Honey and vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and extra virgin olive oil.
We all know that household products such as these can be added to store-bought products (or used to whip up entirely new items), for a quick and relatively easy beauty boost. For some, it’s a home experiment. For Anita Grant, self-described mixtress and creator of her own highly successful UK product line, mixing ingredients is a way of life that has empowered her beyond her wildest dreams.
Look at a typical ingredient label for your favorite shampoo, conditioner, or styling product, and it reads like a foreign language. Anita decided to rebel against all of that by educating herself.
Take a look at Anita’s new blog, Ingredient Junkie, (older recipes can be found here) or read any of her exhaustive comments on this very site and the breadth of her knowledge becomes instantly apparent. But she started out just like you or me.
It all began back in 2005, after her hands were blistered by a â€œsafe syntheticsâ€ hair lotion that contained propylene glycol, a popular chemical used in beauty products. Having that traumatic experience with a store-bought product made Anita realize the position that big-bucks beauty companies essentially hold their customers in — a position of blissful ignorance.
The self-described “techie geek” doesn’t believe that you need a background in chemistry to figure this stuff out.
“My background in IT has taught me to question everything in detail. When it comes to selecting and purchasing pure & wholesome ingredients to use in my mixing bowl I apply the same approach. I donâ€™t have a degree in chemistry but I do work very closely with my chemist, ask questions and do loads of research â€“ anyone that experienced the type of reaction that I had would definitely want to get down to the minute details of every ingredient before applying it to their skin & hair. Our skin and hair have the most remarkable ability to absorb and react to whatever is topically applied to it. When anything touches our body, partially or completely, it can alter its state as well as our emotions. Approximately 60% of products used on our skin & hair are absorbed and deposited into the body and with that being the case I want to make sure that what I put on my body is as healthy as what I put in my body. So I make it my business to find out absolutely everything I can about the ingredients I use,” Anita explains.
She began as a newly transitioning afrobella reading everything she could about natural hair products, deciphering ingredient labels. “By reading the ingredient labels of various off the shelf commercial hair & skin care products [I gained] a better understanding of what the ingredients were and what they were doing (and not doing) for me… Each and every ingredient has a job to do. It’s all good and well saying “Oh that smells lovely!” but when the scent fades it’s still got to keep on working. It was a bit difficult at first to decipher all the Latin (INCI) nomenclature of the ingredients and separate the â€œbozwelloxâ€ from true benefits but I got there in the end, thanks to my trusty Miladyâ€™s â€œCosmetic Dictionaryâ€. I took it everywhere with me!”
Soon, Anita began wandering the organic foods aisles. “I began to loiter around the Oils sections at my grocers, purchasing all the vegetable, fruit and nut oils I could afford. I moved onto the baking section in search of humectants like honey and exfoliants like bicarbonate of soda, brown sugar, sea salts, and softeners like organic cocoa powder. Then off to the dried herbs section…”
Her search led her to Nappturality.com, the ultimate resource for any afrobella. “I found a group of ladies who also shared the same views about synthetic chemicals. I lurked around the â€œHomemadeâ€ forum, asking questions, sharing recipes and swapping some of my homemade hair care goodies with members. Quite a number of them asked if I would ever consider selling my Goodies and here I am.”
Today, Anita’s family-owned business has myriad products for sale, from delicious whipped body butters and 100% pure fruit oils, to her infamous deep conditioners that look good enough to eat and handcrafted shampoos that bust the hard-water blues. Her products are made with African oils, Brazilian herbs, and exotic extracts that nurture the skin and hair. And unlike the bulk of the products you can score at your local Sally’s, all of Anita’s stuff is organic, and fair trade.
“Attitudes towards buying organic & fair trade goods are slowly changing here in the UK. Consumers are more label savvy today then they were say five years ago. I canâ€™t speak for the nation but in my family it is a massive part of our life & well being. The majority of my ingredients are produced & purchased directly from farming communities and/or partnerships I have with fair trade and organic ingredient suppliers throughout the world. It’s a way to foster community, economic independence & cultural survival,” she explains.
I see her company as something of an anomaly in the beauty biz — a genuinely family-owned company that runs on principle and heart, has a great reputation for customer service, and exclusively focuses on naturally curly afro hair. While Anita doesn’t see her company as an anomaly so much as a niche market, she certainly hopes that this is the beginning of a trend.
“I can see that this will definitely become more common place. Especially now, there are new companies springing up all over world catering to those who have chosen to embrace the wholesome lifestyle and purchase fair trade goods. In the future, more and more customers are going to demand fair trade and organic products.”
If you ask Anita what her favorite ingredients are, she’ll give you a list as long as your arm! She’s got some new products coming out that I’m very intrigued by. Soon she’ll be selling body sprays, Amaretto di Cupuacu body butter, and Tea Total body loving herbs.
Someday, she hopes to bring her goodies across the pond. “I would one day love to open a brick and mortar shop in four major cities â€“ London, Madrid, Toronto and NYC. I would love to [open a store in America right now] but at the moment I am considering offers from brick and mortar retailers.”
So perhaps you can buy some Anita Grant stuff at your local Sephora soon!
For now, customers can shop on her gorgeous website, or follow the instructions on her fantastic blog, Ingredient Junkie, to become mixtresses-in-training themselves. She has advice for all of you aspiring product creators!
“Research, research and more research and be happy when youâ€™re mixing. Donâ€™t allow any negativity to enter into your mixture!”
I asked her if there was any household ingredient or product that every AfroBella should have in their beauty arsenal, and I found her answer to be surprising. “Bicarbonate of Soda (there are over 100 uses) exfoliate dead skin cells, clarify the build up from your scalp, foot scrub, underarm deodorant, to whiten teeth and freshen breath, and a whole lot more. Bicarb of Soda is a multipurpose powder thatâ€™s a necessity in my household,” she gushes.
I’m gonna have to get some extra Arm & Hammer ASAP!
Anita’s got so many fantastic products for sale, I didn’t know where to begin. She advises naturally curly bellas who have never tried her products before to start with the yummiest-looking one.
“My Rhassoul Deep Condishes are unique in that itâ€™s made with pure organic cocoa powder, rhassoul clay, black cocoa butter, extra virgin olive oil and a whole host of other natural hair loving ingredients,” she says. Plus, they look like yummy chocolate bars for my hair! Gotta love that.
Anita Grant rocks. Her independent, environmentally considerate outlook and brave business acumen are to be admired. She’s inspired me to not accept the chemically-laden, silicone-stuffed products I was slathering on my locks, but to think outside of the slick packaging to improve my own beauty regimen. Plus, she’s a gorgeous, smart, strong woman to say the very least.
I think she’s brilliant (and I’m not just saying that because she advertises on my site)!
Congratulations, Anita! You’re Afrobella of the Week!
I plan on reviewing Anita’s products when I can, but creative afrobellas should stay tuned. Over the next week or so, I’ll be sharing some of Anita’s ingredient secrets and delicious recipes that will bring out your inner mixtress!