BeautyTalks with Jupiter Co-Founders Robbie Salter and Ross Goodhart
Tell us about a bit how Jupiter came to be as a concept.
We both used to get dandruff and had a shared frustration with how nothing seemed to work (setting aside how they smelled or looked). And coincidentally, we came up with the idea at the same time but were thinking about it from two completely different angles.
Robbie’s epiphany came when he was at work, having a bit of a stressful day. The company he worked for had just been acquired, and he was freaking out about what to do next since he really loved working in small, startup environments. Like many people, his stress caused him to start scratching his head, and when doing so, he noticed a bunch of dandruff flakes gathering on his desk (think Ally Sheedy from the Breakfast Club). This lightbulb moment would set him off on a fact-finding mission to see if other people shared his frustration and curiosity.
Meanwhile, Ross had left a successful career in private equity to launch a business focused on Amazon commerce, spotting consumer products that could be improved by enhanced customer service and simple design modifications. After seeing specialist after specialist for his chronic dandruff, he began contemplating how he could take fate into his own hands, just as he had done with other categories and products on Amazon.
The two of us wanted to see if anyone shared our pain, and the response was not just overwhelming, but it was super surprising. It turned out that women were being left out of the conversation entirely and demanded a product that was not just safe for all hair types, but also safe for color-treated and chemically treated hair. Moreover, they wanted a product that they didn’t have to hide when they had guests over and was formulated with clean, higher-end ingredients.
And Jupiter was born. The idea is to make highly effective products aimed at addressing scalp discomfort that even the most discerning of beauty fanatics would love, while also looking and smelling absolutely amazing.
You are product pioneers. What made you interested in the dandruff category.
Scalp health is super personal to both of us. As we noted above, we both were incredibly frustrated with the tired brands we saw on the shelves, and the lack of information and education those brands were providing beyond the bottle. It felt like the entire industry just said ‘dandruff isn’t beautiful so we’ll just focus on something else.’
In some ways we’re also uniquely suited to love - and fight for - the underdog. Neither of us grew up as ‘the cool kid,’ with Ross getting teased for his dandruff and Robbie for hitting puberty pretty late in life. Those formative moments/years gave us a bit of fire in our bellies and a desire to stand up for causes that would make outsiders feel more welcomed...which is precisely what Jupiter stands for, and as well, the precise reason a portion of our profits go to supporting mental health causes.
The last bit we’ll say is that we learned quickly that some of the more common scalp discomfort issues like flaking, scaling, redness and itchiness, were often the result of certain lifestyle factors. Having done a ridiculous amount of research on the topic, speaking with dermatologists, and seeing how pioneering countries like Korea were treating their scalps like any other form of skincare, we knew there was an opportunity to re-educate consumers on the often overlooked category.
"The brand should feel confident and proud outside of the shower in its language and attitude, but a bit more modest in the bathroom. So we chose a chic, minimalist approach."
The GlossWire team loves the packaging, dandruff shampoo can finally look chic in the shower, was the branding an important part of the story?
Incredibly important. We heard time and again that people would hide their dandruff shampoo bottles when guests would come over. And we also knew from firsthand experience that, no disrespect to them, but the ubiquitous blue bottles common in the category didn’t fit in with the calming experience/environment people tend to prefer in their bathrooms.
We ultimately decided that the brand should feel confident and proud outside of the shower in its language and attitude, but a bit more modest or demure in the bathroom. So we chose a chic, minimalist approach that people seem to enjoy.
These are truly unisex products, geared for women and men, tell us a bit more about that.
Yes, absolutely. And on purpose for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, we didn’t want to fall too deeply into the tropes of defining what a product that is “made for” a man or a woman should look like simply because those lines are progressively much more fluid.
And secondly, we knew that scalp care is really a “family” issue, in that anyone can (and likely will) get scalp discomfort at some point in their lives. We didn’t want to alienate either gender by having the formulas smell a certain way, bottles being a certain color or our tone of voice being too masculine or feminine. Not to mention, we’re huge fans of brands like Le Labo, who in our opinion, set the pace for how gender neutrality could be done flawlessly.
Finally, we also heard time and again from the men we surveyed that they often used what their significant other purchased for them or what was on the shower shelf (read: stealing products from their partners). So again, we wanted to make sure that our appeal was as broad as possible.
How many products are in the line currently, what are the must-haves?
We currently have 6 products in our launch line and they’re all must-haves, naturally. :)
Taking a step back, one of our key differentiators is that we’re entirely focused on scalp health. As such, we have two products - our shampoo and scalp serum - that contain an active ingredient aimed at targeting the underlying cause of scalp discomfort (we use zinc pyrithione in our shampoo and scalp serum). They’re generally for those looking to control their scalp’s oil production (dryness OR over-production), but can also be prophylactic so you can proactively prevent scalp issues.
The balance of our product line are cosmetic products (in that they don’t contain an active ingredient) but were formulated to be used in concert with our OTC products. That includes our Nourishing Conditioner (made specifically for delivering moisture to the hair AND scalp), our Soothing Elixir (a spot-treatment for on-the-go hydration when an itch may sneak up), our Purifying Mask (a weekly chemical exfoliant that gently lifts off impurities), and our Scalp Brush (for physically loosening up gunk like flakes or styling products blocking the follicle).
And we of course joke about them all being must-haves. Every scalp is different, and our dermatologist-approved quiz on our website helps customers personalize sets based on their unique needs.
Do you believe a great haircare routine changes your mindset?
Yes - and specifically a scalp care routine, definitely.
