When F. Butler launched Qhemet Biologics -- a hair-care company with products tailored for people with curls and kinks -- in 2004, many believed natural hair was only a passing trend.
"With so many support networks available for naturals now, I think it's safe to say that textured hair love is here to stay," Butler says. "Once people learn about the range of management and styling options available and/or become aware of the social and political roots of hair shame, the decision to transition is made easier. Information is always the catalyst for change, and what it has created is a growing demographic of knowledge-driven consumers with revised standards and very specific demands.
"Companies like Qhemet have responded to this growing demand for high-quality, high-performance products that accentuate the beauty of textured hair rather than fight it."So not only are we rejecting scented mineral oil in favor of ingredients that are actually beneficial, we're also rejecting the condescending marketing campaigns renowned for their use of misspelled words and gaudy color schemes," Butler says of the products traditionally marketed for the ethnic market.
Qhemet was the result of Butler's own frustrated attempts to manage her newly natural dry, damaged hair and scalp. She decided to create a line of quality, effective, tradition-inspired products for health-conscious consumers.
After two years of research, she launched Qhemet, borrowing her recipes from the rich, cultural hair-care traditions native to Africa, India and the Mediterranean.
"I wanted those of us who have been displaced to become reacquainted with the history and use of the materials our ancestors valued for their hair and skin benefits," Butler says.Her first product was the Olive & Honey Intense Hydration Balm, which she created to provide lasting hydration to thick, coarse or dense hair. The balm contains virgin sesame oil and pure olive oil, which was referred to as 'liquid gold' in ancient Egypt because of its high levels of oleic acids and antioxidants.
"I felt that a product with natural emollients and moisturizers would provide nourishment, impart sheen and shine and keep the hair touchably soft, no matter the environmental conditions,'" she said.After developing that product, which turned the history buff into a lay cosmetic chemist, she decided to create an entire line of products. Some were intended as natural alternatives to existing products and others were designed to address needs she didn't think were bering met. She wanted to avoid the petrochemicals, animal fats, proteins and irritants found in many of the products aimed at the ethnic market.
"I have two history degrees, so I obviously love history and folklore," Butler says. "Sometimes, the most enjoyable aspect of developing a new product is exploring the indigenous value and use of an ingredient."
When it launched, Qhemet had five products. Today, it has grown to 20, including a vegan body-care line for mom and baby. Many of her newer products have been the result of customer feedback, including the new Egyptian Wheatgrass Cleansing Tea, Castor & Moringa Softening Serum and Karkady Tea Replenishing Mist. Qhemet's most popular products are the Amla & Olive Heavy Cream, with Olive Cream Conditioner & Detangler running a close second.
With each product, Butler has paid special attention to each ingredient. For example, the pomade includes Amla oil and virgin sesame oil because of their Ayurvedic tradition. The formula is traditionally prescribed to encourage hair growth, prevent dandruff, maintain hair pigment and soften hair. She said it's gentle enough to use for babies and children. Her newer products contain even more botanicals, she says.
She said all Qhemet Biologics products work synergistically to counter the ravages of physical and chemical abuse. In some cases, Qhemet products have changed lives."Since we've been told that textured hair is naturally unmanageable, dry and slow growing, the realization that it isn't true can be an intensely emotional and liberating experience," Butler says.