Cosmoprof North America’s 12th annual show, held in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Hotel Casino July 13-July 15, tipped its hat this year to the hundreds of professional beauty entrepreneurs visiting and exhibiting at the show with an on-point key note speaker, a multitude of programs to meet with retailers and a half dozen panels bringing them face to face with potential business partners.

The show, organized by North American Beauty Events, a joint venture between BolognaFiere Group and the Professional Beauty Association, featured a sold out floor with 992 exhibiting companies and close to 27,000 attendees, a 4% increase over the previous year. As in past years, CPNA attracted new brands, as well as notable retail executives from Ricky’s NYC, Walgreens/Look Boutique, Costco, Sephora, Nordstrom and Ulta.

According to Kline & Co., the U.S. beauty industry has gotten off to a slow start in 2014 due to severe winter conditions and record low temperatures across much of the country, which kept consumers indoors and out of stores. As a result, many packaged goods categories showed soft sales in Q1, and the professional beauty segment was no exception. Things seem to have picked up in Q2, according to Kline, which is optimistic that momentum will continue into the second half of the year. Final results are still in the works, but Kline’s preliminary research points to a low, single-digit increase for the U.S. professional beauty market for the first half of the year. And some of the exhibitors at Cosmoprof may be helping to move the needle.

CPNA keynote speaker, businessman and TV personality, Mark Cuban, attended the show not only to give a pep talk to beauty entrepreneurs about business do’s and don’ts, but also to support the three beauty entrepreneurs he’s invested in over the years. A newbie to the beauty industry, Mark said there are no shortcuts to rocketing to the top of the market but that the grind-it-out beauty industry is one that takes preparedness and effort in which to win. These qualities, he said, are what attracted him to the beauty companies he’s invested in: Hot Tot, Simple Sugars and Kisstixx.

“I can’t tell you that I had a great understanding of the beauty industry but my connection to it, just as a customer, and the individual entrepreneurs’ drive and motivation” is what caught his eye and piqued his interested in each brand. Each, he said, has a unique point of difference.

Hot Tot, a line of hypoallergenic, water-soluble hair care products for the six and under set, uses formulas that address the structural differences in younger people’s hair. Founded by Megan Gage, Hot Tot began as a home concept when Megan mixed lotion and powder to style her son’s hair. Soon, a full-fledged hair care line was born and in 2012 she found herself on the reality TV show “Shark Tank”, ultimately receiving a $75,000 investment. Currently, Hot Tot is sold in 50 salons nationwide and is seeing success in Europe through a recently-signed European salon distributor. In the week since Cosmoprof came to a close, Megan has signed on with a U.S. distributor to grow her brand’s salon reach even further. Staying pure to the salon point of distribution is a key strategy, she said, explaining that she’s turned down offers by retailers outside of the professional realm. “My goal for the line is to do for children’s hair care what American Crew did for men’s hair care.” Hot Tot consists of eight sku’s, including a shampoo; a conditioner; a styling gel; a cream-based curl definer, Sweet Pea; and Spotless Tot, a head-to-toe gentle cleanser. All Hot Tot price points are under $20.

Simple Sugars, a line of all natural skin care products especially formulated for sensitive skin, is another of Mark’s investments. Founded by Lani Lazzari, Simple Sugars are designed to cleanse, exfoliate and moisturize in one step. The collection consists of six facial scrubs, 24 body scrubs and a men’s line. The sugar-based line, as the name suggests, was created due to Lani’s own need for gentle cleansing products as an eczema sufferer. Lani started cooking batches of Simple Sugars in her kitchen, then moved operations to her basement; now there’s a manufacturing facility where items are still made by hand. Simple Sugars has a strong presence in about 50 Giant Eagle stores, as well as in more than 500 Destination Maternity units, the largest maternity retailer in the world. In addition to the brick and mortar business, about 90% of Simple Sugars’ sales are online. Lani received a $100,000 investment when she appeared on Shark Tank about a year and a half ago; the night the show aired her company received $600,000 worth of orders. “Overnight we grew into a 22 person company to keep up with demand.”

