Vegamour’s Founder On Hair Shedding, Sustainability, & The Future Of Beauty

The self-described serial entrepreneur chats with Bustle.

by Belinda Lichty Clarke
Vegamour founder Dan Hodgdon chats with Bustle.
Dan Hodgdon

In recent years, the hair care market has exploded with products that claim to help reduce thinning and loss. Of the many buzzy brands available, Vegamour is one that leads the pack with its clinically-tested, vegan line of products.

The creator behind the $100+ million brand is Dan Hodgdon, a self-described serial entrepreneur and lover of nature who learned environmental stewardship at the age of seven while working on his uncle’s farm in Vermont.

By 17, Hodgdon was a true global citizen, having lived in 20 different places, including Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Australia. These experiences led him to his most successful endeavor to date: a company dedicated to sustainability and the creation of fair-trade jobs.

Here, Hodgdon shares more about his international upbringing, path to success, and more.

How did your years abroad inform your career choices as an adult?

“Growing up abroad gave me a global perspective that has served me well and led me to pursue interests that were global in scale, armed with a naive belief that anything is possible if your heart is in the right place and you’re passionate about what you’re doing.

“I am fortunate to have been born in the U.S. where we have so much in terms of opportunities, education, political and individual freedom, [and] infrastructure.

“It also afforded me a first-hand look at other cultures, belief systems, and traditions that fostered an appreciation for the beauty of diversity while also the realization that we’re all made of the same ‘star-stuff’ on the inside.”

How did your prior jobs lead to Vegamour?

“I was probably seven or eight when I first started ‘working’ on my uncle’s dairy farm. Nearly everything my uncle’s family consumed, they either grew or raised. A harmonious relationship between farmer and land was essential to the success or failure, feast or famine of the entire family.

“A deep understanding of and respect for nature was vital for survival. My key takeaway was that if you’re good to the earth, she’ll be good back to you and provide you with all you need and more.

“I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 17 and started my first import/export business traveling to Bali and Thailand and bringing back batik clothing and hill tribe handicrafts to sell in the U.S., which led to me forming a successful clothing label in the late ’90s called XibitA.

“Later, in 2004, while working and living in Thailand, I started advising some friends who had started a beautiful spa line called Akhassa made from natural, plant-based ingredients. Developing relationships with the Indigenous people of the region and sharing knowledge on planting, harvesting, and setting up systems for creating scalable, eco-friendly jobs eventually led to me setting up a business that supplied sustainably-sourced, plant-based actives to the beauty industry.”

Explain the science behind the brand.

“Working for nearly a decade in the natural actives business alongside product formulators and biochemists, I built a knowledge base about bioactives that showed promise in the hair and skin care space.

“More clinical data became available along with advances in technology, allowing us to extract and concentrate their natural properties more efficiently. It became clear to me that it was now possible to get the same, if not better results from natural actives than their chemically-based counterparts...Especially when it came to hair growth or hair wellness.

“Traditional cosmetic, skin and hair care manufacturers often incorporate very small percentages of these actives — often less than one percent — into their formulations because these ingredients are very expensive.

“One day, while looking at all these beautiful actives that we were producing and realizing what they were capable of we thought to ourselves, ‘Why not create our own line of hair wellness products that incorporated these natural actives in a way in which we knew they’d be most beneficial and have the most efficacy?’”

“It wasn’t exactly that we wanted to start a clean beauty brand as much as it we felt it was our mission or responsibility to show the world that nature, combined with current advances in extraction technology, could have the same, if not better, impact on hair health than other products.”

Why is marula oil one of Vegamour’s star ingredients and how do you source it?

“I think of marula oil as being the ‘champagne’ of botanical oils in that it’s so rich in antioxidants and omega fatty acids such as steric and oleic acids, which help it to permeate hair follicles and reach the upper layer of the dermis to nourish and fight free radicals from within.

“Its rapid absorption rate allows it to penetrate deeply without leaving an oily residue. It’s anti-microbial and studies show that it helps to boost microcirculation.

“We sustainably source our marula oil from more than 5,000 women in fair trade partnerships in Northern Namibia, Swaziland, and South Africa.”

“We are involved in every step of the supply chain, from the training of our local community organizers to the collection and traceability of the unpressed kernels, to the cold-pressing and cold filtration of the oil at our proprietary processing facility that gently cleanses the oil without the use of chemicals, heat, or pressure.”

What’s next for you and the brand?

“I’m still advising Vegamour, but I have surrendered all day-to-day to our very capable team so that I can focus more on our social impact mission.

“[Another] project I’m excited about is a consumer goods incubator that I’ve founded and funded that has three new brands in development, the first of which is scheduled to launch in Q1 of 2024. Stay tuned.”

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.