Klerissa McDonald: “I have personally seen many women experience the horrific effects of using permanent straighteners and relaxers”
We caught up with Klerissa McDonald, CEO and founder of award winning UK brand Curly By Nature to discuss damages caused by use of chemicals, Curly By Nature products and much more.
Hi Klerissa! Ok so this is a question we love to start with: could you describe yourself in 5 words?
Hardworking, Resourceful, Creative, Caring, Dreamer
Tell us how it all started with CurlyByNature?
I believe that the Curly By Nature spark probably truly ignited when I was at the tender age of eight years old. It was at that age when I took on the responsibility of styling my own hair – all by myself (even though it didn’t look perfect then) after watching my mother create such amazing styles on my siblings, cousins and family friends. Memories of admiring, adoring, embracing and caring for my afro at that early age for me is very vivid and that passion and feeling of love is still present with every product I create and every client that I service.
We often hear you speak about horror stories about chemical and heat damage? Can you tell us a bit more and how it actually affects women?
I don’t think I speak about this often enough – First and foremost, I think it is much more important to focus on the positive aspects of holistic hair care in general in addition to teaching and guiding people on their healthy hair care journey to improve their own experience with their hair.
However, the truth is – I have personally seen many women experience the horrific effects of using permanent straighteners/ relaxers which is known to contain corrosive substances. There has been no testing/ scientific research to the ‘very long term’ (10 years+) effects upon the scalp and body that I know of; however, based on the volume of people I know have applied these products, even when using manufacturer’s guidelines, people are still subject to hair and scalp damage- despite whether they have used it once or regularly over a number of years. And people suffer from the effects many many years later when hair thinning, hair breakage, hair loss etc… can already be an increased risk with age, health concerns and changes to the body.
So according to you it is best to keep our hair natural, right?
I would argue that subjecting these well known hazardous ingredients directly to the body, will naturally accelerate the destruction of the health of the hair and scalp especially when not used professionally. We were sold a dream and ignorant of the risks we exposed ourselves to. The facts are simple, our hair is strongest and at its best when it is in its natural state – when the bonds are not damaged (permanently straightened) and broken – literally.
“Everyone should be held accountable. Everyone within the cycle of creating, distributing, selling and buying the product …”
Looking at the afro hair industry as it now, who is responsible for this?
Manufacturers of course – the people making and selling what I call poison *side-eye* – especially those manufacturers that sell home kits *side eye again* and at the same time also selling a ‘natural hair care line – like natural hair is a gimmick *kmt* – This is just a personal frustration of mine because, in my opinion, it demonstrates that they are focused on being profitable first before truly serving customer needs. And this is another reason why I took the plunge and started up – There needs to be more brands like me that truly serve our customers needs, that are ethical, transparent, authentic and don’t just put cheap ineffective ingredients in our products – products that are by us and for us.
What about us, consumers…?
Everyone should be held accountable. Everyone within the cycle of creating, distributing, selling and buying the product- otherwise the problem won’t ever be solved and people who use it will continue to feel forced to wear a wig or perm just to step outside of their house, to ‘feel comfortable’ or just to easily manage their hair. I am well aware that not everyone who permanently straighteners their hair may not feel like this.
Should we then avoid any type of hair straightener and relaxers?
I am not against wearing wigs, weaves, extensions etc…so long as it is installed and maintained properly with the aim of protecting your natural hair. I am personally against relaxers just because I feel that it is redundant, damaging and unnecessary – straight hair can be achieved without having to permanently damage it – because technically that is what you are doing. Even with a pixie cut – our hair is so versatile – that is the beauty of it 🙂
Have you ever relaxed your hair before?
Yes. This is why I am so passionate, so motivated and so disappointed that my trust had been violated – I mean if you are not organic – why would you call yourself that?
How does your product contributes in solving this problem?
I have kept my hair care range simple. The products are all formulated with quality ingredients which are 100% naturally derived that are not harsh but therapeutic, effective and high performing. Because of the simplicity and effectiveness, you don’t have to drown your hair in product – a little goes a very long way. At the moment I focus on simply caring for the hair and scalp that effectively moisturise, strengthen, protect and enhance the health of the hair whilst benefiting the body and the environment too.
“What is important is making time just for yourself so you are balanced, well rested and healthy which will help you be at your best for parenting, family time and building your legacy.”
A lot of clients come to us with itchy scalp. What Curly By Nature product would you recommend for those with itchy scalp?
There are a number of products I could direct you to but I would first and foremost suggest a consultation to establish the root cause then, in addition, recommend good care practices. In general, though our Hydrating Mist (currently exclusive to clients) always works a charm!
You recently joined Afrocks as a stylist. What are your thoughts on the platform and the project?
Afrocks is a much-needed platform. The team, the stylists, the blog, the social media – I mean everything is a breath of fresh air – I am so excited to be a stylist on this platform and really get to grow with the Afrocks family.
As a mum, how do you balance business/family time?
The secret is knowing you will never get a 50:50 balance. And this is okay – once you accept it. Sometimes you will have to put the business on the back burner and focus on your family and sometimes you will only be focused on the business and not spend time with your loved ones for what seems like a very long time. What is important is making time just for yourself so you are balanced, well rested and healthy which will help you be at your best for parenting, family time and building your legacy.
This is a question we ask everytime ha! Do you say cornrows or canerows?
Canerow of course! Who say cornrow LOL!? *jokes*
Hope you enjoyed this chat with Klerissa. If you want to read more awesome interview from black women entrepreneurs, check out our interview with Afrocenchix founders! Worth a read!
Klerissa is available for bookings on Afrocks in the Wembley area, London.
You can also check out her website if you need any products: