In Brazil, hair salon Beleza Natural is stirring up a frizz-free frenzy with their hair care treatments that lack harsh chemicals and formaldehyde. Their solution for unruly, curly hair is not the infamous hair-straightening formula Brazilian Blowout, but rather the Super-Relaxer, which leaves "kinky hair," as co-founder and CEO Leila Velez described it in Forbes, healthy, natural, and more true to its roots than hair straightening.
With 12 salons and 1,400 employees, the hair salon treats 87,000 people a month, according to Forbes, and if their growth in the past twelves years shows anything it's that they're not going anywhere anytime soon. Catering to the needs of kinky hair, which is fragile, "Beleza Natural is poised to dominate a massively under-served market and expand overseas," according to Forbes.Everything is tailored to suit the needs of kinky hair. From customized haircuts to their proprietary line of hair care products, all of it has been created with the client in mind. What Beleza Natural won't do is anything that will harm your hair, like the Brazilian Blowout, obviously. “The trend can be what it is,” Velez told Forbes. “If it’s bad for your hair in the long run, we won’t offer it. We’re thinking about our clients today, tomorrow, next month, in five years.”
The Forbes articles continued: "They’re even green: recycled water from shampooing fills the toilets, and skylights add to the ambiance and cut down on the energy bill."
Decidedly absent from the article is a mention of the controversy surrounding the Brazilian Blowout, a trend clearly opposed by Beleza Natural. At up to $500 a pop, the treatment, was found to contain high levels of formaldehyde, which is classified by the International Agency for Research on Carcinogens (IARC) as "carcinogenic to humans," as I reported back in 2010.
While a trend away from formaldehyde, toward natural beauty might save your scalp--or even your life--it could also spur a cultural shift to combat discrimination. "There is a racist culture in Brazil, and one of its expressions is a beauty standard that values what is European," said Eliza Larkin Nascimento, an author of books on Brazil and race, according to Associated Press in an article published in February of last year.
Larkin Nascimento continues: "Brazil is also changing. Until recently, advertisements for jobs would ask for applicants with 'good appearance,' which was a euphemism for white."
If formaldayhede couldn't scare people away from getting a hair-straitening fix, the die-hard trend will be hard to beat. Maybe the only solution is a simpler, more sustainable one: embracing--and caring properly--for the natural hair you've got. Perhaps a Sesame Street muppet says it best in this video.