I interviewed the Jane Carter, Founder and CEO of The Jane Carter Solution last Tuesday and had an absolute blast speaking with her, beloved readers.
Text in brackets are for lessening confusion and changes made to the direct quotes.
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Rachel Darling: Thank you for your time. This shouldn’t take too long. I have just a few questions for you.
Jane Carter: Great, but first, tell me about your blog.
RD: I started an [online] photo album about two years ago, reviewing products. I started researching hair care information in general and learned more about the products I was using. After about a year I opened my current blog–who doesn’t have one these days? I wanted to provide information and made a point to be very detailed in my reviews. My blog is for women who are relaxed or natural. With the products that I use I try to, uhm, anticipate how they may or may not be useful for a variety of textures whether natural or relaxed. I also like researching [specific] ingredients in products along with [researching] natural things and coming up with recipes to provide a lot of information. Essentially, it’s just an information blog.
JC: Okay! That’s really great.
RD: Thank you.
JC: I think that’s really valuable. I think that are a lot of blogs out there, blogs that are really well done, of people like you, who have followers who feel there’s a real value in that. I always have this whole conversation with people that. . .whenever I do a blog interview, they’re like, everyone sort of makes a joke about it, having a blog, but, they’re really important. I was doing these once-a-month phone calls about hair care and I would get, like, seven hundred people on these phone calls–
RD: Oh-h-h, wow!
JC: I know, exactly! Which is kind of mind boggling, but, because it’s really valuable information. So, you shouldn’t minimize that.
RD: Well, thank you. I shouldn’t. It’s something…I’m really enjoying it. I mentioned on my blog that I would be interviewing you. So, there was a lot of interest, it generated a lot of interest on my blog, particularly among women who prefer products that are more natural. Not just natural ladies but, also women who are relaxed who prefer to take a more natural route in the products that they use on their hair.
JC: Right. Great! You know, I just did a show in Atlanta, it was like a traditional beauty trade show. Every trade show has a totally different vibe. There are some shows where most of the women [in the show] wear their hair natural, not flat-ironing it and then other shows where there are lots of stylists, and people that, like, flat iron the hair straight. It’s just a totally different vibe.
RD: Right, right, which I imagine is very different from a show where there’s an emphasis on loced styles or corn rows and things like that.
JC: I mean, some people, you know, have this whole esoteric approach to what they do. Which I have a lot of respect for because; it’s a life style choice [being natural]. Some people go natural because they just decided to or they want healthier hair. . . . If I do a show, where we’re releasing in a health food store [that holistic natural approach creates] –a totally different vibe, totally different [from shows focused away from such an approach].
RD: Right! I can definitely see that. Okay, I’m looking [at my screen] here, I gave my readers a chance to send me questions that they’d like me to ask you, I’m sifting through the most popular ones. [Pause] Many of my readers wanted to know what products or tips–even techniques–you would suggest for ladies that are transitioning, in terms of your products. A lot of women now are going natural and that transitioning period, particularly for women who don’t feel comfortable, ah, just “shaving it bald” or “chopping” after a month or two are looking for information to make it as easy as possible.
JC: Right. Well, I mean, listen I have this conversation so many times with people, who blog, we have this product called Nourish and Shine which is like, the perfect transition product. You put it on your regrowth and your relaxed ends. It’s a heat protect[ant], ah, it’s a great detangler. . . .It’s great if you want to flat-iron your own hair. It’s never heavy or greasy. Uhm, you know, its [also] great for anyone who flat-irons their [fully] natural hair. You know, I made that for my clients that on occasion would bring their nine-year old daughters, for like, “Picture Day”, who hated going to the salon already because, their hair’s not relaxed and they’re already crying because they end up hair traumatized.
JC: So that’s a really good thing [Nourish and Shine]. There’s two things. The other thing, I would say, besides using our Nourish and Shine Crème, I would say the Revitalize Leave-in Conditioner is great because if you’re going to flat iron your [natural] hair, heat will relax your hair as much as relaxer will [over time].
RD: Mmm, hmm.
