As Hollywood’s preeminent hair-treatment expert, Philip B, the professional name of Philip Berkovitz, has garnered international praise for his visionary approach to hair, scalp and body-care treatments. His award-winning blends, all based on pure botanicals and essential oils at potent, unheard-of-in-the-industry concentrations, have dramatically changed the way the world perceives luxury care for hair and skin.
Philip B’s hair-care products are some of the most expensive in the world. If you have a spare 55,000 baht lying around you could purchase his Russian Amber Shampoo. Forbes Magazine was so impressed with his products that they placed Philip B’s scalp treatment on their list of “100 Things Worth Every Penny.” Philip counts over 400 celebrities using his products daily including Lady Gaga, Madonna, Drew Barymore, Sandra Bullock, Robert Redford, Courtney Love, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Ronnie Wood to name just a few.
According to Philip “I love giving hair treatments and seeing people instantly transformed”. Clients always say to me, ‘If only everyone could sit in your chair!’ But everyone can: It’s not me – it’s the products. All of them were tested on my clients, many of whom are famous people who need to have a great hair day, every day. “From the first time I saw what pure botanicals could do for hair, especially when used at potent, active levels, I knew that I was onto something.”
Philip began his professional hair styling career as a teenager in his home state of Massachusetts. In 1984, he moved to Los Angeles and found work in salons frequented by Hollywood celebrities. Finding that commercial treatments were inadequate for healing over-processed hair, common to movie actresses, Philip B. experimented with botanical blends of his own. He sourced ingredients for custom-blended essential oil formulations at local farmers’ markets and herb shops. His first commercial formula, Philip B. Rejuvenating Oil, was first sold at Fred Segal in Los Angeles in 1992. His venture went nationwide a year later with placement at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. Today, Philip B. treatment and styling products are sold in 74 countries around the world.
In Thailand, Philip B’s product line can by found in the luxury shopping malls of the Mall Group and the Central Group. Beauty Queen, Actress & TV Host Cindy Bishop, who we interviewed late last year, has signed on to be the Philip B spokesperson for Thailand.
Every year Philip travels the world promoting his product line. He was in Bangkok not too long ago where Thai socialite Khun Sumanee Guna Kasem threw a small party in his honor. It was there that HOT Magazine had the distinct pleasure of getting to know Philip and we are pleased to present our conversation with him here.
HM. Philip, you grew up in the American state of Massachusetts, on the opposite coast from where you reside now. What was your childhood like and did you have visions then of what your life was going to be like today?
PB. I grew up in Cape Cod, I grew up by the ocean. When you grow up in a beach community, you have these amazing hot summers and you grow up playing on the beach, building sand castles and eating ice cream on the boardwalk. You also get winters which are harsh and cold, so you dream of the sunshine again. That’s what brought my mind to Los Angeles and having a successful career, hairdressing was something I grew up with my whole life. My mom used to take me to the salon as a child and I would watch hairdressers as a young child and mimic what I saw. Growing up in Boston was great, but I needed sunshine all year and for an adult in the entertainment world, you can’t get what you can get in Los Angeles anywhere else.
HM. You started your professional hair stylist career in Massachusetts, how many years were you working there before you left for Los Angeles?
PB. Five or six years I was working in a salon in Boston before moving to L.A.
HM. As Frank Sinatra sang in New York, New York, “If I can make it there I’ll make it anywhere.” I would suspect it was very much the same in L.A. and Hollywood in particular with people from around the world moving there to find fame and fortune. Was it hard getting a job at an LA salon that was frequented by the rich and famous?
PB. No, in Los Angeles, when you get to town, these salons are like a circus, it was like the hairdressers were the performers who would draw the people in. If you went to apply for a job and if you truly had talent, they would audition you. You would do a “cut and a blowout” (which is a haircut and a blow dry), and if you could do that and make them go wild, they would hire you immediately. Then, you learn all about hair color and hair treatment. Personality will always get you in the door (or out of a door), but your talent will solidify you.
HM. Was it in L.A. that you decided to start your own hair care brand or was that percolating in your brain prior to moving to the West Coast?
PB. Yes, my dream was to make every client who left my chair happy. If you have someone who has blood under their fingernails from scratching their scalp from itchy, flaky scalps, you should help them. I always try to be there for them. Some people have more resilient healthy genes. But meeting the client’s needs is a big spectrum and that’s why I have so many products, I now have over 40 products, I have clients with thin and thick hair, dry scalps, oily scalps, everything. I look at the body like a moving machine, in constant motion. Treating the person in need, caring is the essence of this business, you don’t get into this business to get rich, you do it because you like caring for people.
HM. Your first commercial product was your Philip B. Rejuvenating Oil which you sold at Fred Segal in Los Angeles in 1992. How many versions of that product did you make before you found the formula that you would go on to sell commercially?
PB. Hundreds. I started it three years before launching it, I went through formula after formula before finding the right mixture that allowed moisture on different levels, not just topical (that’s just cosmetic).
