Dianna Cohen on launching Crown Affair at Sephora and the brand’s newest drop: ‘It’s like no-makeup makeup for hair’

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Luxury hair care company Crown Affair turned two years old on Jan. 28. Founded by Dianna Cohen, the brand is kicking off its junior year by launching at Sephora and releasing a much-buzzed-about leave-in conditioner.

For those unfamiliar with the brand, Crown Affair is all about rituals and taking your time when it comes to taking care of your hair. The brand is Credo Clean and Sephora Clean, and it prioritizes formulas that are actually effective. From a hair oil and shampoo and conditioner duo to top-quality combs and brushes, the Crown Affair offerings cover all your hair maintenance needs yet remain highly curated. The brand’s new leave-in conditioner has been in the works for almost two years and finally debuts to the world today, Feb. 1.

In The Know’s Julia Webb caught up with Cohen over Zoom to get the complete breakdown on what sets Crown Affair’s leave-in conditioner apart from the rest and why launching at Sephora was the instinctive next step for the brand.

Crown Affair’s CEO and founder Dianna Cohen
Credit: Crown Affair

While a hair oil and a shampoo were natural additions to the tailored Crown Affair offering, Cohen wasn’t always one for leave-in conditioners — gravitating towards oils and hair masks instead. Then, after using a drugstore leave-in that left her hair feeling “amazing” but had a lackluster ingredient list, Cohen asked her chemist to find out if a better, cleaner leave-in with a weightless cream texture was even possible. Spoiler alert: It is.

“I feel like the leave-in is the best symbol for our brand in terms of being the no-makeup makeup for hair. It’s not that you’re not wearing makeup when you do no-makeup makeup; it just enhances your hair. It makes it a little bit better versus changing it or transforming it.”

For those who have yet to incorporate a leave-in into their hair care routine, Cohen explains that there are several ways to use the product, which is a duo moisturizer and styling cream, based on your hair type. If you have curly, type three or four hair, you’ll most likely use a larger quantity of the product. The founder’s pro tip is to mix it with a little water and put it in a spray bottle. If you have wavy, type one or two hair, you can simply add one to two pumps to your hair. Those with curlier, courser hair can use the leave-in daily, while those with finer, straighter hair can stick to every other day or use as needed.

While Cohen prefers to use the leave-in on wet hair and layer it with Crown Affair’s oil, she shares that you can also use the leave-in on dry hair to bring day two or three hair back to life. Regardless of the application, this product is sure to bring out your hair’s natural texture while adding shine and body to your strands. 

As for the difference between the hair oil and the leave-on, Cohen says, “It’s almost the equivalent in skin care of an oil for your face and a cream-based moisturizer. They do similar things, but they achieve different results based on your hair type and what you need.”

Crown Affair Leave-In Conditioner, $48

Credit: Crown Affair

When it comes to the leave-in’s formula, Cohen says she “went super deep into testing” and was very particular about the end result, right down to the frosted glass container and pump dispenser.

“I really relied on our community and our product development team, who has a whole network of testers, to give feedback because I know how I feel about a leave-in, but I have way less time testing leave-ins over the course of my life compared to a shampoo.”

The leave-in’s standout ingredient is the ultra-hydrating and lightweight Tsubaki Seed Oil, which Cohen was first introduced to in Japan during a scalp “facial.” Find this hero ingredient in the brand’s hair oil, hair mask and dry shampoo. The leave-in also utilizes the brand’s signature scent of bergamot, yuzu and lemongrass.

While all Crown Affair’s products are clean, which is integral to the brand’s identity, Cohen stressed the importance of each product’s efficacy. “I won’t put anything into the world that I don’t also love… I’m not just making a clean brand for the sake of being clean. We are so intentional about these being hero products and not rushing them to launch. We’re in 2022 — there’s so much out there. We don’t need to just launch things for the sake of launching things. We need to launch things because they’re better.”

The leave-in
Credit: Crown Affair

Cohen has learned just how important patience and self-reflection are for running a successful brand: Crown Affair launched just a few weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world on its head.

“You definitely don’t dream of launching a company and then a global pandemic happening, but putting people first has always been a part of our DNA. Every hire we’ve made, every product we’ve developed — we’ve just been intentional and mindful.

“I think this time for everybody has been a catalyst for asking, ‘Why am I doing the things that I’m doing? How am I doing this? What’s really important to me? How do I spend my time?’ And the truth is, before, as a team member or consultant, I felt like I was on a treadmill of go go go, growth growth growth, and this was like, ‘Wait — let’s actually pause for a second.’ The irony is that our messaging has always been about taking your time and slowing down.”

Cohen also noted that Switzerland makes Crown Affair’s combs and that the brand has vendors located in France and Japan, so she is more than familiar with supply chain issues and dealing with delays. But those setbacks didn’t rush the brand: “You don’t get a second chance to launch a product.” 

Credit: Crown Affair

Crown Affair is entering Sephora on Feb. 1, which, Cohen explains, is the natural next step for the brand.

“Sephora is so exciting because no matter how much we try, we’re not a huge, paid, marketing, growth-at-all-cost kind of company. For us to have a partner in them as this megaphone to hopefully say ‘this is legit and an amazing product’ is incredible.

“I feel like this is such a huge moment and opportunity to show the world that you can have clean, better formulas. And not everyone will be open to paying over $30 for a shampoo, but there are a lot of people (myself included) who were paying $50 for a shampoo for a long time, and it wasn’t clean: It actually ended up stripping my hair.”

Cohen regularly compares Crown Affair’s products to skin care, so having it on shelves amongst the foremost names in the skin care industry just felt right.

“Crown Affair kind of lives in the market of modern and aspirational, but also clean, so I really feel like Sephora is the right partner. We’ve had great partners in goop and Violet Grey, and, obviously, people search for Crown Affair on Amazon all the time, but Sephora and its team were just so excited about the brand and have put a commitment behind it in terms of shelf space. They have a vision, and I think they were the industry leader for the last decade.”

And, seeing as Sephora is truly a one-stop-shop for all beauty essentials, Cohen also shared what else she’ll be adding to her Sephora shopping cart this season (besides Crown Affair, of course).

“I love the Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Moisturizer: It’s such a great moisturizer. I also love Ilia. I recently got into them, which is funny because they’ve been around for ten years. I’m kind of now graduating from the Laura Mercier products that my mom used to use into cleaner options, which, to be totally honest, has been a big wake-up call. I love Ilia’s mascara and the skin tint.”

Dianna Cohen’s Sephora Picks

Crown Affair will be available to shop online at Sephora.com starting today, Feb. 1, and in-store on March 1. You can also shop for all of Crown Affair’s products, tools and accessories on its website.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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