JC: So, if you use the Nourish and Crème after you dry your hair, or take it to your stylist if you don’t do it yourself and if you’re flat ironing [using the Nourish and Shine Crème and Revitalize Leave-in Conditioner] you can turn the heat down. So, when you finally see your texture, it’s not straight from the flat-iron [due to repeated use].
RD: Great, great. I suppose the flip side of that [question] would be, what would you suggest for ladies that relax? Some of the readers of my blog, who are relaxed, feel that some natural products won’t work as well for them because, they have relaxed hair. They feel they have to depend on products that are full of silicones and other things like that and that works for some people, it works well. But, I like the idea that natural ingredients work for any type [natural or chemically altered] of hair.
JC: Here’s the question, why would you choose to use non-natural ingredients over natural ingredients? First of all, we make hair products for every type and texture, that’s the first thing. The second thing is, you know, natural ingredients have nothing to do with natural hair. Natural ingredients are, you know, it’s really like the “going green” conversation. It’s a very simple conversation. Synthetic, man made ingredients have a large molecule, they don’t penetrate. So for people with fine hair, [you may hear that] they don’t want to use any products, particularly in the Ethnic market, where most of the product are petroleum based–
RD: (Exasperated) Ye-s-s-s!
JC: Which make your hair heavy–
JC: So, the choice to use natural ingredients goes: A) it’s not harmful to your body, B) your body and your hair are designed to absorb natural ingredients, C) the molecule is way smaller so its ability to penetrate makes a difference. Why does it need to penetrate? Well, it’s kind of like the difference between olive oil and vegetable oil –they both have similar characteristics: they’re greasy, they feel slippery, right?
JC: Vegetable oil has no…it has no beneficial attributes for your body. And, you know, olive oil does. And so, you know, a product may have the same visual characteristic (on your hair) as say a dimethicone. But, a dimethicone doesn’t penetrate, it just sits on your hair. [Where as] Nourish and Shine does [have beneficial attributes]. It penetrates and actually improves the integrity of your hair: elasticity, shine –all that. So fundamentally the choice to use ingredients that are better for your body, that’s really a life style choice, it has nothing to with [natural hair]. You know we make products for white men with spiky hair, I mean–
RD: Mmm-hmm! I understand.
JC: (Laughs) You know what I’m saying?
RD: Absolutely. Fantastic! Actually, I’ve had comments about this [from both sides of this argument] on my blog. Many readers feel natural products are a better fit, all the way around, no matter how you choose to wear your hair. I’m glad to see that there are more brands that are coming out with more natural products now. Most seem to be based online. It’s great to see that, I find it really encouraging.
JC: Well, listen, here’s why that exists [those types of brands mainly existing online, not in stores]. Because ,whenever you do a product line and you try to market the product line, whether it’s to a Whole Foods or a Pure Beauty or Ulta, there’s a process. And that process is: when you market a line, you go to a [indiscernible] room, everybody in that room is a buyer for a specific product type. In most hair care lines, the only two categories right now are: General Market and Ethnic.
RD: (Stunned Pause) Oh! Wow, okay, that is interesting.
JC: Mmm, hmm! Okay, so here’s what goes on, okay, see, [for example] right now we just hit Target, a Target launch, okay, see Target just hired a buyer to do natural products. Now, we’re really not “ethinc” or “general market”, we like to think of ourselves [as a] natural based “hair care for humanity” kinda’ thing.
RD: Mmm, hmm.
JC: Except when you go market to a store…they go “What Category are you in?” They send in a category buyer.
RD: This makes a great deal of sense out of the kinds of products we see in stores. With those two categories only certain types of products are going to make it to consumers. Take for example, Pantene, a well known brand, came out with its Relaxed and Natural line a while ago. [Thinking it would be different] I was disappointed because it is essentially the original formula with petroleum and mineral oil added to it. (Sighs)
JC: Mmm! You know what and I have this conversation with everybody [bloggers], the reason you should use natural ingredients is because they are more effective. The reason that manufacturers don’t use them is because, say, I use lemon oil in my formula and there’s a frost in Florida. Then the price of lemons and lemon oil goes up from like, $6 a quart to $8 and most major manufactures cannot…they’re not interested in having a volatile pricing structure. Where they put a product on the market and have to adhere to a [certain] margin and then now have to pay more for raw materials [lemon oil in this case]. They’re interest in that [scenario] is way less.
