The NaturallyCurly Leaders in Curl interview series highlights the people and the brands that are redefining the beauty industry - one curl at a time.
Lulu Cordero is the Afro-Latina behind the bodacious Bomba Curls which was created when she needed homemade remedies to cure her severe traction alopecia. As a native of the Dominican Republic she wanted to use her own blends and beauty secrets to create products that could meet the needs of curly and coily hair to nourish the scalp. She has always believed in instilling seeds of self-love that would empower customers to love their layered textures and has promoted this across the various products in her brand whether hair mask, oil, or scrunchies. Her enthusiasm and passion for her brand and business is seen in her product ingredients, customers, and bomba squad who are champions for her vision.
We’re so excited to chat with Lulu and talk about all things Bomba Curls.
What was your relationship to your hair like when you were growing up?
Growing up I was always told I had “pelo malo” which would come out when someone was doing my hair or complaining about being unable to style it. I don’t know how many combs I have damaged in my hair journey. There was a stigma attached to my natural hair and I was 9 years old when I got taken into the Dominican hair salon to get my first relaxer. After that experience I got comments like “your hair is so nice” and “that’s how a proper young lady should look” because I had a silky/straight Eurocentric look. From these experiences I learned that beauty standards were not reflective of people who looked like me. I had to straighten out my kinky hair in order to fit in and be seen as beautiful which I did until I was 17.
I went natural and then never looked back, went vegetarian, and overall embraced a full natural lifestyle. I wanted to go natural for me and thought I was doing something admirable by eliminating all these toxins from my life. I received a lot of backlash from my community, family, and friends who had a pretty intense reaction to my hair. It was a complicated relationship, but it taught me that I didn’t have something to be fixed, there was nothing wrong with me. My mom was the only person who tried to help me as I was growing out the perm with tips on protective styles and products that can help restore my hair health. My hair is a story that reflects my roots, ancestry, and has helped me to love and embrace my hair and create my business.
How did having Alopecia influence your approach to buying hair products?
When I was first transitioning there weren’t a lot of products or education that helped guide your journey so I often wore tight, slicked back ponytails. This eventually caused my edges to recede and push back my hairline. I tried every remedy under the sun and when I went home during the holidays, my Dad literally proclaimed I was going bald. My mom recommended coffee to help with my hair growth and then I researched and saw that caffeine could help with hair growth/hair loss. I wanted to use that and create a product that could help alleviate the problems I was experiencing and that’s how the Forbidden Oil was born. I learned how rosemary extract, castor oil, black cumin, and antihistamines were all used to treat alopecia and then incorporated those into my products. I applied it as a scalp oil and saw amazing results and ultimately had people wanting so many bottles for themselves I started creating my own products in my kitchen. I solved my own problems and used my pre-med background to enhance the chemistry, formulation process, and compounds.
Ever since 2019 I have worked hand in hand with my cosmetic chemist to create each product and have been invested ever since. Being Afro-Latina and primarily Dominican which is notoriously anti-Black with a European beauty standard, it was important for me to help other people embrace their girls. I want my community to heal from generational traumas and getting past the stigmas that have been passed on from generation to generation. I want to broaden that spectrum of beauty.
When you were ideating recipes, what type of ingredients did you focus on?
I want to give my mom all the props because she is my go-to resource for the types of ingredients I wanted to add to my formulas. I love science but also live a natural lifestyle so I wanted the products to reflect that. She gave me spices like cinnamon to help balance the scalp and has antifungal properties and black ginger which will be featured in our upcoming leave-in conditioner. I wanted to incorporate tropical ingredients we use back home like coffee, banana, cocoa butter, papaya, and pistachio oil (which is extremely under-used in the US market). These are natural ingredients that have been used back home from generations of women.
Why was including Dominican style formulations important for your products?
It was important for me to honor my heritage and Dominican people truly do love haircare. The style of formulation back home is different than in the US because it focuses on deep hydration, and length retention. I wanted to share a piece of my island with the world and uplift and elevate mi gente.
What inspired the name Bomba Curls?
First when you say “Bomba” doesn’t it make you smile? It naturally elicits joy and happiness. Your curls are bomba, you are bomba, and I want to celebrate you. We are celebrating. “Bomba” is a nod to our African roots and heritage in Puerto Rico which is seen in music brought by our ancestors.
How does being an Afro-Latina entrepreneur impact your brand?
Being Afro-Latina, proudly Black women is the heartbeat of my brand. All of my experiences as a Black Latina inspired Bomba. I know the pain many of us had to deal with in terms of colorism, self-love, and existing in a world that doesn’t celebrate us or see us. I wanted my brand to change that and I’m very conscious of the imagery I cultivated within the brand. I wanted it to evoke luxury and that shows the possibilities of who we can be. I know being a Black woman for everyone across the diaspora can still be a struggle as we’re fighting to show up in spaces as ourselves and be accepted.
What are the Bomba essentials for first-time users to try?
The Forbidden hair mask which is a deep conditioning treatment, especially in the winter season. I recommend weekly treatments with that product and then follow it with the Forbidden oil which can be used as a pre-poo, scalp treatment, or to alleviate itchy or inflamed skin.
What does Latinx heritage month mean to you?
It means culture, history, music, art, community, and the rainbow of heritages. To be Black in Latin America is to be invisible, but Latinx heritage month lets us highlight the diversity of the community with different colors, backgrounds, languages, and more.