Taraji P. Henson’s Next Role Isn’t On-Screen

To Taraji P. Henson, proper hair care isn't all that different from gardening.
"You can’t get a harvest if your soil is not good," said the actress on a recent phone call. "The same thing with your scalp: Your hair isn’t gonna grow if your scalp isn’t clean."
Hair has long been a love of Henson's. Before rising to Hollywood fame for roles in "Hustle & Flow," "Hidden Figures" and "Empire," Henson thought she would be a hair stylist. She considered cosmetology school after being rejected from a performing arts high school, but "missed cosmetology school by one year."
"God intervened," she said. "I found my way back to performing arts — not cosmetology."
Throughout her acting career, she's worn many hair styles, some of which took a toll on her scalp health. To combat the constant change, she began concocting her own products, mixing ingredients such as tea tree oil with a base oil — coconut, avocado, olive — in her bathroom. Now, 15 years later, her scalp-care brand, TPH by Taraji, will bow at more than 1,800 Target doors.
Taraji P. Henson
"I was having issues keeping my scalp and hair clean," said Henson. "There was nothing on the market that was servicing my needs, so I concocted something in the bathroom with an applicator and I perfected it with TPH."
TPH by Taraji will launch in 1,861 Target doors and online on Jan. 29. The debut line consists of four categories and a total of 18 sku's, including serums, scrubs, shampoos and conditioners. Prices range from $9.99 to $14.99.
The line is backed by beauty incubator Maesa, which handles manufacturing for brands such as Drew Barrymore's Flower Beauty and Kristin Ess, both of which are also sold at Target. TPH by Taraji is Maesa's first line dedicated to textured hair.
"As hard as it is to believe, we went to the moon in 1969, but we still don’t have a wash for protective styles," said Scott Oshry, Maesa's chief marketing officer. "We took a fresh, clean page when creating this and didn’t spend any time thinking about what has been done in the past. Taraji is very into aesthetics, color and fashion. The line is designed to be bathroom art."
Last year, Bain Capital acquired a majority stake in Maesa, which had about $230 million in annual sales at that time. Maesa declined to talk sales for this article, but industry insights anticipate that TPH by Taraji will bring in $20 million at retail in its first year.
In a statement, Cassandra Jones, vice president of beauty at Target, said that beauty is one of Target's fastest-growing categories.
"To help continue the growth of our beauty business, we are constantly seeking out and investing in new products, trends and services that elevate the experience and meet the unique and diverse needs of our guests," said Jones. "We are thrilled to be the exclusive retailer for TPH by Taraji P. Henson and to continue to show our guests that we’re committed to offering relevant and inclusive products that are accessible and most importantly, affordable."
A definitive focus on scalp health, a relatively new focal point in beauty, and textured hair, a long underserved category, sets TPH apart from other hair-care brands. The formulas incorporate active ingredients such as aloe, shea butter, biotin, marigold and kaolin clay, and all the products are vegan, cruelty-free and free of sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, phthalates, parabens and mineral oils. Product packaging also includes infographics meant to help consumers navigate different hair types.
"Maesa strives to always be launching brands of the future," said Oshry. "Because this is a ground-up brand and we’re not working with any formulas that have been in any kind of lineup, we were able to start out of the gate with revolutionary active ingredients. Textured hair has a completely different pattern to its formulation and how you need to penetrate and how the active ingredients need to work."
To aid with product penetration, Henson and the Maesa team made the formulas watery and developed a tri-prong applicator that is meant to work for protective and natural hair styles.
"We had to develop a special applicator so it can get through dense hair like mine or a protective hairstyle," said Henson. "I used to suffer from really bad dandruff and dry scalp and I sweat in my scalp a lot. Imagine with a weave or an install, all of that caked up. How do you get that out of there?"
She added that she is looking to expand TPH with a men's line, a children's line, a medicated line for those who suffer from dandruff and a line of styling products.
Henson currently works with celebrity hair stylist Tym Wallace and a hair braider who is the only braider she trusts with her hair.
"I come from Southern women and we believe in growing hands," she explained. "Some people have them and some people don’t. My hair stylist has growing hands — while I’m in his care, my hair grows. My braider, my hair grows because she doesn’t braid too tight. That’s another thing: people get into these protective hairstyles and they forget that you have to braid your hair down first, then sew the weft if you’re going into an install. You gotta be careful not to stress the hair. Just because you’re tucking it away doesn’t mean it’s safe."
Next week, Henson will host a pop-up in New York City to promote the line. She is also toying with the idea of creating a YouTube channel.
"I’m walking around with my Mother Earth Moisturizing Clay Mask on and as I was doing it, I was like, it’s gonna be fun to interact with my fans and people who support the brand and want to know how to use it," she said. "I know how to properly use the line — I created it, so it would be great .
"I’m in my bathroom right now cleaning out other products," she continued. "I’m so proud of myself: I don’t need other products."
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