Mark’s third beauty investment is in Kisstixx, a lipbalm that comes in two compatible flavors (Strawberry Daiquiri & Pina Colada, for example) which when combined, via a kiss, creates a new flavor, i.e. Miami Vice. Founder Dallas Robinson said he thought of the idea in high school and began to implement a business plan in college as part of a project. About two and a half years ago he appeared on “Shark Tank” and received a $200,000 investment. “We didn’t know how to build a business but now we are sold in salons, spas, small grocery stores, Walgreens and Kroger.” The company is estimating it will exceed $1 million in sales this year.

Retailers said Cosmoprof hit the nail on the head in terms of overall organization and breadth of offerings. Richard Parrott, President of Ricky’s NYC, said that while he didn’t sit in on any big meetings with large vendors, “walking the show floor, making connections, sniffing out product and meeting people face to face” was how he utilized his time at the show. He especially liked the country pavilions, which correlate well with Ricky’s in-store global brands theme. Richard said he renewed an old connection with Rodial, a company that will realize a bigger relationship with Ricky’s NYC now that Henri Bendel has exited beauty and the brand is looking for new opportunities. “It’s a little high end, but the packaging is just so cool and the look may elevate our skin care section,” Richard said.

Speaking of country pavilions, the Korean pavilion at Cosmoprof was packed with salon owners and aestheticians looking for the next big thing. Masks and portable devices abound, namely from Shangpree Spa, a pioneer in the Korean skin care industry. Its new Gold Hydrogel Eye Mask, formulated with gold, marine collagen and plant extracts, are designed to work with the skin’s temperature and aims to lighten dark circles and brighten skin. Also in the Korean pavilion was Lohasys with a Snail Active Essence Mask, which acts to increase skin turnover function, and Intensive Care Bio-Cellulose Mask, made from coconut jelly to treat mature skin.

Hair care saw the return of the usual keratin players, including Brazilian Blowout and Keratin Complex. This year’s keratin stand out was Keratherapy of Miami, FL, which featured both professional and retail items with varying formulas. The retail collections are color-coded and include a moisture line, KeraMoisture; a volume line, KeraVolume and a styling line, KeraStyle. Professional items are designed by varying levels of straightening strength, with an Intense Renewal line providing medium strength and lasting 12 weeks, and Extreme Renewal lasting up to 16 weeks and providing maximum strength. There is also a Zero Formaldehyde collection, as well as a Color Lock & Smooth two-in-one formula to be used after color services to prevent fading.

Tools remained a hot attraction at Cosmoprof as crowds gathered around Create Ion’s booth for a glimpse of their Auto Swing Dryer, a blow dryer that has a swinging vent (it moves both horizontally and vertically) so that the user doesn’t have to move the dryer back and forth to dry a section of hair. The $100 dryer, which folds up to a compact size and is looking for U.S. distribution, also comes with a removable comb nozzle, three temperature settings and two power settings.

Making their way deeper into the mainstream are glitter tattoos, and they had a special place at Cosmoprof at the Glimmer Cosmetics booth, the maker of Tattoo Junkie and The Body Art Professional, the former targeting the mass market and the latter geared towards the professional market. Macky Samaco, Glimmer’s President, said Tattoo Junkie was created in less than a year following positive feedback on Body Art Professional. “Mass retailers were asking for a version for their stores,” Macky said. And he delivered. This month, Tattoo Junkie shipped to select Walmart stores with more than 500 sku’s and items priced from $4 to $20. Popular items include Lip Paint, a long lasting, smudge proof lip color that’s topped with cosmetic glitter for a glittery pout; and Glam Stamp, an ink transfer stamp in the shape of a star that mimics the look of a tattoo.

