Curly hair is renowned for having a unique set of challenges when it comes to its care and upkeep. This isn’t helped by the lack of support from the industry. With a plethora of products aimed at straight- and wavy-haired consumers, it’s time that curly hair has its moment in the spotlight. Helping women to embrace their natural locks is Dubai based beauty entrepreneur Hillary Kozma, the founder of Kozma salons. Wanting her clients and women all around the world to be able to look after their curly hair out of the salon too, she’s launched Kozma Curls.
Talk to us about your journey with launching Kozma?
The process took two years and it was indeed a journey- one that cannot be rushed. It was very important to me that I get this right. I’ve been a curl expert since 2007 and have had strong ideas about what should go in my formula’s, however developing and manufacturing products was new to me. I chose a lab in Italy with who I felt an immediate connection. They understood my vision, what I was trying to achieve, and they were willing to work closely with me to help create bespoke formulas. I provided my research and what I wanted and then they got to work in the lab, and later sent me samples.
Around the time I had started with the lab, I had also put together a focus group from the local curly hair community which consisted of 22 women. These were curly hair women of all different curl types – wavy, curly, and super curly. It was vital to me that our products be all-inclusive which means all curl types can use the products. It was very important that we get the local curly community involved, as they were the ones who had asked for the products.
We’d test in the salon on eager and willing curly customers, and the samples were also sent home with the focus group. I would survey each of the women. Based on their opinions, I would return to the lab and re-formulate accordingly. The final formulations gave amazing results. I am grateful to have these women to accompany me and offer their support along the way.
Why do you think curly hair in the beauty industry has been so overlooked?
Curly hair has long been thought of as ugly. For so long in society, smooth straight hair was considered beautiful. Not just here in this region, but worldwide. Curls are very fragile and straightening with heat or chemicals damages curly hair. Hairdressers were taught that curls are the enemy. This perspective was passed from stylist to customer. The belief that curly hair is ugly and bad is antiquated, archaic, and just plain wrong. Today, curly hair is modern and the viewpoint surrounding what is beautiful is changing.
Women everywhere are sick and tired of fighting, hating, and damaging their hair. Choosing to wear your curls natural is simply beautiful, but for many women, the reasons can go much deeper than that. It’s a statement to the world. It says ‘’This is who I am. I love myself.” It’s freeing and liberating to love and accept your authentic self and celebrate your inner and outer identity. It brings me such satisfaction and joy to help women to achieve this daily.
Why did you decide to launch your own line Kozma Curl?
Our customers spoke, and we listened! We have our own method of working with curly hair, called the Kozma Curl method, which consists of a collection of special techniques I have innovated to cut, color, style, and care for curly hair. Our salons have advocated and specialized in curly hair since 2007 and our fan base has grown exponentially. A few years ago, our customers started asking for products that were curly friendly – meaning they were gentle, helped to hydrate the curls, and didn’t contain nasty ingredients. Those products are hard to find on the market, let alone in this region. We wanted to provide our customers with the products they deserved but it was proving very difficult. One day I just decided I would make the products myself.
Talk to us about the formulations? How do they differ from other non-curly hair focused products?
Our formulations are made with love. They are vegan and cruelty-free. They are silicone, sulfate, and paraben-free. They contain high quality natural key ingredients such as barbary fig, macadamia nut oil, aloe leaf, coconut oil, and soy protein. These ingredients nourish and protect the hair, and they are gentle yet effective. The result after using them is frizz-free, healthy, hydrated, and defined curls.
Curls are more delicate than straight hair and therefore require extra special care. Be very selective when choosing products, tools, and materials to be used on them. What works for straight hair would not work for curls. If you study the architecture of an individual piece of curly hair, the cuticles look like tiles layered on the roof of a house but in this case, they are layered in a spiral-like fashion from root to end. When these cuticles are roughed up or damaged, they remain open and this causes frizz. It also means that moisture can escape easier. And curly hair desperately needs moisture to be healthy.
