Nutrafol CEO Says Wellness Products Should Be Backed by Science

·6 min read

Giorgos Tsetis started Nutrafol after his own journey with hair loss prevention.

Tsetis was on Propecia, and “suffered tremendously from the side effects,” he said.

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“As a young man, yes, I got to keep my hair, but I suffered from sexual side effects of these drugs,” Tsetis said.

He partnered with cofounders Roland Peralta and Sophia Kogan, and began Nutrafol, an alternative hair wellness company that talks about hair growth instead of hair loss, and uses “medical grade botanicals” in formulations, he said.

“I always believed there should be a healthier solution possible. We merged Eastern thinking by targeting the root causes of a problem with new Western technology. The goal was always to create something that was very healthy and effective at the same time,” Tsetis said.

The company, which was founded in 2015, is expected to do between $150 million and $175 million in sales for 2021, according to industry sources. The company has patented its hair supplement blend, and has secured an investment from L Catterton.

Here, Tsetis talks Nutrafol’s growth, strategy and upcoming products. This interview has been edited and condensed.

What resonates with your customers about Nutrafol, versus Minoxidil or something like Propecia?

Giorgos Tsetis: People are really starting to resonate with an inner wellness approach to target beauty, in this case hair. Wellness is a very broad word, but we’re tying it to hair wellness and educating consumers around all these important underlying causes that need to be addressed.

To address Minoxidil and Propecia, it’s branding in general. These hair loss drugs are always associated with fear and anxiety. It’s “don’t lose your hair,” “take control of your hair otherwise it’s going to fall out.” As a brand, we have always taken a much more empowering approach. We never talk about fear, we never talk about loss, we’re always empowering consumers to approach this problem in a very different way and most importantly not making them feel bad about themselves.

How have you gone about building your consumer base?

G.T.: In order to really build a legacy brand, which is something we’re doing, you need credibility. You can’t just put a bunch of communities together and then hope for the best and use marketing to scale. We started with our doctor community.

When we didn’t have any funding and it was all our own money still, we put in everything to invest in product research, working with universities, connecting with doctors. We brought a lot of people on board in order to prove that this newly targeted approach targeting the underlying causes is really working.

What did growth during the pandemic look like for you?

G.T.: Understanding the whole body approach really was the foundation to being able to continue to grow during such a turbulent time. There was so much more awareness around wellness in general and people’s health. Wellness and the approach to wellness hasn’t even reached critical mass yet in my opinion.

From a growth perspective, the revenue in February 2021 was close to up 100 percent compared to 2020. The company in general from 2019 to 2020 grew about 60 percent. We saw new customers on Nutrafol.com in 2020 up 150 percent.

We had some core products that truly added value to people’s lives during a pandemic where there was so much loss of control. Hair is something that is still very important to people because it’s part of their identity.

It’s almost like, how do you treat your hair like your skin? You’ve been very proactive, taken a very antiaging approach when it comes to skin, but let’s take care of our skin because especially nowadays with the stresses and the demands and the stimuluses across the board — the human body is not made for that, and hair’s not that important for survival.

How do you think about subscriptions as part of the overall business proposition?

G.T.: The way we incentivize subscriptions on our e-commerce channel is really through services. This is an emotional journey for a lot of people…there’s always further opportunity for us to guide people throughout their journey. We have dozens of doctors available in house that are with us full time, who schedule consultations with our customers to set them up for success. That allows us to support customers and address concerns they have. If a product doesn’t work right, which sometimes happens, we dive in a little deeper, do a hair mineral analysis. You’re sending a hair sample to our lab, we analyze your hair, we analyze your health and doctors are giving tips based on these findings.

When we tailor our approach based on these conversations, retention goes through the roof. That’s one of the reasons our subscription base is close to 90 percent of customers that are buying products.

How do you think consumer shopping habits have changed over the past year?

G.T.: You can’t just be marketing the company, you need some fuel, you need some innovation, you need proof, you need science, especially when you solve a complex problem. Consumers are becoming way more savvy and critical of how they’re spending money.

Especially in the wellness category, you can’t just be a wellness product without science. We’ve invested millions of dollars in clinical trials to prove to the world that these nutraceuticals are able to make a difference. If you don’t have scientific backing, I don’t think companies will be able to scale considering how consumer mind-sets are changing.

What does the next phase look like for Nutrafol?

G.T.: There are 40 million women in the U.S. that unfortunately suffer from hair fall to hair loss at some point. There are about 50 million men, just in the U.S. When you look at that addressable market, it’s massive.

We will continue to expand our hair wellness portfolio. We’ll continue to innovate, and we’ll stay very focused on hair. We’re going to further invest in new scientific developments in next generation topical solutions as well [launching this year], we’ll continue to launch different products within the space addressing different life stages for consumers.

Our client acquisition cost actually started to drop. We have a very strong growth team within the company that is focusing on diversification in marketing channels, really lowering the acquisition cost, because the space has become very crowded. By just becoming better with targeting and diversification your marketing mix you can become way more efficient at scale.

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