When I first set out to launch the Small Business Spotlight on The Mane Objective, I was really focused on showcasing alternatives to those not-that-much-improved-really relaxer turned natural brands. But as the feature space has evolved, I have grown to realize that these small business brands are more than mere alternatives; they have products and potions that stand uniquely within their own right.
Behind the butters, poo bars, conditioners, pomades, and jellies are teams of women (and some men!) who are more than kitchen mixtresses. Some are chemists by formal training, and others have practiced aromatherapy for years. What they all have in common is the ability to formulate high-quality products with integrity, love, and a deep rooted interest in doing the best for women with natural hair (and men too!). Check out this list of some of the best natural hair small businesses to support!
Note: This list is by NO means conclusive. There are tons more, and I would love to hear from you all exactly who they are 🙂 And this list is in no particular order!
The Backstory: Obia Natural Haircare was founded by Obia Ewah, who holds degrees in both Chemistry and Biology. During her 3rd year of medical school, an illness prompted her to pursue an all-natural lifestyle. After having a difficult time finding products with health-conscious that worked for her hair texture post big chop, she began using her background as a trained chemist to create her own. Pretty soon afterwards, friends were asking to purchase her products.
The Benefits: Everything in the Obia Natural Haircare line is formulated by Obia herself, utilizing her special skills as a chemist. All of the products are pH balanced, vegan, cruelty and gluten free. Additionally, they are non-toxic, herbal-based, and free from parabens, formaldehyde, phthalates, mineral oil, sulfates, artificial colors, drying alcohols, silicones and petroleum.
Best Sellers: Currently, the Curl Enhancing Custard ($15), Coconut Shea Shampoo Bar ($10), and Trial Pack ($10) are on the hot list. I must say that I absolutely ADORE the Curl Enhancing Custard. It is perfect for a wash n’ go, slicking edges, and other styles. It provides a great hold and definition without hardness and crunch. Of all the wash n’ go products I’ve used, this one is easily my favorite!
The Backstory: Purgasm Shop was founded by Nicole Jennings, who has been mixing and making products for years. After her child was born, she became an even greater advocate for safe and effective products for her to use on her and her child’s body. After realizing that majority of the products that she had been using contained unsafe chemicals and other harmful ingredients, she began to completely discontinue use of conventional hair, bath and body care products and began researching and experimenting with ingredients and creating her own recipes.
The Benefits: The Purgasm Shop line brings forward the “full beauty experience” for naturals, with deliciously scented products that can be used from head to toe. Many of the ingredients are organic, and feature nonconventional herbs and botanicals that are proven to work. Purgasm Shop also stands by their statement of “no phthalates, no petroleum, no sulfates, no parabens, no junk”.
Best Sellers: Purgasm Shop’s best sellers are Shampoo Bars ($6-7), Pedi Bars ($16), Ultra Whipped Butters ($7), and Wild Cherry Curl Poppin’ Gel ($12). I can honestly see why the Curl Poppin’ Gel is a fan favorite. It did my hair nicely! I am also a fan of their Wild Cherry Treatment Hair Truffles ($12). Talk about a unique product. I’ve never put something in my hair that looked and smelled like chocolate, until now. It was a definite deep conditioning treat that left my hair slick, soft, shiny, and frizz-free!
The Backstory: Back in 2008, Alikay Naturals founder Rochelle Graham began documenting her natural hair journey and style tutorials on YouTube. Seeking natural ways to aid in her hair growth, she began developing a formulation now known as the Essential 17 Hair Growth Oil. Once her subscribers began to notice how much her hair was growing, the demand to purchase her formula was born. Since then, the Alikay Naturals brand has expanded to include moisturizers, conditioners, shampoos, and more.
The Benefits: Quality sits at the core of values for the Alikay Naturals line. All ingredients are natural and organic. None of the products contain parabens, silicones, mineral oil, or “any of the other bad stuff”. Unique to the Alikay Naturals line is that they offer online hair consultations via Skype, to help guide naturals, transitioners, and newbies through the process of selecting the best products for their hair.
Best Sellers: The Alikay Naturals line boasts four best-selling products: the Essential 17 Hair Growth Oil ($15), Lemongrass Leave-In Conditioner ($19), Shea Yogurt Hair Moisturizer ($14), and Honey & Sage Deep Conditioner ($14). I absolutely adore the Shea Yogurt Hair Moisturizer. It is a great whipped buttery texture that smells like the purple and green Now and Later (for those of ya’ll that KNOW… naal’ater) candies I used to buy walking home from school with my Grandma. And the Honey & Sage Deep Conditioner is simply divine.
Where to Buy: www.alikaynaturals.com. Also, Alikay Naturals is available in some beauty supply stores nationwide and internationally. Click here to see if there is a store near you!
The Backstory: Wonder Curl founder Scarlett Rocourt created her line of products out of sheer frustration with what was available to help give her hair the look she wanted. After growing tired of piling product upon product upon product to achieve a decent wash n’ go, she began exploring and creating her own products that were easy to use, and would streamline the styling process. After months of research, trial, and error, Wonder Curl was born.
The Benefits: Wonder Curl‘s products are held to the highest standards of integrity, and ingredients are sourced only from vendors with the same values. All products are free of silicones, parabens, petroleum, mineral oil, and phthalates. They are also cruelty free, and eco-friendly.
