This week is Zero Waste Week, so what better time than the present to talk about conservation and the circular economy?
Meet Stephanie Moody, a Bed-Stuy resident who recently launched Terre & Botanique, a line of zero-waste, food-based products for afro-textured hair.
“The [Black] community has been isolated from clean hair products, due to financial reasons; the products tend to be top-tiered in price range, and I just don’t think there’s been a focus on getting us healthy products,” said Moody. “So I really wanted that to be the focus– products that are at a decent price point and aren’t harmful for your body or the planet.”
Moody said she grew up in a household that was big on recycling and composting. Her grandfather was a chemist and the first Black man to work in the pharmaceutical division of the FDA, and “I would spend hours and hours with him mixing stuff up,” said Moody.
She thought, even back then, she’d be headed in that direction. But she went into fashion merchandising instead. Currently, she works full-time as a product developer at an accessories tech company, a job she loves.
So, how did she end up circling back into the clean beauty products market? Well, she admits, she needed the products for herself: Five years ago, after a decade of perming her hair, she decided to ditch the chemicals and go natural. But not only was she struggling to find the right products to keep her kinky locs moisturized, she discovered that every product for afro-textured hair was loaded with chemicals and other harmful byproducts.
And so, as a product developer who spends her days solving problems for other companies, Moody decided to solve this one problem for herself. She was inspired by the African women of Chad, an unforgivingly hot, landlocked country with little moisture. Chad’s harsh climate exposes the body and hair to very drying conditions. However, the women– known for having very coarse but healthy, long hair– had found a solution: an organic powder they made from dried Chebe seeds.
It reinforced for Moody that the vitamins and nutrients from food-based products (something that was compostable, yay!) could be absorbed into the skin to treat and moisturize the hair and scalp… and the face, which is an extension of the scalp. The next challenge was figuring out which food products were most readily available, safe and effective for afro-textured hair while producing the least amount of waste.
It was time to go back to her earlier days of mixing “in the lab.” First, she sourced different fruits and vegetables from the Fort Greene Farmers Market and Chinatown, including apples, pears, bitter melons and rice. Next, she began dehydrating the food products and mixing together combinations, testing them on her own hair first.
She also found an online forum called KolabTree where she hired chemists, sent to them various formulas, and they would send feedback:
“It’s how I verified the current formulas and set up the current preservation system,” Moody said.
She also composts the food waste and donates it to local community gardens or recycles some of the by-products. For example, she learned that the fermented rice water and ginger can be recycled into a new product: essentially, clean-buy products made of clean byproducts.
Through trial and error and research and more trials, Moody discovered plant-based combinations that not only moisturized her hair but also began growing it remarkably fast. This year, she officially launched Terre & Botanique, a line of organic, plant-based products made to balance the scalp’s PH, maintain a healthy sebum level, and provide a much-needed boost of nourishment!
Amongst her products are a sweet potato and dandelion root conditioner, a rice water and ginger pre-shampoo, a yucca and lime cleanser and more. Products run from $11.99 – $26.99.
“Currently, we are going back into the lab for a few reformulations and to try to increase the timeline of the preservation system,” she added. (A reminder that her products are food-based and time-limited to some degree). Most of the products, she said, hold in room temperature at least a month after opening. But she recommends refrigeration to extend their life much further.
You can view and purchase all of her products on the Terre & Botanique website. Shipping is free for local residents.
“The ethos of my brand is, The more you use it, the less you’re going to need it, Moody said. “You might start out buying the products every month. But eventually, you will be buying the product once every few months, and then maybe a few months out of the year.”
The more you use, the less you need. Talk about conservation, the circular economy and zero waste!
“I want [my customers] to be happy with their natural hair as it is and eventually be able to let it go and be its best self,” Moody said. “I’m more than happy to guide anyone through that process, because I went through it myself!”