They’re not performance oriented. They’re in the game [business] to make money and if it performs then it’s a great formula. We’re [The Jane Carter Solution] in the game to perform and sometimes we make less money but, you know, I’m not going to reduce the performance because…we use natural ingredients and there’s a frost in Florida. That’s what goes on for them. They don’t really have in interest [in an ingredient] if it’s not man made because then they can’t control the pricing. That’s one of the biggest issues for manufacturers that make natural products.
The other thing that, like, for a company like Pantene, I tell people to read labels. If you read that label and there’s nothing on there that’s different than the General Market products I’m like, “Oh! We got tricked again! (Laughs) That’s kind of how I feel.
RD: Oh, I definitely understand that! One of the tutorials on my blog covers how to read ingredients lists, how to get a better idea of what the possible concentrations are of things on the list and just taking a [good] look at what’s actually in what you’re buying. I try to encourage people to keep a “Hair Journal” of things that work for their hair, things that don’t. It’s so important as consumers to actually be informed about what goes into hair care products. What are your feelings on that? Do you think, that as consumers we need to be more savvy about what’s going into our bodies or skin?
JC: Well…you see, that’s not our orientation. See, in the beauty business people don’t care what’s in the bottle they just care about: Does it Perform? And then there’s the whole context of how do they define “Performance?”. In the health food market they’re less performance oriented and more ingredient oriented. So, I think that as consumers we should develop a sense of both of those. I mean I spent three days at this show and I look at most of the products in the Ethnic Market [they] are [made of] dimethicone, silicone, alcohol, petroleum, you know the Brazilian Keratin treatment.
RD: Mmm, hmm.
JC: That has a lot of formaldehyde in it, I don’t think that’s healthy. There’s been a lot of press about it. I mean, I feel we’re [consumers] just a little bit asleep in terms of the market and ingredients. So, I understand why they [ethnic products] exist that way. I just think that as consumer it’s our responsibility to not get sucked into the marketing and to look at the performance and the ingredients.
RD: Most definitely. It surprised me more and more when I started really looking at [labels] what I was actually putting on my hair. When I first started I posted about only commercial products from the drugstore. Now, I’m doing more and more posts on natural ingredients and natural hair care recipes, product lines and treatments. Much of my readership is showing that it is moving along those lines [via responses I receive].
Personally, I find that to be very encouraging. That’s why I was so excited to interview and have your thoughts on my blog and trying products from your line and be able to inform readers about lines that are out there that are using natural products that will perform, and will give you what you want, without coating your hair in something that’s not going to benefit it over the long term.
JC: Right. You know, when we got into this “game”, we [The Jane Carter Solution] we went to Whole Foods, pretty much because they were the only venue to buy, for women, to buy natural products like you would other products at a beauty supply store.
RD: Mmm, hmm.
JC: Our price point is too high for that [most beauty supply stores]. That’s number one. Number two, in the Northeast we deal with beauty supply stores more than in other parts of the country. That whole network –but, that’s a whole ‘nother conversation! It’s because that was the place of choice for people to buy products [that’s why] we went into our own backyard and said, “Okay, okay, we’ll be an exclusive brand”.
But, I think that [with] all these online natural products, eventually there will be a pioneering line and will create a new category of products. I don’t know how it will unfold but, eventually there will be room for them to be in, like, mass markets. I developed my products as a stylist, I became a merchant, I started to read labels, I got rid of everything that wasn’t good for you and I made one product and that’s how it all started.
I then realized, with that one product that I made, that it was so much more effective than anything I had ever used, I was like, this is really interesting, let me delve into this further. Two formulation courses in chemistry and a lot of research and trial and error later, I realized that most of the products that are made for women are made by a lot of men in labs with no hair!
JC: (Laughs) No, really! They’re bald. So, I’m like…O-o-okay! That’s why so many sprays have alcohol in them. Because what moron would put alcohol would do that? We make a spray that is water based. To me, it’s common sense. But to the market, it’s about selling bottles and they see what they [want to] see. All they know is if dimethicone-sprays are what the trend is –that’s what they make. They don’t even look to see if maybe there’s something that does the same thing that is better. It’s been interesting! (Laughs)
RD: It’s funny that you mention that. The issue of products made in labs by people who [by and large] won’t be using them. In a way that seems to mirror a lot of the other major industries that we have in the country, like the health industry. You buy have medicine and you check the recommended dosage and often that dosage is gauged upon a 140 pound, often Caucasian male, but, it’s marketed for women.
