When Hannah Diop couldn't find products that worked for her hair as a child, she internalized the defeat as something being wrong with her hair, and not the ingredients. Trying different shampoos and conditioners, and having a really negative experience with how they felt in her hair, how they made her hair feel during the washing experience, and even the difficulty of detangling, led Diop to eventually opt for a relaxer at the age of 12.
However, her mother, who is white, had no problem using the haircare products from their local natural health shop. “So that is sort of the origin story of why I wanted to start a haircare brand, because it was just this experience of not being able to find a product that served me, especially in this place where you go to get everything that's healthy and good,” Diop tells us.
"Clean" products are having a moment right now, with consumers both trying to limit the negative impact of their beauty routines on the environment and on themselves. However, a huge gap exists when it comes to textured hair — ironically the industry which needs it the most. Studies have found that haircare products aimed at Black women have more potentially dangerous chemicals than ones marketed to white women, an imbalance which results in an increased cancer risk for Black women.
In 2012, Diop started to solve her frustrations with hair products and address the various needs of textured hair by developing Sienna Naturals — and now brand is co-owed by Issa Rae. The Insecure actor and creator joined Diop in relaunching the brand last September, after witnessing her build Sienna Naturals from her kitchen and the amount of diligent research, testing, and hustle behind every single product.
“Through working with Sienna Naturals, I’ve learned just how much what we put on our hair and scalp affects us overall," Rae tells Highsnobiety. "The products that are used on our scalp are absorbed into the rest of our body, so what we apply matters. As much as possible, I make sure to use products with clean ingredients.”
Sienna Naturals is just that. Free of harsh sulfates, parabens, silicones, phthalates, petroleum, mineral, oil formaldehyde, and artificial fragrances, the brand doesn't just prioritizes clean ingredients, it has a very intentional approach to how they perform together and how that performance can actually be superior to products that use chemicals or synthetic ingredients.
With harsh treatments like chemical relaxers declining in the last decade, and natural hair representation on the rise, Sienna Naturals’ style agnostic formula is timely for Black people with textured hair who are embracing their curly strands from the root. “Black women deserve to have good things. It’s as simple as that. Through my projects I have worked to make Blackness seen and heard, and that includes our hair, however we choose to wear it,” Rae says.
Throughout her career, she’s been intentional about representing Black hair on camera, such as Awkward Black Girl and Insecure, which showcase different braid styles, fros, and textures. “With that, we also deserve to have clean hair care that is created by people that look like us and understand our needs. Representation isn’t the bare minimum, it is the foundation. We create more spaces when we fund Black women, when we hire them and when we create products that represent them and serve them — that's what I'm doing in my career and with Sienna Naturals.”
Creating products for the most versatile hair in the world has been rewarding for Diop, who notes that hair health is just as important for men as it is for women. With gender neutral packaging, Diop hopes men with textured hair will feel invited to the toxic-free hair health journey.
“Textured hair is not celebrated enough. You can’t buy volume, and our hair defies gravity. I think that is so unique and so beautiful. And it's not celebrated because it's almost impossible to mimic and I think people try to make us feel bad about that,” she explains. A history of policies that police textured hair, and social biases that lead to Black people being scrutinized for how they wear their hair, speaks deeply to the lifestyle and professional challenges that Black women particularly face in relation to their mane.
Optimistically, triumphs like The CROWN Act, which bans discrimation based on natural hair, and an increase in representation in media is changing the direction. “I want to empower Black women in particular to wear our hair how we feel like wearing it. I think it's beautiful as it grows out of our head and I hope everyone can feel empowered to wear their hair that way. And I think we are moving toward that and we're making progress, which is fantastic for sure,“ Diop says.
Want to keep browsing? Head to the Highsnobiety Shop for more products that we love. Highsnobiety has affiliate marketing partnerships, which means we may receive a commission from your purchase.