The Interview: Black women’s hair: ‘Dying’ to be straight


 

As more female entrepreneurs find niche markets to fill, Conversation Between Friends looks at a market that is long-established and worth millions: black female hair products. Sonia Evelyn, Director of Evelyn Products popped in to tell us her story over a bottle of mineral water.What was the trigger that made you decide to set up Evelyn Products?

I set up the company for three reasons: I suffered severe shedding six weeks after having my hair relaxed by a major brand product by a top stylist. In a few days I had lost most of my hair,  through researching my condition I was shocked to find that approximately 70% of black women who relax their hair will suffer a side effect at some point.

At the same time my younger sister had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had lost her hair through chemotherapy . She stopped using several cosmetics and began telling me about some of the studies into chemicals and cancers. I had very little hair and was determined never to use certain chemicals in my hair again, so looked for natural products. I soon realised that “natural” could mean many things, and that most natural products were mixed with a number of harsh chemical additives. This really fired me up as my daughter had eczema and I had always believed I had bought the best creams for her. So decided I would have to make my own.

You have a ‘96% natural’ sign on your bottle of Honey Haze, what does that mean exactly?

It means what it says. Some of our products are 100% natural, but never less than 96%. We list a percentage because currently products only have to contain 1% of natural ingredients to be classed as ‘natural’. However for any cosmetic containing water like the hair mist, certain ingredients are required to maintain the product and prevent bacterial growth, such as the preservatives or stabilisers. We ensure that all such ingredients are naturally derived which means they are made from plants, and in all instances we source the mildest commercially available and only those considered safe by the Cosmetic Database- environmental working group.

Why is natural afro hair so delicate?
Afro hair is primarily designed for protection. To this end our follicles are spherical producing coiled hair with a number of additional features such as:
1. As the hair coils, the width of the hair varies creating areas of weakness intermittently along the length of the shaft.
2. We produce less sebum (oil) which then has to travel along these tight curls to the ends of the hair. In most case it doesn’t reach the ends, which leads to drier hair that is more susceptible to breakage.
3.The diameter of the hair shaft is elliptical giving rise to the hair splitting lengthwise more easily.
4. Afro hair lacks a particular “glue” that holds the cuticles closed making the hair more porous , therefore does not retain water very easily and dries.
5. When grooming the hair, the ends spring back on each other inter-twining creating tangles which leads to further breaks in the hair.

Natural ingredients are better for scalp and health.

Can your products be used on chemically straightened hair?
Some can such as our shampoo, oils and conditioner but the heavier products such as the butter would weigh the hair down.
How is it important for women to be aware of what goes into their hair products?
Nowadays there are numerous studies showing that what we use on our bodies can penetrate the skin and get into the bloodstream. We see nicotine patches, hormonal patches and vitamin C patches all designed on this method. Some of those same chemicals found in cosmetics (not just hair products) can also be found in diseased breast tissues and in breast milk. Some have been shown to cause tumours in animals. We may never know the extent of how or which chemicals penetrate the skin, but prevention is always better than cure. What is clear that as more synthetic ingredients are introduced into our environments, we are also seeing a rise in cancers. A great place to begin looking at your cosmetics is the Cosmetic Database a pro-active American website.

Why do you think black women persist in using harsh products and chemicals in their hair?
There are many different reasons, some of which are quite complex. On the whole I believe firstly because we are conditioned into holding an inherent dislike for our tight hair and secondly because we are unaware of the potential damage. Most products are sold to us in a highly sophisticated glossy packaging adorned with stunning looking women. The subtext is saying if you want to get ahead, this is how you must look. What the box fails to tell us that these women are painted up and photo-shopped to the last millimetre.
Many black women have an inherent desire for length and strength in their hair and products are marketing to provide short term gratification. The longer term results sadly are a trend towards balding women. The irony is, if you just keep your hair moisturised, clean and stop trying to do so much with it, then you begin to see its real length and strength!
Who are your black female icons?
Undoubtedly Madame C.J Walker for her entrepreneurship, but it’s time for change. It’s time to show curls with beauty.

Madame CJ Walker: Pioneering entrepreneur!

Where can people get hold of your products?

www.evelynproducts.com provides a list of UK and international stockists.

If you would like to find out more about the remarkable story of Madame CJ Walker have a look here http://www.madamcjwalker.com/

Want to feature in The Interview and get your message to thousands of people? Contact suzyrigg@gmail.com

The Gorgeous Miss Sonia Evelyn
The Gorgeous Miss Sonia Evelyn

Another post you might find interesting: http://tinyurl.com/3eoe9oa

© Suzy Rigg

  

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