Mane Attraction

updated 10/17/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/17/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

HEATHER FREEMAN DOESN'T GET her beauty tips straight from the horse's mouth—she gets them from its tail. The 35-year-old Central Florida public relations executive began using the equine Mane 'n Tail shampoo and conditioner on her own straight blonde hair after seeing the great things it did for Magnum, one of her five horses. "I'm amazed at how silky my hair is," says Freeman. "Even on humid days, I don't have flyaways!"

Roger Dunavant could just whinny with delight. As president of Bethlehem, Pa.-based Straight Arrow Products—makers of Mane 'n Tail—he has seen his line of stable staples become a hot item in human hair care. "As people use it, they fall in love with it," he says. Thanks to word of mouth and some discreet marketing (when he heard people were using his products, Dunavant began handing out samples at trade shows, rodeos and even to flight attendants), the company's annual sales have jumped from $500,000 in 1988 to more than $30 million last year, with 1994 sales projected to top $60 million. "My hair has never been so shiny!" raves Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, a recent convert to the equine line, which sells for $3.99 a 16-oz. bottle.

So what's the secret? Dunavant says it's the heavy vegetable protein—15 percent as opposed to the standard 1 or 2 percent—which helps thicken hair shafts. And while the company has received a few calls from customers anxious about using a horse product on their own heads, Straight Arrow says their formula was tested at a consumer-product laboratory to ensure it was safe for human use.

With cosmetic giants like Conair now racing to get a share of the market, Straight Arrow is ready to expand. Its Hoofmaker hoof cream is already widely used on human nails, and a fur-care line for dogs and cats is planned. Dunavant's dreams are of glory. At work, he says, "we sit around and wonder, 'Did Bill Gates start this way?' "

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