NC Talks With Sister Scientist About Iconic Brands Whose Chemistry Equated to Success
Image Source: sisterscientist

Though intrigued with pharmaceuticals, Erica Douglas found her niche in cosmetic studies through her mother. Douglas felt ostracized in her skin before the chemical engineering graduate changed her career path. The former Organic Root Stimulator professional describes how her natural hair wasn’t normalized due to societal beauty standards. She felt compelled to straighten her coils since natural hair products were scarce. However, Douglas took a leap of faith and became “the solution to her problems.” 

Douglas created a manufacturing company, mSeed Group, in 2014 when Black beauty creators mixed products in their kitchens. Most manufacturers negated small business owners for their lack of capital. She built a safe space and purpose for haircare brands to expand their businesses. 

“The people who deserve to be on the shelves are the people who started it and the barriers of entry were just too high for them to scale the brand,” Douglas says. “Our concept was let’s do small batch manufacturing for these up-and-coming brands with the hope and prayer some of them are going to pop off and become great brands. Sure enough, we’ve probably worked with almost every brand— a good portion of these natural brands in the textured hair space.”

In the next five years, Douglas wants to expand her knowledge in colored cosmetics, powdered technology, and bestow opportunities to “untapped talent.” Douglas acknowledges her work’s impact on today’s hair care brands, especially in her community. Douglas’ ability to intersect analytics and creativity crafted a cosmetic expert whose lab experience embarked on her journey of enhancing natural hair products. 

Legacy Brands That Innovated Clean Ingredients

NC Talks With Sister Scientist About Iconic Brands Whose Chemistry Equated to Success
Image Source: @orshaircare

From Madam C.J. Walker to the Luster family, these monumental giants dominated the hair care industry. Since then, newer brands have challenged legacy competitors by using cleaner and more sustainable ingredients. Douglas says older products relied heavily on petrolatums and mainly “grease” to nurture multicultural textured hair. Douglas says the older ingredients weren’t harmful, but the technology behind extracting and absorbing products in the follicles has evolved. She noted the “older regime” gravitated to a straighter look, but naturalistas shifted to embracing our coils. She witnessed the “green movement” working at ORS—claiming Gary Garner pioneered natural ingredients. He mixed “hair mayo and carrot oil” in his line, revolutionizing the organic market in haircare. 

“When you have these huge companies that have built successful brands on one training of thought and then now they’re trying to do this shift, it’s just very hard to do that overnight.,” she said. “They kind of came at the back end of this natural hair movement, and were playing catch up.”

Douglas applauds Pantene for pushing originality in their formula. She recognizes a huge conglomerate backs the brand; however, she loves that they can sell quality products at a higher volume while remaining cost-effective. She appreciates Pantene’s diversity, celebrating curly hair, and highlighting its “Miracle Rescue Series” on her Instagram. 

Image Source: sisterscientist

“I’m enamored with their innovation and how they create products. It keeps me like ‘ooh what’s all doing over there?’

Why Silicones And Sulfates Are Safe In Moderation

There is a negative stigma amongst silicones. Douglas objects to the silicone hate train claming the chemical protects the hair shaft against heat. She says hair breakage derives from “heat penetrating too fast,” and silicone-based products allow heat to penetrate the hair but seal the strands against damage. Douglas agrees that sulfates cause dry, dehydrated hair, but mixing secondary surfactants and other conditioning chemicals aids in a healthier and nourished scalp. Since these chemicals created a frenzy in the natural hair community, clients force chemists to formulate a new generic makeup for their products. However, scientists have dismantled the myths behind these ingredients in the hope of educating curlies worldwide.

“There’s no scientific conclusions that say this is dangerous [and] don’t put it in products,” she says. 

Though Douglas disagrees with discounting these additives, she pleases her clients with their brand’s needs—challenging her as a better chemist and reformulator. 

“Every ingredient is put on the mean girl list. I’m like, ‘Ah, I got to find something else,’ but that’s where true innovation comes from and I don’t run from it,” she explains. 

The Innovation Behind The Newest Haircare Heirs

NC Talks With Sister Scientist About Iconic Brands Whose Chemistry Equated to Success
Image Source: @camilleaaustin

Though ORS created the clean, natural ingredient wave, the family-owned company sold relaxers, representing an underlining depiction between moving forward in the hair community and conforming to specific standards. Brands like Mielle Organics, Shea Moisture, and Briogeo repurposed the natural hair movement with simple and sustainable products. Douglas says newer brands garnered a closeness to their consumers due to social media. She adds customers trusted nurse and Mielle Organics founder, Monique Rodriguez as she educated customers on the healthy benefits of her brand—solidifying her stance in the curly hair community. Since then, newer curly brands popularized a certain “standard” to challenge boardrooms by eliminating toxic chemicals in their product list. Douglas agrees these cleaner brands set the trend for mainstream hair care. 

“When you already have the infrastructure established and one foot in social media and one foot in building a product-based company, you know how to innovate extremely fast,” she says. “That has been their advantage in this whole space.”

Is There A Myth Behind Hair Growth Oils?

NC Talks With Sister Scientist About Iconic Brands Whose Chemistry Equated to Success
Image Source: @kreyolessence

Oiling the scalp is part of the curly girl’s ritual. Mainly, the urban practice started from our elders. Popular ethnic haircare brands like Kreyol Essence, Sunny Isle, and Mielle Organics sell mixtures of their essential oils—promising luscious, long tresses. However, does this tradition grant hair growth, or is it a ploy for marketing purposes? Though Douglas says there is no scientific evidence that they strictly stimulate hair growth, essential oils contain anti-fungal properties that encourage a “healthy environment” for hair to grow. She adds hair doesn’t grow at an accelerated rate after using hair growth oils but it visibility looks better and thicker.

NC Talks With Sister Scientist About Iconic Brands Whose Chemistry Equated to Success

Maintaining A Lasting Business Relationship As A New Brand

To achieve a successful business when launching new products, Douglas advises small beauty brands to consider their core consumer group, monitor cash flow to buy more inventory and push innovation before perfectionism. Douglas recognizes resources are scarce for Black women owners and “understanding financial literacy” can positively impact beauty brands. Check out these successful indie brands who maximized their time and effort specializing in curly hair extensions

No comments yet.