This Beauty Line Supports Your Biome and Your Hair

Illumai cleans hair without stripping it of natural substances.


Illumai products/photo provided

Mario Russo knows hair. Michael Zasloff knows science. And together, the duo is out to change the way you lather, rinse, repeat.

Russo, the man behind two eponymous Boston salons, and Zasloff, a doctor and immunologist, are the team behind Illumai, a hair care system formulated to enhance and maintain your natural biome. The line’s shampoo, conditioner, and finishing spray are all made with seven ingredients or fewer, and are free of sulfates, preservatives, silicone, and parabens.

“We learned a long time ago that all animals, including humans, produce a whole cocktail of substances on the skin, scalp, and hair that control the growth of the microbes that normally inhabit those surfaces,” Zasloff explains. “They keep the bad bugs from growing too robustly, and they support the growth of good bugs.”

Illumai products use carefully curated ingredients to clean hair without stripping away the key substances naturally found on the scalp and skin, a result Zasloff says is a novelty in today’s beauty market.

“The typical, conventional shampoo or skin cleanser…destroys this fundamental system. That leads to the population on your skin of organisms that were not supposed to be there,” he explains. “When this happens, your body really doesn’t like it,” and may respond with itching, damaged hair, or conditions such as eczema.

Though it’s scientifically based and biologically driven, Illumai is still intended to make you look fantastic. Luckily, Russo says a happy biome means happy hair.

“A lot of the issues we deal with on a daily basis get resolved—hair that’s lifeless, or hair that’s frizzy, or hair that’s just not behaving the way we’d like it to,” Russo says.

Illumai has existed quietly for some time, but the line is only now launching publicly. The products, which retail for $28 each or $77 for the whole set, can be found in Mario Russo salons, other salons around town, and online. Eventually, Russo says, the products may be sold in brick-and-mortar stores as well.

The collection joins a market that welcomes not only high-tech beauty startups—think Living Proof—but biome care of all sorts, from active bacteria-infused skin care to fermented foods galore. “It’s all due to the consumer’s demand,” Russo says. “I think consumers now are much more sophisticated. They have a lot more access to information. You can no longer fool the customer.”

Zasloff says it’s about time a product like Illumai hits the market, giving consumers an easy way to care for their biome not only internally, but at the surface level.

“It’s possible now to clean your body, to wash your hair, without destroying what nature has evolved for you,” he says. “In fact, we can even help restore it.”