We're excited to launch our new series Leaders in Curl, which highlights some of the best brands for curls and coils and the people behind the brands. Textured hair has been a lifelong passion for celebrity stylist Anthony Cristiano, global artistic director for Phyto.

"When people embrace their natural texture, it exudes confidence and true sex appeal," says Cristiano, a curly himself.

Cristiano is thrilled about Phyto Specific's new step-by-step curl regimen – a collection of six botanical products for curly and coily hair that can be used alone or with other Phyto products.

"It's uniquely developed for textured hair," says Cristiano, who uses the brand on all of his clients at his Chicago salon. "We want people to know there's an effective, botanical solution for their hair. Each bottle of Phyto is pure integrity and passion."

I had the honor of talking to Cristiano this week about the Phyto Specific's newest products as well as his top product tips. We learned why Phyto is a true Leader in Curls:

curly woman using phyto specific

How was Phyto founded?

AC: Patrick Alès launched the brand in 1967. Alès noticed that chemically-laden products were taking a serious toll on the hands of hairdressers and the hair of their clientele. He wanted to create a gentler, less harmful range of products.

At the time, he was renovating his old farm house and found three jars of herbs, which became his inspiration for Phyto. He decided to study the power of plants, their history of use in traditional medicine, and the role they might play in hair products. All Phyto products are comprised of 95 percent botanicals.

Phyto's first products, Huiles D' Alès and Phyto 7, were created to rescue his clients' dry, bleached-out locks.

In 1998, Phyto Specific was launched. It is a specialized, professional brand designed to meet the particular needs of curly, coily and relaxed hair. Phyto Specific PhytoRelaxer is the first no-lye relaxer.

I met Patrick Alés 1989 while working as an apprentice at Vidal Sassoon. Thirty years later, when I decided to open my own salon, I felt like our brands aligned. Working with Phyto is a dream. We all share the same passion.

phyto specific curl products

What do you think makes Phyto different from other brands?

AC: Innovation is at the core of this company. Phyto still has its own lab and chemists, and grows herbs for its products in the South of France.

Education is also a key focus for Phyto. We want people to know how and why to use the products.

Tell me about Phyto Specific's new products.

AC: The new Cleansing Care Cream hydrates and cleanses the scalp and hair. We recommend applying twice – first to cleanse and second to treat. It can be used on wet or dry hair. We recommend cleansing two to three times a week, alternating the cleansing care cream with your maintenance shampoo. Buildup can clog follicles preventing hair growth.

Both cleansers can be followed with one of Phyto Specifics curl masks, which include the Rich Hydration Mask, the Ultra Smoothing Mask and the Curl Hydration Mask.

We also launched our Curl Legend styling products. The Curl Energizing Spray – a curl spa in a bottle – defines and hydrates loose to tight curls. It can be combined with the Curl Sculpting Cream-Gel, which defines curls and controls frizz without crunch. The Spray is perfect for people with finer hair, while the Cream-Gel is ideal for those with coarser, tighter curls. What's inside? Quinoa to hold moisture and definition for 24 hours. 98% botanical formulas! Available at ULTA, and in top salons nationwide.

We also have our Pre-Shampoo Baobab Oil, a luxurious oil that nourishes and regenerates the hair and scalp.

What are some of your favorite Phyto and Phyto Specific products?

AC: My first introduction to Phyto was Phyto Plage L'Original Protective Sun Oil, which I use to style the hair. It has a little tackiness and creates great beachy hair.

My favorite product is the Phytologist Scalp Treatment. Beautiful hair grows from a healthy scalp. It's a product meant to be used a minimum of two days a week for hair strengthening and growth. Instantly after using, you'll stop shedding and see results.

I also love PhytoVolume Actif Volumizing Spray, which is a great base for creating voluminous shapes, and and Volume Intense Mousse, which provides amazing control and creates beautiful volume.

I love all our masques and treatments. Because they contain no silicones or parabens, you should apply them with your hands and then comb them through your hair to evenly distribute and detangle the hair.

What are the benefits of layering/cocktailing products?

AC: I love to cocktail products. You want to think about what each product does to each other – how they relate. If I want to break down a gel, I mix it with a cream-based, emollient product. For example, I would use Phyto 7 and Phyto 9 leave-in conditioners with Curl Sculpting Cream-Gel. Or I would cocktail Curl Energizing Spray with PhytoDéfrisant Botanical Smoothing Balm. They complement each other.

Phyto Specific Integral Hydrating Mist is a great base for every curly person. It provides complete hydration, which can prevent frizz. Frizz results when the cuticle is blown open. The spray fills in the cuticle, making it much suppler.

The majority of the Phyto line can be layered because of the botanicals. They don't leave the hair feeling weighed down or heavy. They just do the job. Phyto allows you to have fun. You can't really make a mistake.

What are some top trends you're seeing in curly hair?

AC: People are really embracing their curls. I can see it with my children, especially my 16-year-old daughter. There was a time when she didn't like her curls because all her friends had straight hair. Now she's embracing her curls.

We're seeing more short curly styles – mid-length bobs and layers. We're even starting to see women with straight hair creating beach waves. Everyone wants texture!

You are a curly yourself. What is your own personal hair story?

AC: I didn't always embrace my curls. When I was growing up in the '70s, everyone was wearing their hair with straight. I slowly learned how to enjoy my hair curly in my 20s and 30s, wearing it long. After cutting it short for a while, I'm embracing wearing it long again. It's down to my shoulders. I'm happy about my curls. But thank God for Phyto!

This post is sponsored by Phyto Specific.