Setting apart our own personal biases and experiences, we hear time and again from our customers that Jupiter has given them the confidence to stop wearing hats, start wearing dark clothes again, and in a couple fun examples, re-enter the dating scene.
To that end, we’ve always felt that what we’re really building is a “confidence company.” Whether or not you have some form of scalp discomfort, our products are intended to make you feel comfortable, happy, and looking damn good. And based off the strong traction thus far, we’re excited about the impact Jupiter can have.
Do you see your brand expanding with different products?
Yes, we definitely will when the time is right. We’ve got a handful of exciting new products ready to go, but we really want to give our existing product line enough time to be fully adopted before releasing new extensions, lines or categories.
"We opted to utilize scalp-friendly essential oils to create our clean, spa-like all-natural scent."
Share with us your go-to essential key ingredients and what issues they tackle.
When we began formulation, we literally started from scratch, re-imagining how to deliver efficacious products without compromising on smell or texture.
First things first, we needed to target the underlying causes of dandruff (overproduction of sebum and naturally-occurring fungus/bacteria on the scalp) by including an active ingredient. In our case, we decided to use Zinc Pyrithione (“ZPT”) in our shampoo and scalp serum based on the 50+ years of clinical data supporting its efficacy, and the general consensus in the dermatological community that it’s the gentlest on the scalp.
Next, in addition to other innovative ingredients, we layered on a number of natural ingredients across our suite of products including: Probiotics (to support a balanced and healthy scalp), Aloe Vera (to soothe and moisture the scalp), Oat Kernel (to strengthen the scalp’s moisture barrier and act as a gentle cleanser), and Volcanic Ash (to effectively and gently exfoliate the scalp and absurd excess oil).
Lastly, as we were formulating our products, we learned a dirty little secret of the cosmetics industry that many synthetic fragrances (which you will find in many well known personal care brands) often contain bad ingredients such as parabens (but all hidden under the word Fragrance on their ingredient lists). As such, we opted to utilize scalp-friendly essential oils to create our clean, spa-like all-natural scent (so you’ll never see the term “Fragrance” on any of our ingredient lists).
What role does social media play in your brand?
We’re still figuring that out, in all honesty.
Advertising aside, at a minimum, we know that it’s another avenue for us to educate our existing and potential consumers about all things scalp health. It also serves as a way to eliminate any preconceived notions that people have about what a scalp discomfort brand should look like.
As well, it’s an incredibly valuable medium for answering questions about scalp health, fielding inquiries about the products, and really (really) empathizing with potential customers about their conditions before they try Jupiter. It’s really astounding how much scalp health can impact one’s life, both mentally and physically, and we want to make sure our customers feel like they always have a built-in support system in Jupiter.
What are your morning rituals?
Robbie either starts his day around 6AM with a workout, or around 7AM with a long walk with his dog, Doctor Salter, in Central Park. Either way, he generally tries to jam in as much free-time/me-time as possible before his newborn son, Jesse, wakes up. From there, it’s a fairly standard self-care routine of showering with Jupiter products and applying facial moisturizer from Even Prime before making a cup of coffee and a hearty, big breakfast before jumping right into emails or delinquent Slack messages from the previous night.
Ross also starts his day around 6-7AM with a walk with his pup, Kaia, along the waterfront in Miami. He then throws on some music or a podcast/audiobook, jumps into a workout or a run along the water, or plays tennis with anyone who is willing to wake up that early. Ross’ morning personal care routine is very similar to Robbie’s (add on some Vitamin C face serum), and then jumps onto Slack to get to work. But unlike Robbie, Ross practices intermittent fasting throughout the days (so no big hearty breakfast for him).
"We wanted a name that felt gender-neutral, was already in our vocabularies, and most importantly, felt science-based without coming across as medicinal."
What inspired your brand’s name Jupiter?
We wanted a name that felt gender-neutral, was already in our vocabularies, and most importantly, felt science-based without coming across as medicinal.
After landing on Jupiter (no pun intended), we learned about all the cool astrological and astronomical references. From an astrological perspective, Jupiter is confident, jovial and yearns to explore. And from an astronomical perspective, Jupiter protects Earth from space flakes (Asteroids) and coincidentally has had a storm brewing on its head for nearly 200 years.
Pretty fun stuff.
What has been your favorite part about building this business?
Without a doubt, our greatest joy comes from hearing how Jupiter has completely transformed people’s lives. Speaking frankly, it’s really easy to look at Jupiter as just a company that sells dandruff products; but for those who have struggled with scalp discomfort their entire lives, finding an effective treatment can be the difference between living proudly or with great insecurities.
It’s the core reason we developed our company mantra “Zero Flakes Given.” Its purpose is to convey that in life there are too many things one can “give a flake about,” but because Jupiter exists, dandruff doesn’t need to be one of them.
So when we see or hear about people living a life giving zero flakes, well, nothing can top it.
What have been key learning experiences being a D2C business?
We’re not huge fans of the term direct-to-consumer mostly because it carries a certain negative connotation. We prefer ‘digitally-native’ since it’s a bit more accurate to Jupiter’s origin and hints at our ambitions beyond digital.
Semantics aside, one of our greatest learning experiences thus far has been our understanding that formulating world-class products is table stakes. With so many touchpoints - from raw materials suppliers to the fulfillment center and the mail carrier - it’s a constant game of whack-a-mole and near-guarantee that there will always be an issue to resolve.
Aside from Jupiter, what are you passionate about?
We’re both fairly uncomplicated guys, big on family, friends, and great food.
Having been personally impacted by cancer, we’re also both passionate about and involved with various cancer research non-profits, including Imerman Angels and Pap Corps Champions for Cancer Research.