What’s the Black woman’s equivalent of a messy bun? It’s a difficult question to answer, especially when you consider the Western world’s rather violent relationship with Afro-textured hair. For generations, curls and kinks have been deemed “unkempt” by Eurocentric standards, thus putting pressure on Black people — particularly Black women — to appear in public with their hair always looking “done,” especially when it’s worn in its natural state. Sure, Meghan Markle’s messy bun has become iconic — but would it have been considered chic by mainstream society if she didn’t straighten her hair? I doubt it.
The pressure to have perpetually “controlled” frizz- and kink-free Afro-textured hair is one that brands have capitalized on. There is no shortage of curl creams, edge controls, and defrizzers on the market. But Bread Beauty Supply founder Maeva Heim isn’t about that life.
“I noticed that there was a broadly consistent look and feel for brands across the textured hair category and that there was an established idea around what it meant to have ‘good’ curls,” She tells Allure in an email. “This often meant a super glossy, defined, ‘no-curl-out-of-place’ photoshopped look that just isn’t realistic for day-to-day life, and is often not achievable for all curl types — especially women like myself with 4C, super-coiled hair.”
Heim, who is now based in Melbourne, Australia, grew up braiding hair at her mother’s salon in Perth. It was there that she developed her passion for beauty and began to take notice of the kinds of products available for people with Afro-textured hair. “We would import a lot of hair-care products from the U.S. that were designed for textured hair and sell them in the salon.”
“I couldn’t find any brands on the market catering to my hair type that I could relate to.”
Like many Black women, Heim spent years relaxing her hair. When she finally decided to ditch the creamy crack and grow out her natural texture, she began to realize how involved the process of taking care of and styling her 4C kinks was — and that it was out of line with her own beauty philosophy. “I couldn’t find any brands on the market catering to my hair type that I could relate to,” she laments. “They all seemed to speak in the same way, look the exact same, and the product selection was incredibly confusing. I was extremely overwhelmed. I just wanted to know how to wash my hair and felt like brands weren’t providing that guidance in a super simple, time-efficient way.”
Take it from another Black girl who’s transitioned — when you start growing your natural hair, the internet will make you believe that you need a whole Beauty Supply shop worth of product in your arsenal in order to properly maintain it. There are pre-poos, rinses, shampoos, conditioners, deep conditioners, gels, butters, jams, jellies, oil sheens, and more to consider. It’s complicated for many people, and it was too much for Heim. So, she set out on a mission to bring the simplicity she craved to the market — and to Sephora.
In recent months, there has been a very public push for retailers to add more Black-owned brands to their rosters, and Sephora is among several that have been called out for issues with representation. In June 2020, the retailer agreed to the 15 percent pledge, an initiative started by Brother Vellies founder Aurora James, that calls for big-name stores to dedicate 15 percent of their shelf space to businesses that are Black-owned. Bread Beauty Supply will be sold at Sephora, but its partnership predates James’s project.
“Women with curly or textured hair haven’t really been included in conversations around ‘effortless’ hair.”
Heim had her sights set on Sephora when she came up with the idea for Bread over two years ago. “From the get-go, before even putting pen to paper, I knew that I wanted the woman I was speaking to, who was already shopping for her skin care and makeup in Sephora, to be able to have Bread as her hair-care offering and buy it in the same place,” she says.
Fast forward to today, July 14, 2020, when Bread’s initial offering — a Hair Wash, Deep Conditioner, and Hair Oil — are the newest additions to Sephora.com‘s lineup of products, all packed with ingredients from Heim’s native Australia.
The entire collection is great (we’ll get into that later) but what is most intriguing — at least to me as a Black woman with frizzy, curly, kinky hair — is Bread’s philosophy. Now, I will admit, I do love a glossy, set curl. I typically use curl definers, and I love when my 3C/4A texture is shiny, bouncy, and soft-looking. But that takes work that I’m not willing to do that every day. I don’t always want to lay down my edges or tie up my crown in a wrap just because it’s frizzy.
But in the natural hair world, there isn’t a whole lot of room for those who want to quickly put their hair in a high puff without having to snatch and slick down their coils first. Non-Black women are free to roam around with bed head and be considered cool, but God forbid a Black woman leaves the house with an old twist-out that’s turned mostly to frizz. Bread is here to change all that.