RD: Most women are not going to be similar to that subject, your physiology just being female makes a difference.
JC:. . . . Unfortunately that is the way it is. To me as consumers we can’t assume that everything [that is marketed] is safe and that those working in the lab look like us and have our best interests in mind.
RD: I agree, definitely. This is slightly off topic but, another things that has come up related to hair care and many a blog-war has been waged over this issue and I’d love to hear your opinion on it, uhm…(shouts) COMBS!
JC: (Laughs) I love blog wars!
RD: As I like to say “it’s wild out on them there internets,” but to the issue of combs, I’ve done a post on them and I actually had to cover the thing from beginning to end with disclaimers to let people know I wasn’t trying to preach my opinion about them. Do you think they are inherently, uhm, good or bad towards healthy hair? Is it a seamless comb or non-seamless comb issue?
JC: Personally, honestly, I think that, I don’t see any reason why anyone would have to have a comb in their house.
RD: (Surprised pause) Really…?
J C: Absolutely. Okay, let’s think about this logistically.
JC: If every day you lose about 200 hairs–
JC: They fall out they get replaced, it’s what makes your hair grow –it’s also based on the capillaries and blood flow. The most amount of damage comes to [unprocessed] hair in combing. Why would you ever comb your hair? A paddle brush is all you need. Because, here’s why: First of all, you don’t want to create any abrasions on your scalp; second of all, when you brush your hair you remove the hairs that were ready to be removed plus you stimulate circulation. I’m a strong believer that if you do your hair at home, you [should] take a brush into the shower, put some conditioner in your hair and brush your hair out from ENDS to roots, not roots to ends. [That way] You detangle it, you get great scalp stimulation and you keep it movin’!
JC: There is no reason to have a comb. Why would you have comb?. . .If you’re natural, what do you need it for? You wet it [your hair] to reform the curls you put the product on it and you go. Or you rewet it and you double stand twist it. If you shampoo once a week that’s it, you’re good. You paddle brush your hair out and your fine.
RD: On the subject of shampooing–I’m glad you mentioned that–what’re your feelings about the frequency of shampooing? I know the commercial companies want us to shampoo daily, [more than likely] so we run out of product much more quickly [though many ladies do well not doing so]. Then we buy more, which increases their general profit margin. What are your feelings on how often someone should wash or not wash [hair]?
JC: I think it’s kind of a big question. I think that if you exercise, every time you sweat you should wash your hair.
JC: Wet your hair, dilute your shampoo with some water and just remove the perspiration. Shampoo it out and put in product, then twist. To me, the big issue about shampooing is styling. What is the set back for shampooing your hair more often–if its not a [style] maintenance thing. Hair needs moisture–which it gets in water and conditioner in the shower. [So why put] oil on top of your hair instead of moisture for two weeks and not shampoo it…? That’s crazy.
RD: I personally, get a lot of exercise. I wash daily. I use to think I had a dry scalp until I washed my hair more frequently.
RD: Often as women of color we’re told not to wash our hair often because it will dry out our hair or it will break off. Which after I while I realized was a bit odd, since water shouldn’t be able to dry out anything…it’s water. Products used in washing it can.
RD: I think this goes back to your original point that as consumers that we need to be more aware. Waking up from the Matrix so to speak and not doing solely as were told, by, ah, hair commercials. (Laughs)
JC: (Laughs) This actually goes back to my point about what you do.
JC: Because, if people really understand that, see, you give people access to information. They’re really is very little access to real information. I think that’s a really big deal. I think it’s very valuable… to us as manufacturers and to Women of Color. It’s valuable.
RD: Do you think that, it’s kind of a movement on the internet? More women blogging who are putting out information for women in general or for certain niches depending on that particular blogger’s interest. Do you think that is also, uhm, creating some of this buzz and this push for more natural products because of this surge of new information?
