The many woes of synthetic hair asides from environmental pollution includes severe scalp irritation and itchiness and for Ciara Imani May, 26, a solution be brought up with aim of changing the hair extension industry for better
Through her eco-friendly, plant-based, healthy sustainable hair extension startup, Rebundle, she’s
Telling her journey of how it all started, May says she decided to stay off wig wearing for a bit but then, she didn’t feel like rocking her short natural hair, so she began wearing braids, but that didn’t turn out well:
“A few summers ago, I was growing my hair out and was wearing braids back to back because they required little to no maintenance. Due to the toxins in plastic synthetic hair, my scalp became extremely irritated, inflamed, and uncomfortable. The best way to describe it was a burning and itching sensation. It was upsetting to feel like I had to choose between ease/convenience and pain/discomfort, and I knew that millions of other women faced the same dilemma while wearing braids.
After that, I extensively researched what synthetic hair was made from and the impact on humans and the environment. Something that sparked my interest was an article I found that showed the material used in synthetic hair. I became curious if there was a link between the hair and the reaction I had experienced. Which as we know now, there was. After finding out what I did through my research and investigating popular synthetic hair brands, I couldn’t keep it to myself and ignore the issue. I became determined to find a sustainable alternative that would be better for the scalp and the environment.” She says.
“That was the moment where [I thought], ‘Yes, there needs to be a solution to address the waste, but that health problem goes way deeper than just my scalp itching,’” May tells Bustle. She points to the widespread use of apple cider vinegar to rinse hair before braiding with it, but with the fiber itself often made out of PVC, a potentially harmful plastic, there’s not much you can do about the chemicals already in the hair. “My body is absorbing these toxins, and every other Black [woman] who wears these types of hair — her body is absorbing these toxins as well,” she says.
Then came Rebundle which recycles used synthetic hair and creates plant-based hair care products.
“My goal is to make users of synthetic hair aware of the dangers that come with it, the same way they understand the risks of other products they may be using. We’ve built and positioned this brand for Black women like us who love braids. We shouldn’t have to worry about the dangers and harmful effects of our hairstyles. We deserve transparency, and we deserve ownership and control over the products we use and love.”
In addition to offering a more eco-friendly alternative to braiding hair, Rebundle also offers a recycling program for synthetic hair:
“The brand’s original initiative was recycling. We were on a mission to address the waste issue because it was being ignored and unaccounted for. Now, we maintain our recycling program to demonstrate our commitment to taking responsibility for the waste created by the industry.”
“Environmental conservation and sustainability have always been important ideas to me,” said Ciara. “But since braid extensions are primarily worn by Black women, and we’re generally not included in the conversation on sustainability, that kind of intersectionality hasn’t really been extended to this consumer product yet.”
On advice for aspiring Black women entrepreneurs?
“They should start. Even if it’s something that you don’t have a background in or something that you’re super knowledgeable in, there’s a ton of resources out there to learn the basics of entrepreneurship. Start where you are, and then find some resources and some communities to support you. Every step of my entrepreneurial journey has been supported by some organization, some group of people, some grant funding, someone who can offer mentorship and guidance.