Ayanna Marie Henderson

Ayanna Marie Henderson

Donna Marie Products is truly a labor of love, born out of Ayanna Marie Henderson's life-long passion with natural hair and natural ingredients.

"My inspiration came from my mother and my grandmother," Henderson says.

Henderson's mother, a holistic chiropractor, had a huge herb room in her basement. She also taught Henderson how to braid hair when she was three years old, and she would practice doing cornrows braids and twists on her dolls.

"I remember braiding my doll baby's hair over and over again until the braid was perfect," Henderson says.

By the time she was 13, she was creating natural styles for her friends for a profit.

Although she loved working with other people's natural hair, she had difficulty styling her own. She had a perm throughout her childhood and teen years because natural hair "wasn't the 'in' thing," she says. It wasn't until college that she decided to embrace her natural hair and grow her perm out after years of straightening her hair.

She continued to pursue her natural hair styling gig — braiding, cornrowing, twisting and weaving hair throughout college as a side gig to make extra money while getting her degree in business management from St. John's University. She never realized she could turn this love of natural hair into a career. But soon, she was working for some of the top natural hair stylists in New York — stylists with their own product lines making a lot of money. She decided to pursue her passion.

Donna Marie products

Donna Marie products

She graduated from cosmetology school and became a trained and certified natural hair specialist, with her styles appearing in publications such as "Essence," "Mahogany" and "Black Hair." She was inspired her to rock her own natural hair, but was frustrated at how frizzy and brittle it looked.

"I was so frustrated with my hair," she says. "When it was wet, I had a beautiful, defined, curly 'fro, but when it dried, it was a frizzy mess. I almost got a perm out of frustration, but was determined to keep my hair natural and work with what I have."

She spent her childhood watching her mother create natural hair oils and butters for her clients in her herb room. In 2005, she began going down to her mother's herb room to mix up her own herbal concoctions for her hair. Through trial and error, and help from her mixologist mother and from a chemist, she created a formula in 2006 that worked well for both her and her clients.

"It became a hit," she says of her Donna Marie Coco Curly Butter (formerly Curl Addict)— a natural mix of herbs, butters, oils and aloe.

Customer demand prompted her to create other products for natural hair styling, and in February 2008, she relaunched the entire product line under the name Donna Marie, after her grandmother, who believed in using natural ingredients.

The line includes four styling products (Coco Curly Butter, Spiral Smoothie, Ultimate Detangler and Lock and Twist Pudding); Sugar Honey Oasis, a sulfate-free cleanser; Mango Butter Smoothie, a moisturizing conditioner; and Goddess Growth Remedy, a growth oil infused with five different herbs.

All Donna Marie products are made by hand and use no less than 98 percent natural and organic ingredients. Most of the products are aloe-based.

Henderson, a 3c/4a, uses the Ultimate Detangler, following with the Coco Curly Butter and some Spiral Smoothie, as needed.

They really enhance curls and make them pop," Henderson says.

Henderson has her sights set on opening a flagship boutique displaying the best in natural hair and skincare, as well as opening a salon for natural hair care. It would be a logical progression of the personal hair journey that began in childhood.

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