L'OREAL acquires Soft Sheen in the United States

Paris, 1 July 1998. The L'OREAL Group, the world leader in cosmetics and haircare, announces the acquisition, through its U.S. subsidiary Cosmair, Inc., of the American company Soft Sheen Products, Inc., a leader in ethnic haircare. This transaction creates strategic growth opportunities in ethnic beauty for both L'OREAL and Soft Sheen.

Founded in 1964 in Chicago by Edward and Bettiann Gardner, Soft Sheen Products, Inc. produces a complete range of ethnic haircare products. The company employs 400 people, and in 1997 achieved sales of close to USD 80 million. Soft Sheen exports its products to Canada, the United Kingdom, western African countries and the Caribbean.

The company markets its products under numerous brands sold by specialist retailers (75%) and hairdressing salons (25%); major brands include Optimum, Care Free Curl and Alternatives. Product lines consist of hair straighteners (30%), shampoos (10%), colorants 5%, and a complete range of perms and other hairstyling products.

Soft Sheen is a leader in innovation and ethnic haircare expertise for the last 30 years. The company has played a major role in defining and building this market. Experiencing growth for several years, this market is estimated at close to 300 million dollars for 1997.

Terri Gardner, the President and CEO of Soft Sheen and daughter of the founders, will stay on as head of the company. "This agreement with L'OREAL will allow us to ensure our development and to further our quest to become a world-class organisation," she said.

For Lindsay Owen-Jones, President and CEO of the L'OREAL Group, "This acquisition is a strategic move, which represents an exceptional opportunity for the Group to deepen our focus on the needs of people of colour, initially in the United States and ultimately in the rest of the world. L'OREAL indeed has the ability to enhance even further Soft Sheen's technology, thanks to the world's most advanced haircare research."