Beauties are you ready for some Pure Plant Magic? We're absolutely thrilled to welcome the lush organic goodness that is The Afro Hair & Skin Co.! The brand has attracted multiple accolades and generated a lot of excitement among a community that is actively seeking healthier, more natural alternatives to the beauty products targeted at women with afro and multi-textured hair textures.
So of course we had to take the opportunity to pick the brain of their founder, Ibi Meier-Oruitemeka, to find out about what motivated her to create these much-needed products, how she chooses (and sources!) her incredible botanical ingredients, and her best hair care tips!
1.TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF?
My life is something of a quest for simplicity, self improvement, beauty and harmony. My peace of mind is important to me so, these days you'll find me living a fairly quiet life in a small seaside town that is in many way worlds apart from my chaotic East London upbringing.
I find the slow pace of life here un-distracting, this allows my mind to wander in a way that supports my natural rhythm and inspires my creativity. I've been obsessed with my hair and skin rituals since I was a little girl. I often sat in front of mirrors plaiting, moisturising and combing my own hair, or applying face masks and popping cucumber slices over my eyes like they did in the magazines.
Looking back I see it as a way of connecting with myself, trying to understand my self in a world that didn't necessarily see me. My younger self was instinctively in tune with a need to slow down and be gentle with myself, I forgot this practices in my early twenties when 'adulthood' took over. Now as a mum of 2 young children and a business owner I am even more determined to pour into myself.
2.WHAT LED YOU TO CREATE THE AFRO HAIR & SKIN CO?
Finding myself in a weird place post-uni, uninspired by work and life in general I decided I needed a change of scenery so I moved to Stockholm,Sweden on a 3 month magazine internship, this was way back in 2005. When the 3 months was up, I decided I wasn't ready to return to the UK so stayed on, I ended up staying for 4 years. I quickly ran out of hair products and I couldn't find any stores that catered to me, so I turned to the internet. I discovered forums of black women making their own products and sharing and recommending natural ingredients.
This was such a revelation to me. Sweden being a very environmentally conscious country where most people spend their free time outdoors in nature really changed my lifestyle for the better. This in turn got me questioning everything from my environment and how my lifestyle choices might be impacting my physical and mental health. It also made me question the products I was using and the impact that might be having not only on my overall health and well being, but also my self-esteem.
I'm a lover of art and believe that design can influence how we see ourselves. Growing up I never felt any affinity with brands that were 'meant for me'. None of them made me feel special or let me know that I too was worth investing in.
3.WHAT MAKES IT SO SPECIAL?
Our products are special because we are not trying to cater to everyone, we have an uncompromising commitment to serving and supporting black women in their beauty, health and wellness helping them look and feel their best by providing truly healthy options. And, while there are still a myriad of different hair types and textures among black women, we have created products that work holistically to help remedy the problems we all share.
Our products works so well because of their simplicity, we don't scrimp on ingredients, we source our ingredients honestly, many of which are grown locally from farms across the UK giving you a fresher and more potent end product that is also environmentally sustainable. The philosophy of simplicity runs throughout our brand and products. Lovers of quality, return time and again for the reliability and understated luxury we provide.
4.WHO IS THE AFRO HAIR & SKIN CO FOR?
Our brand is for lovers of wellness, a person who is invested in prioritising their emotional and physical health and well being above all. Someone who's open, curious with a modern outlook, socially conscious and strives to be mindful about her consumerist choices.
They are forward looking, unswayed by trends and are actively taking decisions that will support their physical, mental and spiritual growth. They are on a continuously evolving path to become the best version of themselves. They are happily imperfect, self assured and know their worth.
5.TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR INGREDIENTS. YOU HAD US AT ‘CAMELINA SEED OIL, POPPY SEED OIL AND ORGANIC THISTLE OIL’! WE HAVE COME ACROSS MANY OILS BUT NOT THESE. WHAT DO THEY DO?
Yes! It was actually a serendipitous discovery which happened after moving to the coast. We were surrounded by an abundance of farmland, lavender fields etc on exploring I discovered that the UK actually produce a huge variety of natural oils. It made perfect sense to me to explore what they could do for us and look to be underutilised in hair and skincare aimed at us.
It took a long time to sift through the various offering and come up with a selection that I believed would really offer us something exciting and different. I dislike heavy hair oils that weigh down the hair leaving it feeling greasy so it was important to me that they oils were light and nourishing.
I use Organic Thistle oil as the base for our Bloom Hair Oil because of it's rich and light consistency. It has a very high Vitamin F content which is an incredible skin nutrient which supports healthy scalp. Poppy seed oil helps smooth the hair shaft, it's extremely helpful for improving elasticity and is rich in antioxidants. Lastly Camelina Seed oil gives a little added protection against manipulation and styling which means less snapping and breakage. It contains up to 43% omega 2 essential fatty acids which ensures your scalp and hair follicles remain nourished and healthy which then allows for a better quality of hair growth.
It's important that oils used on the scalp are non-comedogenic (non pore blocking). People are increasingly more aware of this in skincare but I would say its equally as important in hair care as blocked follicles will impede healthy productive hair growth.
6.YOU HAVE MADE A COMMITMENT TO USING ETHICALLY SOURCED INGREDIENTS THAT ARE 100% NATURAL – WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
It's been proven in a recent study that black women are marketed to disproportionately with products that contain harmful ingredients. This completely unacceptable but it is also entirely preventable. For too long our beauty products have contributed to undermining our long term health and well-being. The Afro Hair & Skin Co. exists to provide real alternatives.
I often say that beauty shouldn't cost us the earth. I believe that we all have a responsibility to ensure that our lifestyles do not negatively impact our plant, and do not fuel the exploitation of human labour or animal welfare. I wanted to create a business that as it grows would be sustainable and not causing too great a strain on the worlds resources.
7.HOW DOES THE ETHOS OF ‘REAL BEAUTY’ TIE INTO THE PRODUCTS YOU HAVE CREATED?
Real beauty is a pledge we have taken as a brand to continue our commitment to producing green beauty products with heart, honesty integrity and transparency as central to how we operate. I create products from a place of intention with how they can enhance both physical and mental health.
Community and self-care is at the heart of my brand, I have an opportunity to build something better aligned with my world view so that hopefully future generations will never have to suspect and question whether products aimed at them really have their best intentions at heart.
8.WHAT'S YOUR TOP TIP FOR
As a fan of simplicity I would say opt for gentle natural shampoos free from harsh surfactants, water regularly, don't be heavy handed with product, seal with oils or butter depending on your hairs porosity and ability to retain moisture. If you have to pile it on is it really working?
9.FINALLY, WHAT PIECE OF
ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE A YOUNGER ‘IBI’ ON THE TOPIC OF HAIR AND SELF ACCEPTANCE?
I would tell a younger me that when people throw negative words or comments your way it's often a projection based on their own insecurities, keep doing you and know that the world is vaster than the immediate space you occupy. Explore, be open and you will find yourself and your people.