Seeing a curly hair product on the shelves at a major retailer like Target or Walgreens is seriously just a “buy me now” call. When the new product is in your face, decently priced and screaming, “For frizz-free curls,” it’s hard to ignore. Product line Twisted Sista is no different.

When owner Stephen Durham launched Urban Therapy in the U.S. back in 2008, curly haired women from sea to shining sea tested out the Twisted Sista product conveniently placed at eye level at their favorite drugstore. CurlTalk lit up about Twisted Sista, and although women raved about it, the sulfates and parabens in the product turned away many a curly girl.

Stephen had already climbed aboard the sulfate and paraben-free boat, however, and simply used the NaturallyCurly community’s input as a launch pad for reformulating his product. Here’s what he had to say.

Can you tell me a little bit about your own personal background and the product line’s background?

Definitely. My background is that I basically ran two hair salons in London in Notting Hill for about 14 years. In that time, I developed the Twisted Sista product line with my salon team. Then I decided to really launch it over in the States, and in order to do that, I really needed to be here. I moved here in 2008 and actually started working on reformulating the brand to be on par with more ethical lines.

What happened was that consumers wanted to be able to pick up the brand in stores immediately. They didn’t want to wait on repackaging or reformulations, so we just went for it. In 2009, we launched in New York, which was quickly followed by a trial with about 40 Target stores. That eventually became about 400 stores. Then Walgreens picked it up and put it in all their stores coast to coast. This year, we’ll be launching with Wal-Mart. So we’re growing a lot.

I know when the brand first launched, there was a lot of backlash in the States, specifically from the NaturallyCurly community, about the sulfates and parabens found in the products. The reformulated line clearly states that the products are sulfate and paraben free, and the ingredients confirm that. Can you tell me a little bit about this re-launch?

Well, it was quite funny because, honestly, when I first came here, I was doing a bit of research, and I felt that I needed to get rid of the sulfates, parabens and mineral oils, and when launched, we had some hot debates with your community about those specific ingredients. I kind of had a smile on face the whole time thinking, “Okay, I’m going about this the right way.” Developing the brand without those ingredients is the right way of doing it.

So, from my point of view it was good, because I knew that we were on the right track. It’s just that we had to launch with the ingredients still in there. Product testing and development can sometimes take as long as 15 months, and I’m very, very finicky about product testing. Although I was hearing this hot debate over sulfates and parabens, I didn’t want to rush to market. I wanted to make sure I had the right product first.

Who was your product line developed for?

I developed to a wide audience, which is a really London thing, as it is cross-cultural. I had to develop a product that worked on all types of hair, but that had the sensitivity of curly and natural hair, which is why I’ve come up with the sulfate-free and paraben-free versions now.

When I look at hair from a stylist’s point of view, everyone seems to suffer from frizz no matter what your hair type is, so we needed to develop a product that would address that.

We also found through our market research that the products being used in the marketplace were quite heavy. We said, “Why don’t we add moisture to the shampoo, and start the conditioner off with a lighter weight?” That’s the beginnings of it basically. Hair shouldn’t ever be too heavy when you’re styling it.

You mention shampoo, and a lot of our community co-washes, or conditioner washes. How would your product work for them?

There are a lot of conditioners out there that work for washing your hair. They are kind of like the old fashioned “all in one.” That’s not the way we went.

I do believe, though, that you can wash your hair too much, and it isn’t always necessarily the shampoo or conditioner, but the water. Shower water can be quite harsh. What I have found is that a lot of women use really heavy products and then they have to use a lot of wash to get it out. They would style it everyday and just keep adding products that were just too heavy. The hair is just reacting to the overload.

I think there is a real market for dry shampoos. You obviously want to condition your hair as much as possible without over-drying, and dry shampoos are also a good way to get rid of buildup.

What about your branding? Do you often find that the name “Twisted Sista” is geared towards a specific hair type?

Not at all. Recently, there has been a lot of crossover, and the distributors definitely see it as a crossover brand. Duane Reade initially had the product in the ethnic section, but they have now moved 60 percent of our products to other aisles as well. We are getting the same feedback from Walgreens and Target.

Actually, right now we have a pretty large Latina following, which is why our new bottles are in both English and Spanish.

The feedback we’re getting from retailers is that the product crosses over. People of all ethnicities are buying it.

When and where will the new product be available?

All of the reformulated products are rolling out right now. They released in Duane Reade in February, Walgreens will be pushing it out on March 27 and Wal-Mart will launch it in March as well.

Some of your products still contain silicones. A large portion of our community is anti-silicones. As a hair care professional, what is your opinion on them?

Well, you know you can have waster-based silicones that are water-soluble. Basically, I think that they are necessary. If they weren’t in there, the product would have a sell-by date of two to three weeks.

Silicones work, too, because they give your hair shine and increase manageability. It is all about ease of use. We aren’t trying to be the most natural brand out there. It’s about ease of use for our users, and silicones help with that. There’s a place for them in hair care. Obviously they aren’t a major part of the ingredient list, but I do believe that they have their place.

Free Product Giveway

Want to test out the new product for free? Be one of the first 100 people to like Twisted Sista’s Facebook page, send in your short natural hair journey, and you’ll get to choose which product you want to try for free!


NaturallyCurly has been on a mission to educate, empower, entertain and inspire women to have healthy discussions about hair and beauty since 1998. We explore everything from self-acceptance to finding the best hair care products for all textures.

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