February 13, 2020
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As cofounder of one of the world’s most successful beauty brands, Moroccanoil’s Carmen Tal is a force of nature. Here, she reveals how creating a line of iconic hair, body, and sun products has evolved into a mission to inspire other women.
It started with just a basic need—Carmen Tal, today the cofounder of Moroccanoil, was visiting relatives in Israel when a bad color process damaged her hair. Disappointed, she accompanied a friend to a salon in Tel Aviv, where a hairstylist used an oil treatment to both condition and style Tal’s hair. According to Tal, “The results were like, Wow!”
Tal, a former salon owner herself who had also worked in the fashion industry, brought the product back home to Canada, where she started using it in her personal beauty regimen. She shared it with friends, colleagues, and her hairstylist. And as each reported the same impressive results—nourished, beautiful hair—she became convinced she had to distribute this oil on a larger stage. It took Tal six months to persuade her then husband, Ofer, a business executive who spoke Hebrew, that they needed to make this treatment oil their next venture.
Initially, the couple started by just securing North American distribution rights, but when their success outpaced the company’s level of production, Tal bought the company outright and launched what is today the multi-million-dollar brand Moroccanoil.
Looking back, Tal admits it was no cake walk. “What we faced most was the negativity of people,” she says of those early days. “The thing for me was mostly people saying, ‘Don’t bring something with oil.’ ‘Don’t bring anything with glass because it’s going to break, it’s going to make a mess.’ Or, ‘Why do you do something with hair—that’s [a] saturated [category]?’ That was the challenge. We just said, ‘Okay, if we fail, we fail.’ You don’t always have a guarantee that things are going to be successful. But we were lucky.”
“Lucky” might be the understatement of the century. The game-changing success of Moroccanoil in an industry notorious for fickleness and fads could well be attributed to some luck, but the stunning growth and longevity of the brand is directly proportional to Tal’s tenacity, dedication, inspiration, and vision.
Since the company launched less than a decade ago, Moroccanoil has ignited a passion (some would say obsession) in North America for argan oil, a rich elixir that’s harvested from kernels inside the fruit of Moroccan argan trees. In a labor-intensive process, Berber women crack open the argan nut to obtain the kernels, which are ground to extract the pure, unfiltered oil, which is then left to settle so any impurities sink to the bottom and can be removed. The resulting oil can be used for food (much the same way olive oil is) as well as a moisturizer for the face and hair. Argan oil is one of the main efficacious ingredients in the company’s cornerstone Moroccanoil Treatment and the signature ingredient across the entire product line, and spawned shelves of me-too merchandise.
Carmen Tal, cofounder of Moroccanoil, draws upon her travels around the world, including to the Beldi Country Club in Morocco (shown here), to fire her imagination for new products and ideas. The recently released fragrance Fleur de Rose was inspired by flowers Tal admired in France.
According to industry researcher Mintel, 29 products using argan oil launched in 2008; in 2012, it was 588. Meanwhile, researcher NPD Group has seen US department store sales of products featuring argan oil increase by more than 200 percent. “It actually doesn’t bother me anymore,” says Tal of the flood of argan oil products that fill shelves everywhere from high-end department stores to the local drugstore—even big-box stores like Costco. “Now I’m so confident that being the first, being the pioneer, and continuing to bring products of the highest quality, nobody will ever take that place. No matter how many other products come out, we’re still going to be the original. It’s not just about being an argan oil-infused brand; it’s much more than that. I think we are special.”
At the time of Moroccanoil’s debut, it wasn’t just what was inside the bottle that was unique. The scent (a distinct and delicious aroma the company calls Fragrance Originale), the eye-catching apothecary-esque glass bottles, the elegantly designed labels—everything about Moroccanoil heralded something entirely new and different from anything available in the marketplace. Still, with only one product—the now iconic Moroccanoil Treatment—Tal needed to rely on grassroots marketing to get it into the right hands. Bottles were given away to hairdressers, stylists, influencers, and editors—anyone who could spread the word about what she believed was the new beauty essential. “It was very different than most of the beauty products of the time,” recalls Tal, noting the signature aqua and orange packaging, the blue culled from an image of an ocean seen in a fashion print ad. “Seven, eight years ago, most of the packages were white, black, red—there wasn’t much diversity in the marketplace.”
“I’m so confident that being the first, being the pioneer, and continuing to bring products of the highest quality, nobody will ever take that place.”
Since then, the company has grown exponentially, both in size and in scope, and is now available in over 65 countries and has also experienced tremendous growth in the travel retail/duty-free category around the world. Tal relocated to New York (Moroccanoil also maintains offices in Montreal, Tel Aviv, and Tokyo), and they have expanded their offerings, from just the treatment oil—which found fans in celebrities such as Madonna, Emily Blunt, and Bar Refaeli—to a range of hair products, including a new texture collection featuring a Dry Texture Spray, made with a special blend of volcanic mineral zeolite and high-performance resins, as well as the unisex styler Texture Clay, which blends argan oil with cosmetic-grade bentonite clay and nourishing shea butter for a silky texture with shapeable hold.
