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STRANDS OF SUNSHINE

by Atlas Quest about a year ago in hair
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How Jane Carter Transformed the World One Strand At a Time

Photographer: Ara Schwön

Swiveled salon chairs decked with anxious clients on a Saturday. Some with flights to catch, appointments to take, delayed meetings, or simply no where to be at all. All of this I seen as I traversed down the hall to a corner salon in which my mother stood intensely twirling tendrils into perfect coiffures. It’s always made me sad when some people reflected on the hair care industry with dismissive hurt, when I’ve watched it bring joyous tears to so many women’s lives. Our hair (or lack thereof) is a way we connect with things up above. It’s a plethora of antennas that receive and send signals amongst the chaotic human race. It is tasked with conveying our personality, and internal sentiments without even motioning our lips.

My mother always told me your hair is it’s own entity. It needs to be tended to in its own way. It’s the sheathed covering of the brain, so each person cannot treat theirs the same. One day while preparing to press the sun drenched coils on my head, she told me she had a new product for me to try. ‘Nourish & Shine’ a tiny tub filled with honey butter colored cream. A huge sunflower encapsulated the entirety of the lid, speaking of the super power it hid.

Smelling of sweet sticky tangerines, it brought together a vision of a summer dream. With the hot comb’s pressing of the last strand, to the mirror I ran with giant eyes. My hair was truly alive! The light hit it, and it sparkles and glowed. It stood out against the winters silvery snow. From that time I always asked my mom could I get my hair ‘sunshined’ over and over again. Yet she gave me another cream to give my curls a rest (so they would remain a life long friend), and it made them bounce so high and so low.

My mother each time would let me know it was made by Jane Carter, a woman who understood the importance of not only all hair types; but the safety of the client and the stylist. She made a plethora of natural products free of harmful sulfates, and parabins. Because she (like my mother) knew the things put on the scalp, can harm the brain within. She started with the Nourish and Shine line, which was marketed to make hair silky and fine without crossing the toxicity line. With the pressing of curls it left no smoke; not making it feel stripped, jagged, or broke.

Starting out small with a loyal fan base, overtime she became a house hold name. Salons began only using her products exclusively, and stylist begged their distributors for extra bottles and tubs. Clients would then beg stylists to send them away with some; whether it be a sample or a whole tub. Her products were heaven sent, a true gift from above; especially for ‘tender headed’ clients. Her products encouraged natural growth, by stimulating damaged folicals. Using shimmering sunflower seed oil, infused with lemon grass and her own special blend of nutrients, allowed hair to be layered with a defensive casing.

As a brilliantly vivacious salon owner, and skilled stylist for well over twenty years, she diligently toted that hair shouldn’t be defined by racial boundaries. Experiencing a spectrum of segregating racism due to being one of the first black students to be admitted into her primary school, on to breaking barriers in a perceived white dominated industry, Jane would perpetually seek equality. In the course of her work, she experienced a respiratory reaction from harsh chemicals contained in the current beauty products of the time. This inspired her to will forward-thinking plant-derived products. Her line encapsulated essential oils, natural proteins, and sea botanicals designed with a global headspace in mind. Her first product ‘Hair Nourishing Serum’ launched in 1992, under the Jane Carter Solution name. A solution it was indeed, not only to Jane’s issues, but so many others in the beauty community.

Jane Carter has the verbal backing of Beyoncé, and has gleaned many awards and accolades from the likes of Black Enterprise, ESSENCE, and InStyle to name a few. Her products are not only available in natural markets such as Whole Foods Market, but over 200 stores! The natural hair movement has not only allowed us to see that all hairs natural state is valued and unique, but also that coils are even more versatile when treated with the correct loving care and attention. Jane Carter’s products have been a vital pioneering vehicle to diversifying inclusion and awareness in the beauty community. Nourish and Shine was the everlasting battering ram that built upon the legacy of other relevant Black inventors including Madam C. J. Walker, along side a plethora of black women who went historically undocumented in conjunction to their essential contributions to society; not only on a cultural level, but from a health related perspective. Jane Carter has imprinted a legacy of understanding that the person behind the chair’s health, is just as important as the person in the chair. Thank you Jane Carter for teaching me how brilliantly resilient both black women’s hair is, just as is their hearts and minds.

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Atlas Quest

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