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Pharmacy student whips up natural hair product at home
“Know where it’s coming from. Know your source.” This is Adele Beckles’ motto. It is a motto she puts into full practice with the Moisture Research Project (MRP)—a line of hair care products for black women with natural hair which Beckles recently launched. The line features many ingredients found in Beckles’ backyard, including aloe vera and rosemary. The concoctions that eventually become the MRP Curly Hair Jelly and MRP Curly Hair Cream are also made in Beckles’ Diego Martin home. Its a process Beckles tries to make as “safe and sustainable” as possible. The only ingredients she uses that are not local are shea butter and olive oil. Otherwise, everything used for MRP—the labels, containers, labour for logo design and essential oils—are locally produced and/or sourced.
Beckles, 40, has had natural hair for the past 13 years and has always struggled to find the perfect product. “I never found one product to work in my hair and the products I do use are also really expensive so I wanted to find a balance between the two—price and convenience,” she said during an interview at her Diego Martin home. When Beckles became a pharmacy student at the University of the West Indies three years ago, however, she realised she could make the perfect product for her hair. Creating the product took months of mixing and re-mixing, testing and asking friends to serve as virtual guinea pigs. Eventually, Beckles found the texture, consistency and colour most suitable to the product. Even though the products are home made, they’re not easy to make. During the interview Beckles demonstrated the step-by-step process to making Curly Hair Jelly.
First, she had to harvest aloe vera from her garden. Beckles pointed out that when the aloe vera plant is cut, there is a yellow sap which must be drained before use. If this sap is not drained, then the plant can cause itching. Next, Beckles peels the plant and extracts the meaty interior. She adds water to this and blends. Afterwards, she adds the aloe to a mixture of protein and glycerin. Measurements are essential to getting the desired consistency and texture, so Beckles is sure to make everything ingredient precisely. To mix the ingredients, Beckles uses a whisk— blenders tend to liquify the product, she said. Slowly, she adds ingredients such as almond and lavender oil and Vitamin E. She also adds fragrance and her “secret” ingredients. It takes Beckles approximately one hour to whisk small batches of the creams by hand.
Beckles will be selling MRP through her online beauty shop, The Pop Up Store, which she opened in 2011. The line will also be sold at the beauty supply store Hair It Is in Woodbrook, Port-of-Spain. Beckles will be marketing the product primarily through social media, since her Pop Up Store already has a steady following. The products she sold through Pop Up also catered to black women with unprocessed hair, however, Beckles believes that many of these products are quite expensive. Popular natural haircare lines such as Kinky Curly can cost as much as $150 per eight ounce bottle or jar of shampoo, conditioner, styling creams and spritz sprays. “A lot of women with natural hair would know that you don’t just use one product and that you have to mix and match to find the right balance for you. But if those products you mix and match are all expensive it can become more difficult to do so. I really wanted to provide something that was affordable and also local.”
Beckles explained that she initially thought sourcing wholesale ingredients like almond oil and packaging materials would be difficult. However, she was able to find local suppliers easily. One of the suppliers for the containers used to store MRP is even located near her home in Diego Martin. As a retailer of beauty products, particularly those for natural hair, Beckles does not believe her product will be overshadowed by more established brands. She said there is a market for local beauty products that is still untapped. Beckles plans to continue the line by expanding to skin creams and shampoos and conditioners in the near future. She would like to distribute MRP regionally as well. As the owner of a small business, Beckles said she wished there were more doors of communication open between other small business owners and herself. “It would help if there was some sort of mentor programme for small business owners to provide guidance on the ups and downs of ownership as well as getting through simple things like registering your company. There are also government programmes for small business owners that are not well advertised and gaining access to that information is important. The communication links need to open up some more,” she said.
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