The natural hair wave is growing giving Black women the opportunity to embrace their natural hair texture and beauty, and many are getting in on the action. While hair companies race to create products specifically catering to Black hair, a local Detroiter created her own product line and is now helping Black women not only love their natural hair but grow it too.
A common misconception of Black hair is that it does not have the ability to get as long as other women’s hair. While not true, for Black women to obtain long and healthy tresses both genetics and habits combine to promote hair health and retention.
Gwen Jimmere, a Detroit native and entrepreneur, launched the Naturalicious hair brand in 2013. With just $32 in the bank, the brand was created to tame the owner’s own tresses. Referring to herself as “the most unlikely hair entrepreneur,” Jimmere was able to create a product that not only saved her hair but helped to save the hair of her immediate circle.
“It was never supposed to be a company, it was just supposed to be something I created for myself, but friends started coming over asking what I was using, and I would give them some, and then friends of friends would do the same thing. Eventually, people were calling me. So, I set up a website and allowed people to purchase from that site,” says Jimmere.
While pregnant, the entrepreneur decided to stop relaxing her hair. After receiving perms for over 10 years, the choice to go natural came after watching the Good Hair documentary by actor and comedian Chris Rock. Visiting a local store for natural hair products, Jimmere was faced with one question: what now?
“I went to Whole Foods and I started looking for products that said ‘natural’ and organic’ and I found some. I brought them home and they were natural and organic, but they didn’t work on my hair,” Jimmere says. “So, I said, ‘I’m going to have to make this myself.’ This was before you could go to any store for natural hair products made for Black hair.”
After doing some research on all-natural products, her mother, a master herbalist, stepped in to assist. Suggesting a root native to Morocco, her mother helped to spark the catalyst to create Naturalicious.
“I called my mom for suggestions. She gave me a number of suggestions and one of them led me down a rabbit hole to this ingredient called rhassoul clay. I had never heard of it. I ordered it and it took forever to come. It finally arrived and I mixed it with some other ingredients and for me it was like the gates of heaven literally opened,” Jimmere says.
Now, with products on the shelves, the brand has helped save over 70,000 women more than 1.2 million minutes in hairstyling and care. Originally the brand was founded to help other women in their hair journey save time and money while curbing the frustrations of hair maintenance. Now, the brand is looking to expand the idea of natural hair with education and some friendly competition.
The Repair Your Hair Challenge gathers hundreds of women to transform their hair over a 15-day period. The pot is sweetened as winners of the challenge receive a grand prize of $1,000 while learning valuable skills through weekly live virtual meetings, personalized videos from the brand’s creator and an interactive private Facebook to chat with other users.
Like many things, the pandemic presented a unique set of challenges and hair care was one. With salons and beauty supply stores closed, women, and especially Black women, were left to figure out the best course of action for their hair. During the pandemic, the Repair Your Hair Challenge was formed.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, everything was closed. Most of us have not learned how to do our hair. I’m talking about basic washing your hair, basic moisturizing, how to know if your hair needs to be clarified. The vast majority of Black women are starting from behind. A lot of times, we are going back to natural.”
The challenge is gearing up for its fourth competition where participants can ‘go from whack to looking like a snack.’ Initially meant to be a stand=alone event, the Repair Your Hair Challenge has become a quarterly experience.
“It was supposed to be a one-time situation, but the results were so astonishing. The things they learn in those 15 days is literally 10 years’ worth of trial and error,” says Jimmere.
Although geared towards Black women, anyone can join to learn to manage textured hair. The next challenge is set to begin April 27. For $299, enrollees will receive access to content, every product needed to complete the challenge and a tracker to monitor progress. Naturalicious can be found in over 1200 retail stores including Ulta, Whole Foods and Sally Beauty.