Britta Cox believes a good hair day shouldn’t require a salon visit. Or even a blow-dryer. Meet the founder set on simplifying your hair routine.
Written By JANNA JOHNSON O’TOOLE
VIOLET GREY profiles female beauty entrepreneurs who are considered industry game changers because of their individual approach to business. Each one entered the conversation in her own manner and maintained a steady, if not unparalleled, trajectory with her indomitable spirit.
Britta Cox has been in the hair business for nearly three decades. But despite spending each day living and breathing the industry, she’s incredibly low-maintenance when it comes to her own hair routine. In fact, further simplifying wash-and-wear was the inspiration for creating her brand Aquis in 1990.
“I’ve always had fairly long hair and been primarily an air-dry girl, reserving a blowout for special occasions,” she says. “But I was constantly frustrated with how long my hair took to dry, leaving me with a cold, wet shirt on my back when I left the house.” Working in the outdoor apparel industry, she was privy to some of the first moisture-wicking clothing technology and quickly realized the same principles could apply to drying hair faster. She traveled to Japan to visit the leading manufacturer and after several years of testing and perfecting, the innovative, highly-absorbent signature Aquis towel was born.
The brand has since evolved to include drying turbans like this chic black version exclusive to VIOLET GREY and clever hair products, all designed to further promote hair health. One notable exception: there’s no standard conditioner in the line-up. Instead a hair defense primer, rebalancing wash, and restorative leave-in conditioner are designed to collectively strengthen and fortify strands with plant-derived ingredients that won’t weigh hair down. While it may require a bit of convincing to change a consumer’s steadfast shower routine, Cox is here for it.
“Aquis finds simple and effective solutions to everyday problems that most people struggle with, such as tangles and frizz, and we work at it until we create something extraordinary,” she says. “We are not afraid to challenge ourselves and even ask our customers to challenge themselves to think differently— often that is where the magic happens,” says Cox. “And the healthier your hair is, the better it looks and the less effort it takes.”
Here, the California-based entrepreneur shares her entire low-fuss routine.
First thing you do when you wake up?
I take five minutes to stretch and breathe which balances my mind and body for the day.
I need eight hours, but don’t always get it, especially when on the road, which is pretty often for the last few years.
Five minutes before I leave the house. It’s brush teeth, rinse & moisturize face, comb hair, and go. I most often wake up and leave the house within 30 minutes to beat the traffic to San Francisco.
Typical skincare regimen?
I cleanse at night with a gentle cream cleanser, tone, and moisturize. In the morning, I simply rinse my face lightly with cold water and moisturize. For body, I use a gentle cleanser and a nice exfoliating wash cloth in the shower. A full body dry brush is something I try to do every couple weeks to stimulate circulation.
Hair situation in the a.m.?
I comb through my hair with a wide tooth comb and then I’m out the door.
I only wash my hair every five to seven days; if I wash it in the morning, I’m literally in and out in the five minutes it takes my tea to brew. I use the Prime Water Defense Prewash before stepping in the shower and then wash my hair at the very end. This habit keeps hair strong and eliminates the need for in-shower conditioner, which can sometimes weigh hair down. Next, I step out, wrap my hair up in a turban to absorb the drippies and go have my tea. Then, I get dressed, remove my turban, run a comb through my hair, and lightly spray our Restorative Leave-In Conditioner before giving my cat Yukari a kiss goodbye.
Your signature beauty look?
Hiking in the hills on a sunny day.
Go-to breakfast and a.m. beverage?
Assam black tea first thing in the morning. I’ll move on to coffee within the next hour followed by a light breakfast a bit later. My perfect on-the-go go-to is Ryvita crackers with smoked salmon or eggs; I crave protein.
Foolproof self-care move?
A massage and Epsom salt bath. Plus, yoga and breathing which resets everything.
I’m a certified organic farmer and not crazy for fragrance, so I prefer things that are light, fresh, and derived from nature. I don’t really have a signature scent—instead I gravitate towards essential oils that resonate with my senses.
An expensive-but-worth-it product or treatment?
May Lindstrom Blue Cocoon Beauty Balm—a little goes a long way. I carry a small travel pot with me and always use it in-flight.
A shea butter stick. I always have one with me. It’s a super-moisturizing multitasker for lips or dry skin, and fabulous when flying.
Bedside beauty essentials?
Using a high-quality moisturizer or serum is my nightly ritual. Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum is a go-to at home and on the road.
Last thing you do before bed?
Fill a large glass of water and put it by my bedside—it’s empty by the time I wake up.
Lauren Hutton. She’s a natural beauty, who’s approachable, fun, and knows a lot of interesting people. And I love how she embraced the gap in her front teeth!
I’ve not had a “real job” since I was a teenager. As a student, I waitressed at night and gave English horseback riding lessons during the day. Those summers were the best—I was tan, healthy, and had plenty of tip money in my pocket.
I worked at McDonalds as a counter girl starting at 15 years old. My step dad owned the franchise, so the manager assumed I was spoiled and made me do what no other counter employee had to do—clean out the grease pit. I did it repeatedly without complaint, until he eventually stopped asking me to do it.
How the idea for Aquis came to you?
I had my “aha” moment when I was working in the outdoor clothing and ski industry back in the 1990s and started wearing the first clothes made out of moisture-wicking fabric. I teamed up with the Japanese lab that patented those first fibers and worked with them to create the Aquis hair towel, which was designed to dry hair quickly and gently while being lightweight and easy to wrap on top of your head.
I love the book Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, which chronicles his story of creating and building Nike. This quote in the book pretty much sums it up. “If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt.” ―Phil Knight
Highest point as an entrepreneur?
In 1993, the lab I worked with treated me to a first-class trip to Japan for reaching sales benchmarks! I traveled alone, and in our meetings, I was the only woman at a large conference table of men to represent Aquis. Although I was extremely nervous, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment. I felt that again, recently, when I finally nailed the first hair care system that works with hair’s biology to keep it strong during the washing process.
The dot com bust of 2007. Sales dropped in half, I laid off more than half of our team, and had to batten down the hatches and ride out the storm.
In business terms, I asked the bank to “take a haircut” off their business loan in the midst of the dot com bust. I asked, and they did!
In my personal life, it would most definitely be hang gliding. The scariest moment was when I first stepped over the guardrail on the mountain leading to Mt. Rose in Tahoe. Hooked into my hang glider, I ran down the hill, caught the breeze, and soared above the trees for over two hours. It was the most thrilling flight of my life.
Hypnotizing animals. That’s kind of an exaggeration, but I have always been able to soothe animals by calming my own mind to help them be more comfortable. Sounds strange, I know. I grew up on a ranch where we bred and raised horses, and I learned that they read your every feeling and movement and react accordingly. If you are scared and nervous, they will be scared and nervous. Animals are much more instinctual than we are and there is much to learn from them. Honestly, I think honing my instinct at a young age and being fearless in life has given me the foundation to be a successful entrepreneur.