“I really did not plan to create my own brand or found another company,” says Melisse Shaban. “Let’s face it, there are plenty of beauty brands out there already.”

However, in 2017, she found herself doing just that, launching a new beauty brand, Virtue Labs. But, using groundbreaking technology, known as Alpha Keratin 60ku®, which was uncovered by Melisse, she brought something to the market in the haircare space that hadn’t been seen before.

Alpha Keratin 60ku® is a patented form of a human keratin protein that was developed in the study of regenerative medicine to help heal explosive burn injuries. This specific keratin protein can also help repair hair as it essentially “sees” the cracks of damage in strands of hair.

Now available at Sephora Middle East, Emirates Woman sat down with the Virtue Labs founder and CEO to discover more about the brand and how it can truly transform your hair.

Can you talk us through your career?

You could say that I was born into the beauty industry. My Dad worked at Revlon for 30 years, so the industry has pretty much always been a part of my life. I was always interested in what he did. And more than “beauty” and beauty products themselves, he really got me interested in how consumers relate to those products, and how those products can make people feel about themselves on a daily basis.

Thanks in part to my Dad, my first job out of school was behind the Revlon counter at Macy’s Herald Square in New York. So I’ve always been in the cosmetics industry, but my first big break was when I was hired by Horst Rechelbacher to be General Manager of Aveda. I was quite young at the time – in my early 30’s – and it was a pivotal moment in my career in many ways. I learned the hair business inside and out. And I learned the challenges of running a brand that was growing rapidly and expanding into international markets. Since then I have gone on to run many successful beauty brands including Fekkai and StriVectin.

Virtue Labs

What inspired you to launch Virtue?

After many years in the industry, including working with some great entrepreneurs and founders – Horst Rechelbacher of Aveda, Anita Roddick of The Body Shop – I really did not plan to create my own brand or found another company. Let’s face it, there are plenty of beauty brands out there already. But it was when I stumbled upon this really extraordinary technology that changed my thinking and opened my eyes to the possibilities.

Dr. Luke Burnett, the chief scientist behind the development of this technology, is a retired Colonel from the U.S. Army. After seeing the devastating effects of combat injuries, he made it his mission back home to find ways to speed healing of explosive burn injuries, and it was all based on this newly patented form of a human keratin protein. An intern, a young woman PhD candidate working in his lab, had family members in the beauty industry, and she asked if she could perform some experiments using leftover material – she had heard of “keratin” in hair care and wanted to test and see if this particular keratin protein could also have benefits for hair. A few experiments later, they liked what they saw, but haircare was not their mission or their expertise. That’s when I was called in to take a look, really as a favour for a friend. Seeing the extraordinary reparative results that this technology has on damaged hair made me want to share it with the world. And about four years after that, Virtue was born. The products launched in 2017.

What do you think the brand has brought to the beauty & hair care space?

Really Virtue’s whole reason for being is this breakthrough technology which was never intended for use in hair care at all. Alpha Keratin 60ku® is a patented form of a human keratin protein that was developed in the study of regenerative medicine to help heal explosive burn injuries. Contrary to other “keratins” you might have heard of, which are highly processed animal by-products (like sheep wool or feathers), this is a unique protein that is derived from human hair, and carefully extracted to remain whole and fully functional. Because it is essentially the same thing that makes up about 90% of your hair, it “sees” the cracks of damage, and goes where it’s needed to repave and heal the damage to give you your healthiest, most beautiful hair possible.

We did a lot of clinical studies with the ingredient, even before we started formulating the final products, and were blown away by what we saw. After five uses, Virtue products with Alpha Keratin 60ku deliver up to:

  • 67% reduction in frizz
  • 95% split end reparation
  • 22% increase in thickness
  • 38% increase in colour vibrancy

Virtue Labs (2)

How have things evolved for Virtue since the brand launched in 2017?

We only go where the technology leads us and where we can show that it is making a real difference and creating better, more effective products. That has led us from repairing hair damage, which is at our core, to nurturing scalp health, and now, with our latest launch called Virtue Flourish®, to addressing the problem of women’s hair thinning and loss. With the Flourish products we are seeing incredible results and we are extremely excited to be bringing Virtue Flourish to your region in early 2022.

What is at the heart of Virtue’s brand DNA?

The heart of Virtue’s DNA is our Alpha Keratin 60ku® – our extraordinary, clinically proven hair repairing technology, which is completely unique in the industry and exclusive to Virtue.

How would you describe the beauty space here in the UAE & GCC?

I love this part of the world. The people here are very enthusiastic beauty consumers, but they are also very discerning and interested in high-quality products. They enjoy the category and it is a big part of their lives. As a brand founder and someone who has spent my entire career in this industry, it’s very rewarding to have people appreciate what we’re doing and the products we’re bringing to market.

What are, in your opinion, Virtue’s hero products?

There are four products that are consistently best-sellers around the world. Those are our Recovery Shampoo and Recovery Conditioner, our Restorative Treatment Mask, and our Healing Oil. All of these are suitable for pretty much any hair type, and provide the most incredible hair repairing results to give you your healthiest, most beautiful hair possible. Our newest hero product is our Virtue Flourish Density Booster, which is a drug-free, botanical-based serum for hair thinning that is proving to produce really remarkable results. We believe it is the first real innovation in relation to hair loss in a generation.

Throughout your journey to building the brand, what have been the challenges you’ve faced?

Really, the main challenge for Virtue is simply gaining awareness in a very crowded, noisy industry. We’re still a young brand and not widely known. But once people try the products, they’re hooked. They see the real difference it makes in their hair and they stay with it.

What have been the milestones?

I’m excited about our upcoming milestone – Virtue’s fifth birthday in February 2022. It has been a long journey, but we have made it to the five-year mark, and the Virtue brand is going strong all around the world. I couldn’t be more proud.

What’s next for Virtue?

I honestly believe we have just scratched the surface of what our Alpha Keratin 60ku protein can do, and we’re learning more about it every day. We are not interested in chasing trends or making ‘me-too’ products. As we continue to develop the brand, we will only go where this technology leads us. For the future, I think we’ll continue to explore scalp health, and we will continue to innovate in relation to thinning hair and hair loss which is a real problem around the world. We’re really excited to be able to provide some solutions.

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