While there have been steps towards diversity in the beauty industry, non-Caucasian women are still widely underrepresented and poorly catered for when it comes to hair and make-up. Step forward, Liha Beauty, the eponymous brand from Liha Okunniwa and Abi Oyepitan which brings African culture to the fore of the natural beauty product market.
The pair bonded over natural African hair products (or a lack thereof) which led not only to a lasting friendship but a successful brand. "We both have afros and were always playing around with different products. We were just talking about it one day and decided we had to make our own," explains Abi. They began experimenting Idan oil (natural pressed-coconut oil) and were soon dishing out samples to family and friends.
All their products are homegrown, with Nigerian shea from Abi's father's home in Ondo State and Ghanaian shea which they discovered on a recent trip there, when they also began working with the Shea Alliance, an organisation which partners Ghanaian women with cooperatives to ensure they are paid fairly for their shea, giving them a steady wage and independence. They are now planning to bring the initiative to Nigeria.
But the beauty of Liha is that the products serve all skin types and age groups "It's for women and girls who want to look after their bodies as well as the environment. You've got 20 year olds who want to know what's in the products they're using. It's not just about beauty, but the wellness thing as well," says Abi.
The duo signed up for the Port Eliot Festival in July 2014 and quickly sold out of their products. Their workshops soon caught the attention of buyers from Anthropology which resulted in products being stocked in their stores shortly after.
Keen to try out these natural wonder products, we asked Abi to put together some Liha Beauty recipes for us to try at home. Enjoy getting messy...
Cleansing hair mask
- 6 ripe strawberries
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
Mash it all up together and apply to damp hair as an intensive conditioner before shampooing - the oil works to draw out the grease.
Relaxing English rose toner
- 1 cup rosewater
- 1 cup cool camomile tea
Rosewater is a classic toner all year round. If you are feeling dedicated you can make your own from the petals in the garden, or you can buy them at most natural food stores. The tannins in the tea will help to reduce puffiness and make skin smooth and soft ready for moisturiser.
Autumn/winter skin moisture booster
- 2 tbsp shea butter
- 1 tbsp coconut oil or almond oil
- 4 drops of both frankincense and myrrh essential oils
Shea butter is naturally high in vitamins A and E, which is great for keeping dry or mature skin supple. Frankincense is a phenomenal anti-ageing ingredient and has been proven to have an effect on aching bodies and arthritis, so this is perfect for warming up on a cold winter evening.
Matcha face mask
- 1 tsp honey
- 1/2 tbsp grape seed oil
- 1tbsp matcha
Matcha gives green tea benefits to your skin. It contains chlorophyll, a powerful detoxifier that removes harmful toxins and fights free radicals that damage cells. With a boost of antibacterial honey this is a super-food antioxidant, anti-aging face mask.
Cellulite-busting scented coffee scrub
- Ground organic coffee
- Jojoba or avocado oil
- Coconut oil
- Grapefruit essential oil
This one is a bit messy but a lot of fun. The caffeine helps tighten the skin while coconut oil makes it ultra-moisturising. Grapefruit essential oil makes for a refreshing and uplifting fragrance.