A surprising addition to the hair collection, Tal introduced spa-quality Moroccanoil Body skincare treatments, including an exfoliating body scrub—which features a unique blend of argan, sesame, grape seed, avocado, and sweet almond oils to nourish the skin—cleansing bar, shower milk, body butter, body soufflé, and hand cream. Says Tal, “The development of the Moroccanoil Body collection was a natural next step for us, as we wanted to satisfy our consumer’s desire for luxurious treatments that not only transform the hair, but the body as well.” In 2015, two enticing and exotic fragrances were added: Fleur d’Oranger, a rich orange blossom scent that Tal says “is good enough to eat” and was inspired by her time in Spain; and Fleur de Rose, sparked by a garden of roses Tal spotted during a trip to France. The Moroccanoil Sun collection was launched the same year. “Argan oil is an incredible gift of nature, a natural sun protector, so it was an obvious choice for us to launch a Sun line,” says Tal. “We have always been inspired by the Mediterranean, and our Sun collection reminds me of when I was a teen, and going to the beach with my friends feeling happy and relaxed.”
Carmen Tal has harnessed the power of argan oil in her company’s beloved Moroccanoil Treatment (RIGHT), and used her platform as the leader of a multi-million-dollar beauty brand to celebrate female philanthropists, such as designer Georgina Chapman (LEFT), shown here with Tal at an event for Tal’s Inspired By Women™ campaign.
“I find that when I travel is when I have the time to discover, and I have the time to observe and see what else is happening,” she adds. “I’m not a creative person, but I know what I like. And then I interpret it in my own way.”
Later this year, the company plans to announce its next generation of yet-to-be-revealed haircare products. “Trends are changing,” says Tal. “We try to come up with one or two big launches every year, or we formulate something—like [when] a new ingredient has come up in the market and we need to adjust—so we constantly are reinventing ourselves.”
But most importantly for Tal is her holistic commitment to her customers. As well as inspiring women to look and feel their best, Tal is dedicated to helping them fulfill their personal potential and make their dreams a reality by empowering them to discover beauty in a new light—through the power of inspiration.
With this at the forefront of her vision for her brand, and realizing the power of inspiration to move us to action, Moroccanoil announced its inaugural Inspired By Women™ initiative in the fall of 2014, a lifelong project for the company created to inspire, celebrate, and empower women around the world.
“Many people who have succeeded in what they do have failed, many times, and they continue and they don’t care if they lose their shirt. They just keep on going.”
“Inspired By Women™ provides a global platform for courageous women to share their unique personal journeys of bringing change through empowerment,” says Tal. “To me, inspiration is the vehicle for empowerment to pursue one’s dreams. The Moroccanoil brand was created from an inspired moment! It only takes one moment of inspiration to ignite positive change.”
The program’s first five honorees were highlighted in a digital short film series, directed by actress and filmmaker Bryce Dallas Howard. Women featured in the series included trailblazers such as Rebecca Welsh, founder of The HALO organization, which helps homeless and at-risk youth heal and create a future through art therapy, and Allyson Ahlstrom, who provides cool clothes to kids in need across the country through her philanthropic Threads for Teens. “We’re extremely proud through Inspired By Women™ to feature powerful stories of passionate and courageous women who take confidence, compassion, and strength to a whole new level,” says Tal. “We hope their incredibly moving stories and accomplishments will serve as the catalyst that inspires all women to let go of their fears, take a chance, and realize their dreams. When you empower women, the sky’s the limit!”
Most recently, the Inspired By Women™ program honored Marchesa designer and cofounder Georgina Chapman, who works with the organization The Magic Bus Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to lift communities in India out of poverty by providing education, sanitation, and mentoring efforts. It’s an organization close to Chapman’s heart as generations of her family have lived in India, and much of the artisanal embroidery and craftsmanship for which her designer gowns are known comes from these regions. Says Tal, “As we only just launched our newest film with Georgina Chapman, our goal is to ensure it touches as many lives as possible. As for the next film, we are looking towards a 2017 launch. It would be amazing, should the stars be aligned, to continue working with Bryce Dallas Howard. She has been such an integral part of the project, and is an extraordinary visionary and filmmaker, not to mention an incredibly inspiring woman herself!”
“I always see us as goddesses,” continues the petite Tal, whose soft-spokenness belies her self-confidence and steely determination. “I think [women] should rule the world. We become mothers. And if we, as women, take seriously the responsibility of raising responsible human beings, this world would be a much better place. And by encouraging and empowering women to find themselves and teach them all these things, in 100 years we’ll have a much better place to live. People all over the world have been so moved by the stories of our Inspired By Women™ nominees. I think I’m most proud of the countless lives we have been able to touch through the initiative—and hopefully not only to inspire, but also empower other women to make their own dreams a reality.”
photogRaphY CouRtesY of MoRoCCanoil