JC: Well…I think that, listen, I think everything on the internet is very trackable and it is a tool. It’s changed the way everybody markets and conducts their business because, it gives you [consumers] access to information that you would never have been able to have. I think that the L’Oreals the Procter and Gambles…they’re watching, they’re paying attention. Trust me.
JC: Yeah, they are, they definitely are. It [the internet] has changed the way you [merchants] disseminate information. Major manufacturers are marketers. They’re not educators. They have no interest in educating you [as a consumer] because we’ve been trained [as consumers] to get sucked in so by the hype, we “drink the koolaid.”
RD: (Laughs) Oh!
JC: You know…we don’t, we’ve not ever been trained, unless our parents are, like, vegans, to read labels. We just don’t. We are consumers. We are huge consumers. Major manufacturers understand that about us. The appeal to that in us. They are, you know, are about market sense than having a social responsibility. I think that’s what makes some of the smaller lines different.
RD: Mmm, hmm.
JC: Because, they’ve seen the results of using natural products. They’re like, “Wow,” then you become like a pioneer rebel for the cause. (Laughs)
RD: (Laughs) Right, I can see that.
JC: And its hard, we compete with really heavy hitters. It’s hard work.
RD: Absolutely. If you Google lists of the companies that Procter and Gamble owns, that L’Oreal owns it becomes apparent very quickly that there are a few major companies controlling the market. There really is a monopoly among these few that are “running the show.”
JC: Yeah. Well, you have big businesses that, when they hear someone [a company] that’s telling a different story you acquire them. You acquire them maybe for a smaller profit margin but, it’s better to have them as an ally, as part of your company, then an enemy. It’s a big deal. There are many companies and Bobby Brown Cosmetics are a perfect example, she got acquired, but, she said “I’m staying on for creative input”. . . .[I]t’s the same with Aveda. . .”[I]’m staying on for creative input”. . . .
From a human perspective, I would never put something on the market that you couldn’t use on your four year old because, like, it would be an integrity thing for me. From the business perspective, every business has a seven year life cycle. So then, you have to decide. What’s my out? Because after seven years you have to hump twice as hard to stay on top, because, in that seven year span, there are like eight or nine or ten or twelve or thirty people right behind you.
JC: From a business perspective everybody understands that life cycle. [Major] companies are like, hey, we can buy you, put you on the shelf and there’s going to be somebody right behind you that we’re going to buy next. But, now we have more shelf space and for our equation, of when people walk through a store, we now have five lines that we own that encompass 70% of the shelf space in Walgreens so, how can we [the major companies] loose?
RD: Mmm. I see, from the business point of view the makes absolute sense. It’s just unfortunate that, that mentality leads to products that aren’t the best quality for consumers but, it’s very difficult to argue with profit, unfortunately.
JC: You’re right. . . .My thing is, if it’s a “wellness thing” [a natural products] and it works–buy it. If it’s a “wellness thing” and it doesn’t work–don’t buy it. If it works and it’s not [a] “wellness thing”–don’t buy it. If it’s “wellness thing” invest in it, spend a few extra dollars.
RD: Definitely. Oh! Another question that was rather popular and I know my [beloved] readers will be annoyed with me if I don’t ask: What do you think, essentially, makes for a good hair care regimen? Clearly cleansing is necessary, detangling is necessary but, what do you think are the bare-bones things a good regimen should have…in general?
JC: I think that you should have cleansing, conditioning, moisturizing, something that really feeds your hair. I think it depends on what you’re dealing with, whatever issue you may be dealing with. The same way if you have oily skin you choose thing specifically for that, it’s the same with your hair.
RD: Okay! That sounds great! I have one more question for you, from a reader, who asked if you will be coming out with a deep treatment other than the Nourish and Shine treatment you mentioned earlier, a sort of deep conditioner.
JC: We’re in the works of formulating one now. I don’t have details, but I can say it will be amino acid based. That will be a strong part of the mixture most definitely.
RD: We’ll be looking forward to it. Thank you again for giving me a bit of your very valuable time, I absolutely enjoyed talking with you. Thank you for your insights into the industry and for the opportunity to interview you for my readers!
JC: (Laughs) No problem! It’s no problem at all!