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Creative HEAD meets the brains behind Yuv Lab – potentially the biggest industry game-changer since the hairdryer.

Francisco Gimenez

Thought about your colour bar lately? It’s where your colourists mix the concoctions that command some of the highest charges on your treatment menu, but it’s also where your business haemorrhages money, too. Salon owners estimate that at least 40 per cent of the colour they buy goes to waste. And that’s why Francisco Gimenez has been thinking about your colour bar too.

The Mexico City-born tech entrepreneur is the brains behind the Yuv Lab, billed as the first smart, bespoke hair colour lab for salons and freelance colourists, looking to streamline and automate the colour formula process dramatically to reduce waste and costs while making clients happier.

Gimenez, whose engineering background predisposes him to problem-solving “I’ve been called a disruptor, but I have never set out deliberately to challenge things,” he says), had spent years thinking about and observing professional colour during his time with the customised hair colour business, eSalon. He had seen how colourists always mix colour by hand, a process that is not only susceptible to improvisation but that almost automatically creates a surplus of unused formula. It tends to taketwo to three shades to mix a client’s colour but only about half or a quarter tube of each shade is used. If colour runs out mid-application, it’s normal to run back to the colour bar and mix the full amount again, in order to get the same consistency. Says Gimenez: “What’s left in the mixing bowl after colouring a client’s hair gets thrown out, as does unused product in the multiple bottles of colour opened to create that person’s shade, since opened bottles of colour have a short shelf life before the formula begins to oxidise. If what’s left over isn’t quickly used on another client, it simply gets thrown away.

“On top of that, salons typically purchase a professional colour brand’s full portfolio of 100+ shades, many of which are nearly identical with only very subtle pigment differences,” he continues. “Itopened my eyes to all the unnecessary spending and excess waste that’s occurring, and I thought, there has to be a better business model.”

Gimenez’s solution is the Yuv Lab (pronounced “you’ve”), a patent-pending refillable cartridge-based dispenser that’s light enough to carry under your arm (making it perfect for freelancers, too), and that can store and dispense millions of customised colour formulations. Instead of mixing colour by hand, Yuv does it all with the touch of a button. The machine’s sensors – Gimenez had a whole team of robotics and manufacturing experts working for him – measure and calibrate exactly how much of each colour is to be used on a client, then it stores that information online for future visits, eliminating the need for keeping clients’ formulas on hand-written notecards (which as we all know, can often be marked incorrectly or get lost altogether).


Yuv ambassadors Grace Dalgleish, Jack Mead & Lydia Wolfe and Samantha Cusick

Yuv uses refillable aluminium cartridges, rather than single-use plastic bottles, ticking important sustainability boxes – every delivery includes prepaid return shipping labels to send empty cartridges back to the company. The colour itself (which Gimenez knew had to be world-class) was created by a speciality colour formulation lab in Switzerland. It provides up to 100 per cent grey coverage, using ME-PPD technology to dramatically reduce allergic reactions. The Lab is also equipped with all the developers needed, including a cream bleach, and offers the flexibility to substitute ingredients to create semi-permanent formulas. 

But here’s the bit that’s truly revolutionary: you don’t purchase any colour inventory upfront. Yuv Lab runs on a ‘pay as you dispense’ model, meaning salons and freelancers will only be charged for what they use, eliminating paying for dead stock and cutting down on waste. The smart system tracks colour consumption over time and adjusts consignment deliveries to match what you use, streamlining inventory and saving precious shelf space.

“We bill for the grams of colour used, which is precisely tracked by the Yuv Lab machine and stored in your online account,” explains Gimenez. “The cost per full tube of colour is roughly the same as what the other major salon brands charge, but it’s pay-as-you-go colour, so you get better value because each tube lasts longer, and you never pay for unused formula.” He estimates that Yuv can reduce product waste and cut colour spend by as much as 35 per cent on both fronts.

It costs £49 a month to subscribe, which includes a Yuv Lab, an iPad to access its app, a thermal printer to label hair colour bowls, and access to its business solutions.Even with our fee, you still save 25 to 35 per cent on overall colour costs because Yuv cuts out product waste and you’re not paying for inventory,” says Gimenez. “And renting the machine, rather than buying it upfront, removes all fear of expensive commitment.”

Gimenez has thought about potential barriers to Yuv Lab, too – for example, he knows that colourists get attached to their current colour brand and so do their clients, who’ve been depending on the existing hair colours. To get salons and hair colourists comfortable with switching, Yuv grasps what’s been effective for them to date to enable its machine to replicate that.

Explains Gimenez, “Instead of forcing people to learn a new system, Yuv allows each hairdresser working in the salon to customise their account. That means Yuv works bespoke to each colourist and their way of working, which means it’s not a problem if you have a new team hire and they’ve got their own unique approach to mixing and using colour.”

But most important of all to Gimenez was to reassure colourists they can still be creative with Yuv – in fact Yuv pledges to amplify creativity. The machine enables hair colourists to play with tones, ammonia levels, pH, opacity and more, and repeat the results of their playing consistently after they’ve pinned down their desired concoction. Gimenez envisions hair colourists developing tailored hair colour palettes akin to Spotify playlists of hair dye that they can leverage to boost their personal brands.

The Yuv HQ is in London because, “it’s a good benchmark market for a hair salon business in that you’re connected both to Western Europe and the US,” says Gimenez. Plus, he loves London. YuvLab has been put through its paces in a selection of London salons and now, with the feedback in place, the time has come to roll it out further. Grace Dalgleish and Samantha Cusick have beenappointed UK colour ambassadors (“Yuv will revolutionise our industry,” says Dalgleish. “I can’t wait to create my own bespoke palette for the brand”, while Cusick will collaborate with Yuv to develop new shades and formulations that meet the needs of modern salons and freelancers). And they have just been joined by Jack Mead and Lydia Wolfe from Jack & The Wolfe. Says Gimenez: “Their commitment to pushing creative boundaries and their influence in the industry make them an ideal fit for the brand”.

Gimenez is carefully building its salon and hair colourist network, one by one, knowing that as the word spreads, there’s a growing waitlist of salons that want Yuv Lab. Scaling up will come once every box is ticked. “I really want our first clients to be satisfied,” he says, and then the volume will come. So, to me, the number one thing is the satisfaction of those first clients. The plans for growing will happen once everything is ready.”

Francisco, we’re ready!