The se­cret to lus­cious, thick hair lies in the Ama­zon with eco-friendly Rahua

Lus­cious, thick hair is the prom­ise of the rahua nut, a mir­a­cle seed that may also help pro­tect the for­est, writes STEPHANIE IP

#Legend - - Contents -

W WHEN FABIEN LLIGUIN, a hair stylist in New York, re­turned to Ecuador to re­dis­cover his roots, he stum­bled upon women in the mid­dle of the Ama­zon jun­gle, groom­ing each other, ap­ply­ing oils to their hair. He asked about the oil and was told it was hun­gu­rahua, or rahua for short, and that it made hair grow.

As a hair­dresser, he was cu­ri­ous about the oil and the women of the Quechua-Shuar tribe al­lowed him to ob­serve their an­cient beauty rit­u­als, from the har­vest­ing of the rahua nut, to the pro­cess­ing and the groom­ing. Har­vest­ing the nut is a fam­ily un­der­tak­ing.

The young men would climb the tall trees with ma­chetes to knock down the fruit, bundling the har­vest with long blades of grass. Tra­di­tion­ally, only women are al­lowed to han­dle the rahua nuts. Be­fore they process them, the women of the tribe can­not con­sume salt. The seeds are cooked and bro­ken down over a pe­riod of time.

Lliguin brought a bot­tle of the oils back to his salon in New York and tried it on his cus­tomers. It worked like magic. “Peo­ple who came in with dry and dam­aged hair, even re­ally pro­cessed, bleached hair, the oil made their hair stronger,” says Anne Ayers, Lliguin's wife and part­ner in the busi­ness. Ayers was also a for­mer client. “My back­ground was in fash­ion de­sign and trend fore­cast­ing, and I had just moved to New York and needed a stylist. A friend rec­om­mended Fabien and we hit it off.”

At the time, Lliguin and Ayers both saw a change in the hair­care in­dus­try. Peo­ple who came into the salon didn't merely want to have their hair cut off. Peo­ple wanted to grow their hair. To­gether, the pair dis­cov­ered a busi­ness op­por­tu­nity in rahua, cre­at­ing Ama­zon Beauty in 2008, and de­liv­er­ing their first hero prod­uct, the Rahua Elixir.

For Ayers, it was nat­u­ral to go from fash­ion into de­vel­op­ing Ama­zon Beauty and its hair prod­ucts in the Rahua brand. “I'm from the coun­try, from Ge­or­gia, so I have a pas­sion for na­ture. When Fabien even­tu­ally in­vited me to go back to the Ama­zon with him, I got to see how life is there and I got back in touch with my pas­sion too.”

The elixir, cre­ated from 100 per cent rahua oil, was a suc­cess and peo­ple started ask­ing for sham­poos and con­di­tion­ers and other hair prod­ucts. It wasn't an easy process de­vel­op­ing the prod­uct. Lliguin and Ayers wanted to keep the prod­ucts en­tirely hand­made and nat­u­ral and it took them years to fi­nally get the for­mu­las right.

“We knew early on that be­cause the oils are re­ally po­tent and beau­ti­ful, we wanted to make nat­u­ral prod­ucts to re­ally do jus­tice to these beau­ti­ful oils,” says Ayers. “Peo­ple don't usu­ally think about per­for­mance when they think of nat­u­ral, es­pe­cially in hair­care. We had to do a lot of test­ing and tri­als to get the per­for­mance up to the stan­dards of the salon, at the pro­fes­sional, high qual­ity level. It changed the in­dus­try.”

Ama­zon Beauty and rahua was a way for the duo to share the se­crets of the Ama­zon to the world, but it was also a way for them to pro­tect the area and its peo­ple. Sus­tain­abil­ity was built right into the busi­ness model. Ayers stresses that they deal with the mak­ers of the oils di­rectly, fly­ing to Ecuador reg­u­larly to work with the tribes and pay­ing a com­pet­i­tive price for the oils. “The oils are hand­made and it's a del­i­cate and long process. It's an art and it needs to be ap­pre­ci­ated. We pay top dol­lar, so the pride is there, and the next gen­er­a­tion is there. We have many fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties pro­duc­ing the oils and we hope with the peo­ple stay­ing there, they pro­tect the for­est.”

Lliguin and Ayers also work closely with the lead­ers in the com­mu­ni­ties and give them on­go­ing sup­port with pro­jects through­out the year. “It could be as sim­ple as, ‘They need ma­chetes,' or ‘Salt needs to be taken on the next trip.' It's very ba­sic but it's the way it works,” says Ayers, who says merely giv­ing them money and pro­ceeds from the prod­ucts Ama­zon Beauty sells isn't ef­fi­cient be­cause the money won't go where it needs to go.

From the elixir and the clas­sic col­lec­tion of the sham­poo and con­di­tioner, the rahua line has now grown to in­clude a vo­lu­mis­ing set, styling prod­ucts, dry sham­poo, hair masks and body treat­ments. “The vo­lu­mi­nous set is great for daily care and per­fect for hu­mid­ity. The for­mula is about build­ing vol­ume, but is also clar­i­fy­ing and it deep cleanses,” says Ayers. Fans of the new trend of co-wash­ing, which means to skip a sham­poo but con­tinue to con­di­tion the hair, would find this prod­uct a great al­ter­na­tive. There's also a detox and re­newal treat­ment kit that Ayers loves. “We made this prod­uct for peo­ple who are look­ing to tran­si­tion into nat­u­ral hair care. With tra­di­tional syn­thetic sham­poos, a lot of build up is left on the scalp and hair. This prod­uct is de­signed to re­move all of that and give you a fresh start.”

The lat­est prod­ucts launched this year are Rahua Color Full sham­poo and con­di­tioner, which soft­ens and tones dam­aged hair fol­li­cles and help pre­serve the colour with a plant-de­rived colour com­plex. Also new is Rahua En­chanted Is­land Salt Spray, a prod­uct Ayers de­scribes as “fun” and “in­spired by the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands.” The cock­tail pink spray is guava, hibis­cus and pas­sion fruit scented, with a touch of pink salt, to give the hair nat­u­ral beach waves.

“This prod­uct is su­per spe­cial for my hus­band and I,” says Ayers. “This year, we're cel­e­brat­ing our 10th wed­ding an­niver­sary and we de­cided to do a prod­uct to cel­e­brate. Ten years ago, Fabien took me on our honey­moon to the Gala­pa­gos and this prod­uct is cel­e­brat­ing that. We just went again this year to start a new project to clean up the flamingo habi­tat and pro­ceeds from this prod­uct will go and help that ef­fort.”

Be good to your hair and do good for the en­vi­ron­ment, what more can you ask for? #


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