The New Zealand haircare brand that's been hailed as "liquid gold" and a "game-changer" has come out swinging, strongly denying accusations its product causes users' hair to "melt".
Monday haircare's distinctive pink-packaged products promise salon-quality haircare at an affordable price. It is part of billion-dollar Zuru's expansion into the retail environment, which includes skincare, vitamins and nappies.
But what founder Jaimee Lupton wasn't prepared for was the intense online backlash, largely from the hairdressing community, that came from its claims.
Available in New Zealand at Pak'nSave, New World and Four Square supermarkets, the range was developed by entrepreneur Lupton who saw a need for salon products to be available in mainstream supermarkets and "accessible to all".
The brand, fronted by supermodel and Monday ambassador Georgia Fowler, has become so popular that supermarkets are struggling to keep up with demand and have found themselves constantly running out of stock, according to Monday.
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One Trade Me user in Auckland is currently selling six sets of the shampoo and conditioner bottles and states the brand was "sold out nationwide" at the time of the listing.
A social media fan of the brand said she had switched from salon products to Monday and said "my hair has never felt or looked better", while another wrote that she couldn't imagine using any other product.
But negative feedback online and claims of the product causing hair to "snap" has ignited a fierce debate about supermarket vs. salon hair care.
"This is the worst product on the market, your hair will snap and break," one user commented on the brand's Instagram page.
Several people even claimed their hair had been "burnt" and blamed the silicone in the Monday shampoo reacting with bleach when they coloured their hair.
The brand's technical consultant, Sophy Phillips, claims silicone actually works to protect the hair, and the idea that silicones are to blame for "exothermic reactions" is nothing more than a "myth".
Speaking to the Herald, Phillips stated: "The global haircare industry is one of the highest users of silicone, alongside the medical industry. The silicones used in current Monday formulations are identical to those used in countless professional and supermarket haircare brands.
"Silicones have various melting or flashpoints, but ultimately these well exceed any temperature reached during a standard chemical service in salon. In fact, silicones work well to protect the hair from excessive heat. It's an urban myth in the hair industry that silicones are to blame for unexpected exothermic reactions.
"Most commonly, these reactions are caused by mineral and/or metal deposits in the hair. Monday has been independently tested for trace metals and results show that no metals were detected."
A range of salon haircare brands also use silicones, namely brands such as Kevin Murphy, Redken, Paul Mitchell, Moroccan Oil, L'Oreal, and GHD.
Wellington-based chemical engineer Stacey Fraser, who holds a Diploma of Personal Care Formulation, says even though silicones are man-made, they are "perfectly safe" and don't damage the hair shaft.
"They are safe for human use and safe for the environment. And, better yet, they have amazing moisturising and smoothing capabilities, can protect hair from heat damage, and are one of the most effective compounds for fighting frizz, adding shine, and improving manageability," Fraser said.
"The best way to use a silicone-based hair care product is to take your hair type into account, as well as use it sparingly. If your hair starts to feel heavy or weighed down, use a clarifying shampoo to provide a deep cleanse and wash away product build up."
One Instagram account, @mondayhaircarerevealed, has also accused the brand of using "toxic" ingredients, causing a whole range of issues, from flaky scalp to the hair melting.
"Hairdressers are alarmed by Monday haircare. Consumers using mondayhaircare followed by having their hair professionally bleached/lifted are having their hair MELT. When the silicone from Monday haircare comes in contact with the colour- a chemical reaction seem to occur cause the hair to heat up and break, (sic)" reads one of their posts.
One NZ salon owner wrote on Facebook: "A few hairdresser friends have had regular clients use this shampoo/conditioner and immediately had to rinse the hair as it was extremely HOT/BROKEN due to chemical reactions on the hair strands!!"
Another posted: "Ladies! Please DO NOT use any cheap shampoos/conditioner on your hair. Especially if you are bleaching. A client came in for her usual blonde and her hair had a reaction to the bleach and was so hot the foil was nearly smoking!
The Herald contacted a number of salon owners who made public posts warning against the brand, but none were willing to go on the record with their claims.
One hairdresser willing to speak was renowned Auckland hairdresser Stephen Marr.
"We have had clients who have used it and were concerned, but we did strand tests with our colour and had no issues, so we went ahead and did the colours - they were beautiful and the results were fine," Marr said.
"We approach our colours with the utmost professionalism. The imagery I saw online was nonsensical to me - that [damage] could never happen. It was obviously a chemical reaction to something else."
He said Monday was a "perfectly acceptable" product.
"It's innovative and it's disrupting that segment of the market," Marr said.
"It's never been touted and sold as a natural product. But in terms of harmful ingredients, I can't see anything in there."
Carly Sophia, the beauty blogger behind You Beauty, said she was also proof the brand was not causing "chemical reactions". The blogger claimed she'd been using the Volume and Repair shampoo and conditioner for more than a month and then got a half head of highlights among other treatments.
"My foils did not get hot, my hair did not melt, nothing required early rinsing and there were no 'chemical reactions' except the ones that I paid for," she shared.
Hairstylist Amanda Preston said she had tested the products a lot.
"On very damaged hair, on hair that's been coated in conditioner overnight, on brunette hair - natural and coloured, with many different strengths of lighteners and many different brands. Not once have I had a foil packet heat up or smoke," she said.
"I think people are quick to judge without actually understanding the science behind chemicals and how they work, it's easy to say 'oh it's the shampoo' when there is often so much more to the equation!"
Speaking to the Herald, Monday responded to the claims about their products, saying it had shipped 1.8 million bottles to customers and received fewer than 270 complaints.
"Of the 1.8 million bottles sold, complaints to Monday are totalling 0.02 per cent of sales – a figure below the industry average for beauty products," Lupton said.
The brand stated it had received many positive reviews from customers and haircare professionals and believed the impact its booming sales were having on hairdressers' profit margins was a factor in the negative comments online.
"Monday's price is more accessible to everyday New Zealanders than salon haircare prices, giving consumers more choice in these difficult times.
"A small group of hairdressers are worried about their market and their margin, so have taken it upon themselves to try and destroy the Monday brand with dishonest and defamatory claims."
The company stated only four customers had complained of experiencing a chemical reaction during colouring, but "after doing thorough due diligence, we have not been able to draw any direct links between Monday and the interactions taking place".
Lupton told the Herald she and her team had personally reached out to those who raised issues with the product.
"And we've contacted any concerned customers individually through our in-house hair technicians - something we can do given the low number of customer inquiries."
Monday states it is always open to receiving feedback on its website and social media and encouraged consumers to contact it directly so it could help provide adequate resolutions.