State College company looks to lead beauty product movement

Loba Mana co-owner Heidi Pernett describes the ingredients of the company’s hair products on Dec. 16 at Linda’s Beauty Care in Pleasant Gap.
Loba Mana co-owner Heidi Pernett describes the ingredients of the company’s hair products on Dec. 16 at Linda’s Beauty Care in Pleasant Gap. psheehan@centredaily.com

Caring for one’s hair is an integral part of any beauty regimen, but people sometimes feel they need to choose between hair health and product performance. Loba Mane, a hair care company based in State College, aims to provide the best of both worlds — products that help customers achieve healthy, vibrant hair while sporting whatever style or color they choose.

“Our original goal was to design a new concept in washing your hair,” said Mehdi Ghaffari, a chemist who founded the company along with Linda Del Gaudio, a hairstylist and owner of Linda’s Beauty Care in Pleasant Gap, and her daughter, Heidi Pernett, a graphic designer.

Loba Mane was officially launched in April 2016. The co-owners formulate products using only natural and organic ingredients, such as oils derived from coconut, jojoba and soybeans. They believe that the use of harsh chemicals (sulfates, phthalates and silicones) found in the majority of personal care products not only dry people’s hair and skin, they also contribute to the pollution of the planet.

“We are part of a movement to transform people’s hair into its healthiest version,” Pernett said.

“Loba” is the Spanish word for “she-wolf,” from which Loba Mane derives its motto, “For the Wise and Wild Manes.” In other words, they encourage customers to express themselves through their hair while making informed choices about the products they use.

While designed to treat all hair types, Loba Mane’s products are specifically geared toward people with dry, damaged hair. According to Ghaffari, commercial shampoos strip hair of its natural oils and leave it prone to breakage. Consequently, people feel the need to use conditioner to restore moisture. The signature product of Loba Mane’s line is its Hair Cleanser, which is designed to effectively yet gently clean hair, while repairing damaged hair through an amino acid-based cleansing system.

“We don’t believe in shampoos,” said Ghaffari, who received a doctorate in materials science and engineering from Penn State in 2014. “We believe it’s time for the (hair care) industry to take a healthier direction for customers.”

In addition to the damaging effects of shampoo, the Loba Mane co-owners contend that many people simply use too many products on their hair. In contrast, Loba Mane’s line consists of only four products — Hair Cleanser, Transformative Mask, Styling Cream and Illuminating Oil.

“Why don’t we just simplify this?” Ghaffari said. “Had your hair been healthy, you wouldn’t need to put 10 products in your hair.”

For Ghaffari, Del Gaudio and Pernett, Loba Mane has been a labor of love as well as an entrepreneurial venture. Del Gaudio, a native of Colombia, has four decades of experience in the beauty industry. After immigrating to the United States in 1999, she owned and worked at salons in New York City, New Jersey and Florida, and had a stint as a stylist for the New York City-based Spanish language broadcast television network Univision.

“I never did another job, only beauty,” Del Gaudio said.

After meeting her now-husband, Mike Del Gaudio, in the early 2000s through mutual friends, the couple eventually moved to the State College area. Linda Del Gaudio opened Linda’s Beauty Care in 2007. Her daughter, Pernett, met Ghaffari in State College and eventually moved with him to Connecticut when he took a job there after graduating from Penn State.

According to Del Gaudio, while living in Connecticut, Pernett was concocting fruit-and-vegetable mixtures to put on her skin. Del Gaudio asked Pernett if she could make something for hair, and the two women decided that Ghaffari’s chemistry background would help them in their quest.

“So that’s when we introduced Mehdi into the picture,” Del Gaudio said. “They are the two creators. It was like a miracle.”

Ghaffari, who immigrated to the United States from Iran in 2009, said he worked for two years through a process of trial and error to develop Loba Mane’s Hair Cleanser.

“I’m a chemist by training,” he said. “I’m leveraging chemistry knowledge to make the products.”

Ghaffari said he gave up several times during the development process but eventually succeeded in creating a product that he believed could make an impact in the hair care industry. Loba Mane’s co-owners eventually rolled out the other products in their line, which they market primarily on their Amazon store and on their website.

Loba Mane is entirely self-funded, and while Ghaffari said the co-owners aspire to grow their national market, their plans are not dictated by a timetable.

“We’re an organic company, and we’re on the path to grow organically,” he said.

While Loba Mane is currently a three-person team, Ghaffari said that within the next several years, he would like to help stimulate the local economy.

“One of the reasons I got into this was that I want to eventually create jobs,” he said.

In addition to the relationships built in the community, Ghaffari said the most rewarding aspect of the Loba Mane venture has been the lessons learned and sense of accomplishment.

“We can start with an idea and work on that idea hard enough to make it happen,” he said.

For more information, visit www.lobamane.com.