As the world has reopened and people are back to being busy, devoting several hours to the salon can be a chore. “We see a lot of people working here on their laptops,” says hair stylist and JUSTB Salon owner Ben Barkworth, describing his clientele. “To spend five hours getting your hair done is a lot of time.”
The need for greater efficiency in the salon inspired Barkworth to create FASTFOILS, a specially coated black foil that holds heat more effectively than regular foils.
Barkworth’s ‘ah-ha moment’ came while working at London Fashion Week in 2019. He describes how all the stylists were wearing black, “I remember it being so hot and I was like, ‘why are we wearing black?’ That’s when a light went off—black absorbs heat.”
Barkworth wondered if adding a heat source to black foil, instead of the typical silver foil used for coloring, could speed up the processing time. He returned home to Toronto and began researching and product testing. Barkworth found his hypothesis was correct—black foils increased processing time by 25%. He soon after launched FASTFOILS in 2020.
While he says FASTFOILS are 20% more expensive than the average foil competitor, the ability to see more clients in the same amount of time absorbs the extra cost of the special foil. Being able to book one more client each day using FASTFOILS can increase annual revenue by approximately $48,000, according to Barkworth.
“Time is money,” Barkworth tells Forbes. “For the stylist, they can generate more revenue in the same amount of time. But for the guest, they don’t want to spend so many hours in the salon either. If we can speed up the processing time, they can be out faster and get back to life.”
FASTFOILS absorb heat to achieve lift more quickly by being black, but they also speed up the coloring job due to their size. Barkworth purposely designed wide 8×10 foils to color larger sections of hair in one foil, instead of using several foils to hold smaller sections of hair. “It’s all about efficiency and helping the stylist work quicker,” Barkworth says.
Better yet, FASTFOILS maintain heat twice as long after they’re removed, enabling colorists to use a lower developer instead of a higher, more damaging developer. “Hair damage comes from the high levels of chemicals in the developer,” explains Barkworth. The FASTFOILS founder uses the analogy of opening a book, “Using a higher develop is like snapping a book in half, a lower developer is like opening the book slowly. It opens the cuticle gradually, allowing the heat to do the work without the damage.”
With both time and healthy roots a priority to clients, it’s no surprise FASTFOILS has seen a growth of 804% since last year. While the brand officially launched in 2020, it’s only really been active in the industry since March 2021, due to the pandemic shutting down salons. Now that the world has reopened, Barkworth’s first step is to get the product in the hands of stylists, and then consumers. He is increasing brand awareness in the United States and Canada by working with key stylists in the industry, showcasing at hair shows and taking to social media.
Key to the campaign is their latest look book, which features six looks, each representing a city that holds a place in Barkworth’s heart: L.A., New York City, Miami, London, Paris and Toronto.
“We’re using the looks to educate stylists so they can efficiently apply color with these six different color placements,” Barkworth tells Forbes. Each look aims to embody the essence of each city: Miami is a voluminous golden blonde, New York City a power blonde and Paris a whimsical balayage, for example. For Toronto, where Barkworth is based, he chose a mullet.
“I wanted to represent our night scene and diversity,” explains Barkworth. “The whole collection is playful. We’ve got all textures, all races to highlight all the different ways you can use FASTFOILS.”
The globally-inspired look book takes from Barkworth’s own international background. Born in London, he attended Marvel Beauty School in Toronto and has worked at New York and London Fashion Weeks. Over the past 13 years, Barkworth has worked his way up to become one of Canada’s top hairstylists, with his own brick-and-mortar JUSTB Salon entering its seventh year in business. While he planned to open more JUSTB locations throughout Toronto a few years ago, the pandemic shifted his focus away from expanding the salon to growing FASTFOILS instead. “My goal is to educate stylists in the industry on how to work more efficiently,” says Barkworth. “On the business side, my goal is to keep growing the brand and innovating.”
And innovating he does. The stylist says they have a similar creation to the foils in the works for next year. In the meantime, they’ll be launching an extra wide brush to apply color more quickly, as well as a detailing and paint brush. For Barkworth, the innovation clearly doesn’t end with his signature black foils.