Best Sellers: Wonder Curl’s Get Set Jelly is the flagship product, and the best selling along with Butter Than Love Pudding. I had the opportunity to try both. To date, Get Set Jelly is one of the strongest curl defining and frizz-fighting products I’ve seen. If you have difficulty achieving wash n’ go definition, be sure to give this one a try!
The Backstory: The mainelement:love line of products was inspired by founder Tyrika Williams’ own journey to natural hair. After going natural back in ’99, she realized that there wasn’t much support for curly hair outside of jheri. So she relaxed again, only to return to natural in 2008. Armed with more knowledge and a formal understanding of the benefits of natural ingredients and aromatherapy, mainelement:love was created.
The Benefis: All mainelement:love products are crafted by hand in small batches with natural botanical, herbal, and plant-based ingredients. The products contain no synthetic fragrances or colors, and are silicone, paraben, mineral oil, petroleum, cruelty, and phthalate free.
Best Sellers: For the mainelement:love brand, the Herbal Styling Balm ($9) and Aloe Conditioner ($13) are the best sellers – and for good reason. My hair absolutely adored the Aloe Conditioner (and I found the citrus fusion scent to be divine), and I love to use the Herbal Styling Balm on my edges…and to shape my eyebrows (don’t judge me).
The Backstory: Oyin Handmade was founded in 2001 when Jamyla Bennu discovered that some of her favorite “natural” body and haircare items tended to use petroleum, mineral oil, corn oil, and other non-nourishing ingredients. Focused on having fun and remaining in control of what she put on her body, Jamyla began to focus on mixing her own products through research, trial, and error. By 2003, with support from her husband Pierre, the Oyin Handmade brand of naturally nourishing products was fully launched online.
The Benefits: Oyin Handmade is a family-owned company, with many products based in honey (oyin is Yoruba for honey). Everything is created by hand in small batches to ensure freshness. All products are sulfate, petroleum, silicone, paraben, and cruelty free. They also do not use non-nourishing fillers and bases in their products.
Where to Buy: Amazon.com, www.oyinhandmade.com. For the East Coast naturals, Oyin Handmade has a Saturday Boutique Shop in Baltimore. There are also select retailers nationwide and internationally that carry Oyin Handmade products. For info on the Saturday Shop and other retailers, click here.
7. Amazing Botanicals
The Backstory: Amazing Botanicals founders Asha and Shelly are NYC chefs by trade, but grew weary of whipping up meals. Exhausted from purchasing overpriced products that didn’t actually get to the source of their natural hair concerns, they embarked on a journey to create formulas that met their hair’s needs.
The Benefits: All Amazing Botanical products are handmade in small batches with only the highest quality herbal, botanical, and imported ingredients. In fact, they fly directly to Jamaica to oversee the hand pressing and creation of the Jamaican Black Castor Oil used for their Elixir. How cool is that? And of course, their products are sulfate, petrolatum, paraben, silicone, mineral oil, and cruelty free.
Best Sellers: Amazing Botanicals best sellers include the Black Soap Poo ($8), AloeMint Spritz ($12), Pumpkin Pomade ($7), and Hibiscus Gel ($9).
The Backstory: After returning to natural in 2007, Koils By Nature founder Pamela Jenkis became incredibly passionate about natural hair care. She eagerly studied, researched, and learned more information about products and ingredients that were all-natural and would work best for her hair. Driven and focused by how expensive some natural hair products were, she decided to begin mixing her own. After some trial and error, she soon found her mixing stride in 2009. Koils By Nature officially launched in 2010 online, and has expanded to include national and international retailers.
The Benefits: All Koils By Nature products are made by hand in a safe, sterile environment. All ingredients are natural, and the essential oils used are certified organic. Koils By Nature products do not contain parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, phthalates, propylene glycol, mineral oil, PABA, petroleum, parrifin, DEA, synthetic color, or animal products.
Best Sellers: Koils By Nature best sellers include Moisturizing Shealoe Leave-In Conditioner, Ultra Moisturizing Coco-Aloe Deep Conditioner, and Nourishing Hair & Body Butter.
Where to Buy: Currently, Koils By Nature is relocating from Washington, DC to Atlanta, Georgia. No products are available online for purchasing, but you can still check them out at www.koilsbynature.com. There are some select retailers that carry Koils By Nature Products, click here to see if you’re lucky enough to live nearby.
All in all, I’ve learned so much from each small business featured here, and the quality and dedication to the craft of creating hair products is truly evident. Starting today, I am making a pledge to support at least one natural hair small business a month. I know we love our super-cheapie 99-cent conditioners and leave-ins, but the natural hair community is undeniably as much about empowering eachother as it is about hair. We all know about the purchasing power we weild when it comes to spending money on hair and beauty products. Why not use our dollars to support black-owned business women and men? Join me in the pledge. Unless you dive off the product junkie deep end, this amounts to roughly $20 a month. All that means for most of us is taking leftovers for lunch 2 days a month, cooking dinner one night a month, or or taking one less trip to Sally’s. Even if you can’t do it every month, pledge to support a natural hair small business as often as you can…even if that means only once.