HM. Was it hard to get that first retailer interested in your product and selling at such a famous store as Fred Segal’s, is this where your ultra-high pricing strategy was born?
PB. With my Jesus-like ability of fixing scalps in Hollywood, I quickly became in demand. When magazines asked celebrities what fixed their hair, they said my name. When people wrote about me in magazines, people started buying. If they love you, they keep buying. It’s a results-driven brand, we lived in a world where people wash their hair with soap and water, someone needed to make a change using essential oils and blending in active levels, which gives an expensive formula and an amazing result. It’s called harnessing nature and it’s an investment and must be passed on in the price point and people embraced it because it produced stunning results. If you want a smoother ride, buy a nicer car.
HM. A year later you expanded across the nation offering your product at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. Today, Philip B. treatment and styling products are sold in 74 countries. How many products do you offer now, what’s your biggest seller and why do you think that is?
PB. I didn’t go there trying to sell my products, people called me and said “Come to Dallas and meet me and we’ll put you in all my stores!” My phone was ringing off the hook with senior vice presidents and even the CEO of Nordstrom called me personally when I was driving in my car, I had to pull over, I almost crashed. I was in such demand all over the country. I have the number one salon in Kuala Lumpur and I have distributors in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Taiwan, all over Japan and soon the Philippines.
HM. A big reason for the high cost of your products is the exotic ingredients they are made from. Those include Russian Amber and Oud which is made from agarwood, one of the most expensive natural raw materials in the world. What is it about Russian Amber and Oud that make them important ingredients for you?
PB. What’s amazing about these products is the emotions they evoke in people – they provoke sensual, pretty and romantic feelings, they’re exotic and rich. Real result driven formulas.
HM. How much are you personally involved in developing new Philip B. products?
PB. 100% – I’m in my kitchen mixing up prototypes over there and perfecting and tuning in the lab.
HM. Are there any new products in the pipeline you can tell us about?
PB. Yes, I’m working on hair loss now, I have developed a formula that is guaranteed to enlarge hair follicles and kick up growth patterns. Looking forward to launching next year.
HM. Outside of the U.S. what other countries are big markets for you and has China caught on yet?
PB. Yes, China has caught on. I sell through the lux retailer, Space NK Stores . Some other exclusive stores carry me in mainland China, I’m in Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well. My main market is America and then Asia, Europe is my third market, Scandinavia is four, Africa is five. South America is going to be next.
HM. The users of your hair care products include celebrities, business moguls and royalty all with household name recognition. Can you namedrop just a few of your high-profile users?
PB. Richard and Joan Branson, Paris Hilton, The Rolling Stones, Swedish royalty, I’m in royal houses all over the world, as well as the CEO of Sony Pictures.
HM. You travel in the celebrity circuit, including being a regular at Elton John’s annual Oscar party. Are there any celebrities that make you tongue tied when meeting?
PB. No, they don’t make me nervous anymore. They’re just people. Maybe when I was young, but things are different now. What makes me nervous is making sure each formula I produce has the proper delivery system and actives to ensure a fantastic result in each of my 40+ products. You can put soap and water in a bottle but I’m in the game and this is science.
HM. Being the owner and brand spokesperson for Philip B. your travel schedule is dizzying. Besides jet setting between your homes in L.A. and Munich, how many countries do you visit in a year on average and when will we see you back in Bangkok?
PB. We’re leaving in July to Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Bangkok, Dubai, Munich and then I am going to London, Paris, London, Copenhagen, maybe Oslo, I want to do Italy, Madrid and Lisbon, Bali, Indonesia, we’re going to dart around. I’d say 30 countries a year.
HM. In 2017 you started a new program of bringing your hair care brand to some of the finest hotels in the world. Your Philip B Hair Care Salon’s can now be found at the Hotel Du Cap Eden-Roc in the French Antibes and Raffles in Paris. What can you tell us about this initiative and is it expanding globally?
PB. It’s filling a niche of luxury need. Even the most exceptional luxury brands are not exceptional at making liquids. These hotels need a spa offering services and exotic products and treatments that give amazing dream-like results, and that gives them a point of difference. If they have these three qualities; a service that gives amazing results, one that attract the wealthy niche audience by giving a point of difference that moves the needle in business, and creating a customer base through word of mouth, which drives the business, they have a winning situation.
HM. In 2013, you married Michael Huober, an artist and designer who is now the Creative Director at Philip B. When you two holiday, where do you go and what do you enjoy doing?
PB. We love Thailand, I love taking holidays in Asia. Whether I am walking under the cherry blossom trees or partying in Roppongi, or hanging out in mid-levels, or sunbathing in Phuket, I love getting away from the pressure-cooker like life of Los Angeles and seeing Asia.
HM. Finally Philip, a question we end most interviews with. What was your happiest day and what made it so?
PB. Marrying my honey, July 29, 2013, I married Michael. We have been on an incredible life journey together that is always a great time. I can’t wait to see what’s next.