Jane Carter didn't intend to develop a line of natural haircare products for curly hair.
But when the New Jersey hairdresser developed severe asthma in response to the chemicals she was using, her doctor told her she'd had to get out of the business -- a business that was grossing $1 million a year. Instead, she decided to learn about what went into haircare products.
'That was the beginning,' Carter said.. 'I went to a bunch of beauty supply stores and sat down and ready every label on thousands of products. And every label had the exact same ingredients. I was intrigued by the whole thing.'
So a decade ago, she cleared the products out of her salon and started from scratch. She wanted to get away from the heavy, greasy products that were so common in lines for ethnic hair.
The first product she developed was the Hair Nourishing Serum -- a totally natural blend of essential oils and vtiamins that can be used on all kinds of hair. Her goal was to create something that was nourishing, without the greasy feel.
'For a lot of women of color or with curly hair, they've never found something that works that's not greasy,' she said.
That one product has grown into a line of a nearly a dozen products collectively called The Jane Carter Solution: the Hair Nourishing Serum, Scalp Nourishing Serum, Nourish and Shine, Scalp Renew, Revitalizing Leave-In Conditioner, Nutrient Replenishing Conditioner, Wrap and Roll, Condition & Sculpt, Twist and Lock, Natural Hold Spray Gel and Moisture Nourishing Shampoo. The products range in price from $7 to $20.
The Jane Carter Solution specifically designed is for dry hair, curly hair, relaxed hair, permed hair, or color-treated hair.
She said too many of the people who develop haircare products don't understand how they're used. She cited a chemist friend who has developed 40 percent of the best-known ethnic products but had never gone into a salon.
'I was dumbfounded,' Carter said.
Carter has owned her salon for 20 years and understands the needs of women with curly hair. For example, she said a lot of women with curls and kinks are afraid to wet their hair. But a lot of women who twist and lock their hair develop dry, flaky scalp because they never shampoo. So she developed Scalp Renew as a pre-shampoo treatment to cleanse the follice, getting rid of sludge and toxins.
' I really didn’t plan on it,' Carter said of her product line. 'But once you use one product that really works, you start coming up with others. I looked at what was missing from the market and create it. I really evolved.'
Carter said she uses pure essential oils such as Citrius -- a great anti-fungal, anti-bacterial. Her products also are loaded with such ingredients as shea butter and illippe butter -- really moisturizing.
Like some others, Carter is not a big fan of silicones, glycerin or petroleum, which she said have huge molecules that can't penetrate the hairshaft.
'We don't use any of it,' she said.
The products have gained loyal customers around the world -- from Mozambique to India. And the thing that has amazed her is how much these customers have in common.
'They all have the same questions: 'How do I deal with my hair? How do I prevent my hair from being dry?'' she said. 'It's the same dialogue.'
Carter admits she didn't always feel so good about her own curly hair and relaxed it for years.
'Then I eventually just said 'forget it',' Carter said.
Carter believes too many stylists are unable to deal with different hair textures. Carter, on the other hand, found it easy.
'I had had bad experiences and I had a family full of people who had had bad experiences,' she said. 'I started fixing really bad haircuts when I was 15.'
She said too many stylists think of hair as hair, lumping all people into one category. But Carter said that we have an increasingly multicultural society.
'We should be able to work with anybody that comes through the door,' she said. 'That's my orientation.'
The products are available at CurlMart.