‘I needed to revise my entire life’ - Benign brain tumour leads Carmen Thomas to create natural beauty line
After her battle with a benign brain tumour, Carmen Thomas, the CEO of Zipporah Hair and Skin, began to realise how sensitive her skin and scalp became to the products she would normally use.
“I underwent surgery with an amazing surgeon named Dr Okor at the University of Birmingham Hospital. Immediately after [surgery] my hair fell out [and] I knew immediately that relaxers wouldn’t work any more. My head was so sensitive,” said Thomas.
She also stumbled upon a study conducted by the Silent Spring Institute, published in the Environmental Research journal, where 18 different products geared towards black women were examined. The products ranged from hot oil treatments, anti-frizz hair polishes, leave-in conditioners, root stimulators, hair lotions and hair relaxers. The results found all of the products tested contained hazardous chemicals, including parabens, a preservative that can interfere with a woman’s natural oestrogen level.
BLACK WOMEN’S HEALTH ISSUES
The study’s findings are consistent with data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found black women have higher levels of some phthalates and parabens in their bodies compared with white women. These findings, said a lead researcher, could help scientists understand some of the health issues faced by black women and why they may experience higher rates of hormone-related issues such as uterine fibroids, early puberty, infertility, and pre-term births.
For Thomas, it confirmed what she had long suspected. “At first, I kept hearing from my doctor and others that I would soon get back to a place where I can resume my regular routine, but the study helped me to realise there was no need to return. I needed to revise my entire life,” she said.
Her beauty, hair and skincare regimens took a complete 180. “I completely changed the things I put on my body. I had to wear my natural hair, but I wasn’t used to it. It was short and coarse and I really struggled. I wore wigs for a while, but I had reaction to the wig as well. I did a lot of research and realised I had to go natural,” she told The Gleaner.
Thus began a new journey which led Thomas, with some help, to start making her own all-natural hair and skin products. “I have a good friend who is a formulator and she was instrumental in helping us get a formulation that works,” she said. This eventually grew into Zipporah.
For Thomas, the brand is an extension of a time-honed tradition. “Without even knowing it, people of colour have become their own chemist by mixing products from different brands in hopes of getting the right look for their hair,” she explained.
Now she’s ensuring that her products not only deliver results but promote healthy hair, skin and overall health.
Zipporah products focus on natural ingredients, such as aloe vera, avocado, shea butter, castor oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, grape seed, and jojoba.
“We currently offer haircare products designed specifically for all textures of black hair,” said Thomas, who points out that though the products specially target black hair types, they have been popular with other hair textures. “We have many white and Asian clients that love the products as well.”
The brand also offers skincare products, specially targeted, as well, to people of colour. “Most products don’t consider melanin in their formulation,” said Thomas. Not so for Zipporah.
Locally made, Zipporah is manufactured on the cool plains of Yallahs, St Thomas, Jamaica, and is providing jobs for the locals in the community. Thomas is proud of the strides the brand has made and already has plans for new formulations.
“We will soon begin production on our shower gels, lotions and body butters, and our men’s line and children’s line of products,” she shared.
She is also proud of her good health.
“Since July 7, 2015, I have been healthy!” she told The Gleaner.