Fake lashes continued their popularity, and London-based Eylure Lashes, a lash pioneer which first brought fake eyelashes to the masses more than 40 years ago, is looking to create a prestige kit for department stores based on its success in the mass market. Their proposed concept includes an in-store lash unit that would sell a lash case with a bespoke applicator, and include a lash application service for $15.

NYX, recently purchased by L’Oréal, was previewing several items for fall, including Be Gone! Makeup remover wipes, Big & Loud Lash Primer, a waterproof Eyebrow Gel, a Tinted Brow Mascara, Epic Black Mousse Liner and a Honey Dew Me Up Primer. The primer sells for $17 and is infused with honey, gold flecks and collagen to increase skin radiance and strengthen skin. Scott Friedman, CEO of NYX, said that the California-based team is operating as business as usual.

Keeping the beauty world a cleaner and safer place to live is Intelligent Nutrients, which at the show presented PurePlenty Plant Stem Cells & Bioactives for scalp and hair to address thinning. PurePlenty uses ajuga plant stem cell reptans, saw palmetto and certified organic pea sprout bioactives to provide essential nutrients to help restore scalp and hair health. PurePlenty includes an Exfoliating Shampoo ($35), Density Building Conditioner ($40) and Revitalizing Scalp Serum ($60.)

Over in Discover Beauty, a premiere section of the show floor to spotlight newer brands, were several eye-catching companies. Glycelene, a luxury, vegan line of beauty skin care items, showcased their Eco-Luxe Collection, which includes several mists, a serum and an Anti-Aging Body Elixir. Items are packaged in glass bottles; formulas are free of petrolatum and beeswax. Founded by Kim and Eric Borio, the line is formulated by Eric, a biologist and cosmetic chemist.

Skin Nutrition made an impression with their Live line of organic topical superfood skin smoothies, each of which contain patented active plant cells.The line looks to appeal to the luxury shopper familiar with smoothies and their ingredients and benefits.

Beauty newcomer Drunk Elephant also exhibited in Discover Beauty, the results-oriented skin care line that positions itself as non-toxic beauty. Products took two years to develop, with the first item being JuJu Bar, a multi-tasking cleansing bar. A star of the line is the Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil, which aims to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, redness and blotchiness free of fragrances and chemicals.

Marcia Gaynor, Divisional Merchandise Manager, Prestige Beauty, commented on several Discover Beauty brands, including the repackage of the So Cozy kids hair care line. “It’s much more retail friendly,” Marcia said. She also liked Drunk Elephant, as well as Qiriness, a French home spa line with items for the face.

Taking home the big prize was Ireland-based Karora Cosmetics, a Discover Beauty exhibitor for the past four years, which snatched the show’s Discover Beauty Award Winner as Best Overall Product, voted on by attending retailers. Known as the Karora Skin Wear Collection, the line consists of botanical self tanners. Items include Karora Express Bronzing Mousse ($40), which is formualted to provide exotic color in just one hour. Then there’s the Karora CC Cream For Face and Body ($35), designed to deliver a veil of natural color to blur away skin imperfections and is formulated with green tea leaf extract, jojoba seed oil, argan oil and acai berry to rejuvenate the skin. Other items include Karora Instant Tan ($25) and Karora Tinted Self Tan Mist (28-$40). In addition to its big Discover Beauty win, the line just landed ditribtuion at Ulta and C.O. Biglow.

Nail got lots of play at Cosmoprof, but according to Kline, the recent gel polish market explosion is already fading into memory, at least in the United States. Price competition and a lower level of innovation compared to prior years have suppressed market growth, which was further exacerbated by brutal winter. One bright spot in professional nail care is the new long-wear lacquer segment, spurred by the launch of CND’s Vinylux and Geláze by China Glaze. The impact of these introductions, as well as OPI’s pending launch into the long-wear lacquer segment, will be reported in Kline’s Professional Nail Care: Global Market Brief, due out later this year.

Cosmoprof North America is planning its 2015 show to be held July 12-July 14.