We must be very careful in our approach to curly hair care and styling in that we neither use any materials or ingredients which are abrasive to the surface of the hair, and we also must constantly replace moisture by getting nutrients and hydration back into the core of the hair. Finally, the cuticle needs to be sealed shut as much as possible, so that we prevent frizz and lock in the hydration. All of this was kept in mind when formulating our products.
Why was it important for them to be vegan, silicon, and sulfate free?
At Kozma Curl, we are animal lovers, and having a cruelty free line was important to all of us. I have a horse named Napoleon and my husband has a dog named Charlie. Many of our employees have dogs and cats. In addition, many of our customers are vegan, and choosing vegan products is very important to them. Vegan products are growing in popularity, with good reason.
Silicones are man-made chemicals synthesized in factories. They can also have properties made from minerals and are modified by man. They can be made of many different things. Not all silicones are created equal. Some product brands cut corners by adding cheap silicone ingredients. The cheaper the silicone, the worse the effects. Silicones do have pros- they provide great slip and can be used in products to help detangle. By coating each strand, silicones combat frizz by ‘’water-proofing’’ hair and lock the negative effects of humidity out.
But the cons far outweigh the pros- most silicones are not water-soluble. Meaning, they build up on the hair and are not removed by water and cleansers. It’s not good for curly hair because the coating on the hair acts as a sealant, and builds up over time- blocking moisture from entering- not good as curls desperately need moisture and hydration. Nutrients cannot get in, and over time curls can become brittle and break. And when air can’t get in, it can cause suffocation of the strands. Silicones will also weigh the hair down, rendering curls dull and lifeless.
Sulfates are a cleansing agent known as Sodium Laureth Sulfate. When you use a shampoo with sulfates, you will probably experience a satisfying lather. They also strip build up off the hair, so hair will be left feeling squeaky clean and shiny after using. However, we recommend that those with curly hair avoid sulfates as they can be harsh and abrasive, stripping away natural oils and moisture from the hair and scalp, causing dryness and breakage. It can also lift the hair’s cuticles so curly hair is left frizzy. Therefore we made our products without silicones and sulfates.
What formulation or tool are you most proud of?
The gel. This was the trickiest to get right. My wish list was long. First and foremost, it had to be silicone-free. It also had to provide a medium hold – not too strong, and not too light. It had to deliver – lock in moisture, lock out frizz, and give shine, bounce, and definition.
Our gel was made with a very innovative silicone-free formulation, exclusively for Kozma Curl. This took over two years to achieve in the lab, and the fact that we were relentless and determined about our cause came at a great expense of time and money, but we believed in our dream of giving customers the very best in curl care, so we never gave up. We wanted the results to be similar or the same as the silicone-based gels we were using in the salon but without the silicone ingredients.
We removed silicones and re-balanced them with other ingredients. At the same time, we added “Hemisqualane” (INCI C13-15 Alkane): a sustainable alternative to silicones, it’s made via fermentation of sugar cane. We also added natural coconut oil.
I’m very proud of our silicone alternatives and bio-based emollients. We were able to create a gel that provides slip, definition and hold, and a protective invisible shield on the hair that is very lightweight.
Can non-curly haired people use your products?
Yes. In fact, they do! Kozma Curl products are stocked at all of our salon locations, and our straight hair customers have been buying the products because they are vegan, gentle, and contain high-quality ingredients. Our straighties especially love the shampoo, conditioner, and mask. The gel would also work well for a sleek ponytail or smooth style.
What’s next for Kozma Curl?
Our philosophy is to help women to love and celebrate their curls – not to fight them. We have plans underway to expand so that we can continue our mission and spread the curl love. We are due to open Kozma Curl branches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in a few months and then expand further across the region.
I have eight more products I’d like to launch and I’m already working to develop three of them. And now with a little experience under my belt, I know what to expect this time around.
I’m also working on a special hairbrush for curly hair that detangles even the thickest curl types. The design is underway and the mold has to be made especially for us. We are looking into a patent.