Esenje Bonga has a simple philosophy: "If you can't eat it, why would you put it on your body?"
It is with this spirit that she launched Kynk last fall -- a Canadian company dedicated to helping people find natural solutions to their beauty needs.
Kynk's flagship product is the Hair Honey, a natural hair treatment designed for curly, kinky and coarse hair. It contains avocado and herbal essential oils to moisturize and strengthen the hair. It works especially well on braids and twists.
"We are in the business of helping people live naturally with their beauty," Bonga says.
It has taken Bonga most of her 32 years to learn live with and love her own coarse, kinky hair.
"As long as I can remember, it was the bane of my existence," she says. "All through high school, people told me I had bad hair."
As an African girl growing up in Canada, there were few resources for textured hair. From the age of seven, Bonga's mother texturized or relaxed her thick, coarse, kinky hair.
In her mid-20s, she was fed up. She had her roommate shave her head "down to the bone." For three years, she went bald.
"It was some of the best three years of my life," she says. "It was a very liberating experience."
She decided to grow it back when she was preparing for a trip to Mexico.
"I was told that a single, black, bald woman in Mexico wouldn't be accepted," she says. "I figured Mexico might not be ready for Esenje yet."
While it was growing out, she met a woman with Brazil with beautiful textured hair. She gave Bonga a recipe for a conditioner that consisted of mashed avocado, olive oil, honey and hair conditioner. She was told to put in her hair, wrap a towel around it and leave it like that for a day.
"Holy cow!" she said, recalling her first experience with it. "It was marvelous. It really strengthened and softened my hair."
She began experimenting with the concoction, taking out some ingredients and adding others. She discovered she could get great results without adding the conditioner. But there were other drawbacks.
"I had a hard time walking around with a semi-rancid avocado on my head," she says.
So she took the avocado recipe and modified it by using botanical oils instead of the raw ingredients. The result was Hair Honey, which she introduced in November. Because the textured hair market is small in Victoria, she added body products to her line -- Toe Jam and Brazilian Polish scrubs and Pit Stop Deodorant. She is developing other hair products, including a shea butter pomade and a sulfate-free hair cleanser.
Word is spreading about Kynk Hair Honey, with orders coming in from as far away as Australia. It now is available in CurlMart.
With the help of her Hair Honey, Bonja is loving her natural hair.
"I get compliments on my hair," she says. "I never had them before, unless I was wearing braided extensions. I actually feel that I have 'good' hair. even though I was told all my life that I had "difficult", "rough", and "terrible" hair -- and I did! It was processed the whole time! Now, my greatest worry is finding a grey -- and that is no worry at all. think silver hair is beautiful!'"