Welcome to Talking Top 10, a recurring series in which we feature the founders, CEOs, creators, and leaders who are shaking up their industries. Ahead, read our Q&A with Carolyn Aronson, and keep scrolling to shop her Top 10 must-haves.
Carolyn Aronson is a successful entrepreneur, philanthropist and the founder and CEO of It’s a 10® Haircare, one of the only female-owned professional hair care brands in the world. She recently announced full ownership of the company. A self-made entrepreneur, Aronson began her career with 20+ years as a hairstylist and salon owner, and continues to hold licenses in multiple states. It’s a 10® Haircare was born out of her frustration with brands that produced dozens of products with single benefits and hard-to-follow claims. She envisioned a line that was for everyone and delivered full, salon-quality results in just one bottle. She began with a star product, Miracle Leave-In, and the line quickly rose to fame through pro hairstylists, who shared the cult-favorite product with their clients. Now a successful, global hair product company with a passionate celebrity and consumer following, It’s a 10® Haircare products are sold in more than 25,000 professional independent salons and 15,000 professional salon chains. Carolyn’s brand has helped women and men across the globe look and feel their best, while also allowing Carolyn to pursue her key priorities: Making the world a better place through various philanthropic endeavors, raising a successful family, and creating a culture that embraces diversity.
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What led you to launch your own haircare line?
I was a salon owner and stood behind the chair for almost 20 years. During that process, I used to cherry-pick product lines to carry in my salons and obviously use on my stations. I think creating a haircare line was really born out of frustration over the products that were already out there—I thought it could be done better.
What’s the most challenging thing about being one of the only female-owned haircare brands in the world? How about the most rewarding?
Most people don’t realize that the beauty industry is run by men. I think one of the most challenging things is when men maybe don’t take you seriously—sometimes I feel a little unheard. One of the most rewarding things though is that, when you’ve been doing this for over 15 years, you basically become undeniable and they have to listen to you in the end. You finally make your mark and get recognized for what you’re good at.
What makes It’s a 10 different from other haircare lines?
One of the things that makes it most different is that the actual products themselves really deliver these instant, multifunctional results. So as soon as somebody picks up a bottle, they’re using it and really feeling the instant difference. Also, the quality that is put into the ingredients and products—I’m extremely particular about it. I literally pick and design each and every product and everything in it. The workmanship going into the bottle ends up creating results that become undeniable.
How have you used your success to give back to the community?
In so many great, fun ways. I’m a strong believer in business with a purpose. I’m constantly working with charities. We just gave 5.4 million dollars away in free haircare during this pandemic. We also donate to children, to foster care, to autism, and even the environment—I’m a strong believer in being green. I’m either on their board or working with them directly to make a difference. Business without purpose is just to make money, and I don’t think businesses like that will last.
Tell us about your typical workday.
I’m usually up by 6:30 a.m. or 7:00 a.m., and I start reading emails right in bed—I usually get a few hundred emails a day. From there, I have a very distinct routine: shower, full makeup, and hair. No matter what happens, I believe in dressing for success. I get myself fully ready for the day. Even during this pandemic, I’m still doing that. It’s just part of my process, and I’m a huge believer in process. After that, I start going through what I need to do for the day, which always varies. I have an amazing team with me that assists me in achieving it all. Between me and them, we make it all happen. And even during this time, we’re extremely busy. I also have children, so at a certain time of the day, I push it all aside and I make sure that they have my undivided attention as much as I can possibly give it to them. I try to put the phone down and try to make sure we’re having that one-on-one time. And when they’re winding down and going to bed, that’s when I get back at it. So sometimes, I may work really odd hours and answer emails at 3:00 a.m. in the morning, so don’t be surprised if you ever get one from me that late.
If you had to pick a favorite product from your line, what would it be?
That’s really hard. I’m a firm believer in layering products—that’s something we did as hairdressers behind the chair anyway. So it really depends on how I’m doing my hair that day. I wash it, condition it, blow dry it, and style it every single day. If there is a day I don’t do it for some reason, then I have my blowdry refreshing spray that I absolutely love for plumping my hair back up and refreshing it. It smells amazing—we’ve had so many people ask if we can turn it into a candle. It’s really great and it’s a nice alternative for people who don’t wash their hair as much as I do. I would say that’s definitely my savior product.
What’s the number one hair trick we should all keep in our back pockets?
When you’re hair is not fresh, your blow dryer is your best friend. Most people don’t realize that. I think people think a blow dryer is only to be used when you’re hair’s wet, but it’s actually an amazing tool to refresh your hairstyle when you aren’t necessarily washing that day. Get that heat down at the roots and add a little lift—you’ll literally look like you just stepped out of the salon just by using your dryer.
You’re a CEO, a mom, and so many other things. How do you balance it all?
Prioritizing, for sure. When people ask me how I achieved all this, I tell them that along the journey, I was just working so hard and not really focusing on the “how,” per se—I was mainly just doing and doing and doing. Now that I take a step back and really look at the past 15 years, I truly do believe that I’m an expert at prioritizing. Time is money, and when you have the ability to focus and make sure you’re putting what’s most important first—that’s a big part of success and getting to where you need to go.
What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
It’s definitely that some of the best deals you make are the ones you don’t. Business is a roller coaster ride, and there are a lot of ups and downs, and a lot of disappointments along with the good times. When you have those disappointments, it’s important to understand that sometimes it’s just not meant to be. That may be a hard pill to swallow at the moment, but some of the best deals that you make are the ones that you never did. Having been in business for this long, I’ve really really learned that.
What’s the most exciting thing you’re working on at the moment?
Definitely my makeup line. I’ve been working on it for over two years, and now it’s actually coming to the final stages of its life. It’s about to launch, and I’m super super excited to see how it comes out. It’s absolutely beautiful and has such unique concepts behind it. It’s simple, easy-to-use, multifunctional makeup—very similar to my haircare line. I just think—especially with everyone being more confined and having to do a lot of things themselves right now—it’s important to have products that are going to make a big difference instantly. That’s what this makeup line does.