and all the things that give them power. Women lifting up other women is probably the most important shift I’ve seen happen over the course of my life and certainly in business. Women supporting women will ultimately change the world.
What’s one piece of advice you have for aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Tenacity, tenacity, tenacity! Life is not linear. Business is not linear. There are going to be all kinds of hurdles. Surround yourself with quality people who share your values and your perspective on the bigger picture things. Build something you can believe in. Then get up to fight another day.