“Women with curly or textured hair haven’t really been included in conversations around ‘effortless’ hair. I think there’s this rhetoric that textured or curly hair is hard, time-consuming to look after, and requires lots of product and manipulation,” explains Heim. “But I want our audience to feel like she can embrace lazy girl hair, too — and that goes for all curl types and textures. What that looks like and what that means will look different across the curl type range, but I want all textures to be able to embrace this carefree ideal if they want to.”
The first step is to simplify wash day, which is what Bread’s first launch attempts to do — and, if you ask me, it’s succeeded in this endeavor.
The Hair Wash ($20) is housed in a pouch with a photo of a beautiful, mahogany-skinned woman with cascading curls. The packaging for the entire range is great, but what’s inside is even better. Heim describes the Hair Wash as a cross between a co-wash and a shampoo, and I can confirm that’s an apt description. It’s got a milky texture and imparts some serious moisture to your hair. It’s got enough slip that I was able to use it to detangle my 3C/4A curls in the shower. When I washed it out, I noticed that my hair didn’t’ feel as dry as it typically does when I use a shampoo — that’s most likely because this stuff is packed with aloe vera and argan oil. It’s also got lemon tree oil, which is supposed to soothe your scalp — not to mention make your hair smell like a delicious meringue pie.
I followed up with the marshmallow-scented Hair Mask ($28), which I wound up leaving in my hair until the next morning. Made with Australian Kakadu plum (which is a good source of vitamin C) and starflower oil, the mask hydrates and softens your hair to give it a gorgeous foundation for styling — whether or not you want to use a million creams and gels to do it.
“Hair can still be healthy and exhibit frizz. As a brand, I want us to help make ‘frizz’ aspirational.”
Last is the Hair Oil ($24). I mostly use hair oils to break up any crunchiness left behind if I used too much curl gel, or just to smooth out a little bit of frizz. I find that there are very few oils that actually make my hair feel moisturized — this is one of them. Like the mask, the oil contains Australian Kakadu plum and starflower oil. It’s made for everyday use: Just pour a little bit into your palm and run it through your hair when it needs extra moisture. I used this after washing and conditioning my hair with products from a different brand. After my shower, I put my hair in a braid and went to bed — I didn’t moisturize it or anything because I was tired (and also a little drunk). I used the oil the next morning when my hair was mostly dry: Even without a leave-in conditioner, my hair felt super soft. It doesn’t leave behind a greasy feeling, either.
For me, the key to this line’s brilliance is that it was made with 4C textures in mind. As I’m sure many people with this hair type can confirm, a lot of products that say they’re meant for curly or kinky hair often aren’t moisturizing enough for this texture. “4C hair has historically been an afterthought,” Heim says. “So we formulated everything in the range with an approach of ‘4C first.’ That means ensuring that the product we develop works for that texture and then working backward from there to ensure it works for the other curl types, too.” My personal philosophy is that if it’s good enough for a 4C, it’s good enough for me.
Bread only offers wash day products for now, but Heim promises that styling products are in its future. Of course, the goal won’t be to give you YouTube influencer-level defined curls. Heim is all about embracing the so-called imperfections of Black hair and affirming its beauty. “I found that a lot of the language [in the hair industry] seems to unnecessarily demonize traits that are natural to curly and coily hair specifically,” she says. “Terms like ‘anti-frizz’ or ‘taming’ or ‘unruly.’ What’s so bad about frizz anyway? Hair can still be healthy and exhibit frizz. As a brand, I want us to help make ‘frizz’ aspirational.”
You can buy the Bread Beauty Supply products separately or pay $58 for the Wash Day Kit, which includes the Hair Wash, Hair Mask, and Hair Oil along with a vegan satin scrunchie. Going on a road trip? You can scoop up the “Snac-Pack” set for $24, which includes travel sizes of the Hair Wash and Mask, along with the scrunchie.
More Black businesses for you to check out:
Now, Watch Skai Jackson’s 10-Minute Makeup Routine
Originally Appeared on Allure