As haircare ingredients become more and more exotic, we couldn’t help but wonder about the environmental impact, and how the ingredients make it from remote locations into our hands. To find out the incredible journey of these ingredients, we reached out to three brands committed to sourcing sustainably, SheaMoisture, ColorProof and Rahua.
SheaMoisture has a history of sourcing natural ingredients sustainably. The brand’s founder, Richelieu Dennis, started the brand based on his Grandmother Sofi Tucker’s recipes. “Sofi supported her family by selling handcrafted shea butter soaps and other products in the village market in Sierra Leone,” explains Nicola Chung, Sr. Director of Haircare Innovation, Sundial Brands, manufacturer of SheaMoisture. This formula is still currently followed, as SheaMoisture uses ethically-sourced shea butter from 15 co-ops in Northern Ghana.
Women at the co-op in Ghana (Image courtesy of SheaMoisture)
“Our family recipe gives a nod to African Black Soap’s origins by the Yoruba tribe,” says Nicola. “To make the soap, leaves, cocoa pods, shea tree bark and plantains are burned to an ash, which g gives the soap its naturally dark color. The ash is then added to coconut oil and certified organic and fair trade shea butter. This is combined with water and brought to a boil until it dissolves. The vitamin-rich soap is then hand-stirred and set out to cure.”
SheaMoisture works with the women in the co-ops of Ghana directly, not just buying their products but turning them into partners and helping them develop all aspects of their business. “An ethical wage premium is paid to these enterprising women, and we aid in monitoring practices to ensure that the efficiency, health, profitability and quality of life is elevated for members of the co-ops,” adds Nicola. The brand has invested millions in West Africa, and is focused on breaking the cycle of poverty through economic independence.
A SheaMoisture rep poses with women from Ghana. (Image courtesy of SheaMoisture)
Products derived from natural ingredients deliver tangible results while appeasing consumer interest in cutting back on synthetic ingredients, so yes, this is definitely becoming a lasting trend. “With the rise of sustainability awareness, consumers are demanding environmentally-sourced ingredients to be part of their beauty products and manufacturers are taking increased responsibility, resulting in a trend that will be here to stay,” comments Jim Markham, Founder and CEO of ColorProof.
Baobab fruits (Image courtesy of ColorProof)
To get the natural ingredients their consumers have come to rely on, ColorProof relies on suppliers. “Worldwide, there are approximately over 150 ingredient suppliers who source raw materials and ingredients through their natural environments. The task of sourcing falls to them, and they are the experts at it. We regularly meet with the very best of these suppliers to learn about the latest ingredient technology, ingredient origins and effectiveness, and to ensure they are maintaining ingredients’ full efficacy while using ethical and sustainable practices,” he explains.
ColorProof aims to work with ingredient suppliers who have arrangements and programs that support local communities, for example with the Baobab Heal & Repair® System, which is sourced from the African Baobab tree ( a tree that is also known as the “Tree of Life”). Women’s co-ops in remote, rural communities harvest the baobab fruit and this business has a tremendous social impact on their financial independence. “Consumers get the benefits of a powerhouse ingredient that provides incredible moisture and hair strengthening, while also having peace of mind that they are helping a community of women thrive,” notes Jim.
ColorProof Founder Jim Markham poses under a baobab tree. (Image courtesy of ColorProof)
The plant-based ingredients that is present in your haircare actually comes “straight from the earth” says Jim, and are then sent to the lab to be cold-pressed or have nutrients extracted to use for formulations. Because they are ultimately removing these fruits from the tree, ColorProof works with suppliers to aid in their replanting programs.
“The baobab fruit is grown in 32 different countries across the African continent and is collected and processed using sustainable harvesting – including annual Baobab planting, education, and collection without tree damage. Every tree is community-owned and wild-harvested. In addition, our shipping cartons and secondary packaging are made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, recyclable cardboard. The FSC is a non-profit organization responsible for managing and replenishing the world’s forests,” says Jim of the full process.
Known for bringing Amazon-derived hair products to all, Rahua works with indigenous communities that harvest the Ungurahua nut during a full moon ceremony, to source their star ingredient.
The Rahua nut pictured up-close. (Image courtesy of Rahua)
“This rare oil, and our key ingredient, is made through a highly sustainable and regenerative process using ancient wisdom and ceremonial practices. A full moon is optimal to perform the ceremony, extracting the nuts’ most potent nutrients. The men gather the precious Rahua nuts from self-sustained trees, and the women cook and hand-extract the oil. Also, our Morete and Sacha Inchi are gathered from trees in the forest and both men and women contribute to the extraction process to procure these nutrient-rich oils,” says Fabian Lliguin, Co-Founder and President, Rahua® by Amazon Beauty® Inc. of this rare sourcing method.
Rahua purchases raw ingredients directly from the makers in the Amazon Rainforest, thereby supporting their economy. This also allows the indigenous people to remain as its keepers and preserve it for future generations. To ensure all of their products meet the highest standards, both ethically and environmentally, Rahua has pioneered the *Symbiotic® ingredient category, for which products must meet the following requirements.
- an ingredient must be grown wild in undisturbed forests;
- ingredients must be harvested and prepared using indigenous knowledge by people indigenous to the virgin forest environment;
- ingredients must be purchased at more than fair price to build economies and empower the indigenous people.
No Rahua products are lab grown, and are 100% plant based, including the stabilizers. The ingredients are grown and harvested around the world, with all-star ingredients coming from the Amazon Rainforest. They are then formulated, blended and filled in the US,” notes Fabian.
Rahua ladies braiding each other’s hair. (Image courtesy of Rahua)
Rahua strives to be as low impact as possible when it comes to sourcing. “Rahua only uses naturally fallen, weather-aged wood and does not harvest live trees,” explains Fabian. “Above and beyond preserving existing trees, Rahua works with local communities to plant Palo Santo seedlings and balance the loss population over-harvested by other users in other areas.”
Rahua Founder Fabian Lliguin pictured with children in the rainforest. (Image courtesy of Rahua)
Utlimately, Rahua is a business born through environmentalists Lliguin and Ayer’s non-profit organization EcoAgents in protection of the Amazon Rainforest. “We have preserved 37,500 hectares (roughly 100,000 acres) of pristine and biodiverse tribal lands deep in the Amazon Rainforest for perpetuity. Ultimately producing oxygen and offsetting the carbon footprint for every single one of our clients, retail partners and more! We are proud to say we are beyond carbon neutral and generate oxygen surplus. Beauty is Power!” says Fabian.