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In the 1960's, the motivating force behind our natural journey would be encouraged to embrace her natural hair, and a more natural and holistic lifestyle by a loved one while attending Howard University.
To improve her health she began making all-natural herbal remedies. As a result, after receiving a degree in Human Ecology, with the knowledge she gained through research and experimentation, combined with her formal education and practical experience she would begin helping herself, family & friends improve their well-being through healthy eating and natural remedies.
Though her initial concern was for herself and those in her community, upon her return to the States she would share what she learned with everyone she met and help all regardless of ethnic descent.
Her giving spirit would help improve the lives of many.
Natural Oasis: Consider the Alternative
EDIBLE NATURAL HAIR & SKIN CARE PRODUCTS
Born to a talented jazz musician and an educator, Jamia realized her purpose early on while experiencing, firsthand, the importance of not only receiving, but giving unconditional love, expressing concern and generosity to others through the selfless acts her parents displayed much of her life to her grandparents and others in need. At her father’s urgings, the family adopted a more natural and holistic lifestyle, greatly improving their overall health and wellness. However, Jamia’s mother, a graduate of Howard University (HU) majoring in Human Ecology and an active participant in the civil rights movement, had more questions than answers. Questions that would prove the impetus to source the truth from the root.
Not surprisingly, the solution wasn’t cooked in labs, pressed into pills and made available with a prescription from a pharmaceutical pusher, but one birthed in soil made available in a mixture of the leaves and/or seeds of herbs and roots (fresh or dried) without the ‘aid’ of contaminants: pesticides, insecticides, germicides, chemical growth enhancers and micronutrient-enriched fertilizers used to ‘improve’ soil fertility, purporting to support higher yields of more ‘nutritious’ food(s).
Passion and a quest for knowledge always leads to change. The acquired knowledge altered perspective and enlightened a mother on her quest to share, educate and help a detached people existing woefully unaware in American communities. Mother would teach daughter; generational lessons originating on one continent would pass along to the next generation on another.
Armed with this bounty, a grateful daughter learned at the hands of selfless parents that she and people who looked like her mattered, were beautiful, were dynamic. And she, Jamia, would awaken minds and change lives. Natural Oasis was founded, offering a pleasant albeit necessary change to the artificial.
Michelle Richardson (MR): What inspired the creation of Natural Oasis?
Jamia: Natural Oasis was born out of a group of homemade hair and skin care remedies my mother used to make in our kitchen back in the 1960s and 70s that she would give away to family and friends. I felt the name was fitting because of the results experienced after using them.
MR: How long have you been in business?
Jamia: I began styling hair and producing hairstyling videos in the 1980s. I retired from hairstyling in 2005 to do Natural Oasis full time.
MR: What is your passion, your purpose?
Jamia: My passion has always been helping women of color grow their own healthy hair by treating it gently and using the healthiest products possible to create the style.
MR: Are your products strictly for natural hair or can those with chemically treated / processed hair also benefit?
Jamia: When they were originally created I used them on all hair types and textures. And since most women, at that time, were wearing their hair chemically treated they were originally used by those with chemically processed hair.
MR: Do you have a salon?
Jamia: No, I don’t currently have a salon. I have a studio where I shoot and produce the videos that I post to YouTube.
MR: Describe your client or customer?
Jamia: My customers have ranged from relaxed to natural. I began styling hair in my mom’s kitchen then in my dorm room during my freshman year at Howard University. To this day my model base is primarily college students, but generally range from teens to seniors.
MR: How important are ingredients to you?
Jamia: They are of utmost and primary importance. Over the years I have noticed that the ingredients in a product can have either a beneficial or adverse affect on the hair and skin.
Some ingredients may not cause noticeable adverse affects initially, but over time they may begin to cause hair and scalp disorders and even hair loss. They can cause health problems in those with sensitivities. When I use products with ingredients that I am sensitive to, my scalp begins to itch, my hair begins to thin and in some cases my lymph nodes begin to swell usually in the back of my neck.
Currently, I only style natural hair because in the 1990s I began experiencing migraine headaches after applying relaxers all day. The pain was so severe that it would cause me to vomit. After experiencing this several times I realized for the sake of my health I had to stop applying relaxers.
MR: Where do you get your ingredients?
Jamia: I get my ingredients from a number of sources. Some ingredients are imported, others I purchase from national sources and others are local sources. But because I am very particular about the ingredients in all of the raw materials I purchase, I grill my suppliers as to the ingredients in their materials, whether they are non-GMO, how fresh they are, how they are processed and if they are 100% all natural and/or organic.
MR: Many like the “USDA Organic Certified” label. What, if anything, does this label mean in terms of ingredients you select and use?
Jamia: The “USDA Organic Certified” label can be important in some cases. However, I have actually used “certified organic” ingredient products that my hair, skin and scalp were not able to tolerate. I purchase Shea Butter straight from Ghana, still in the gourd. There may be Shea Butter that has been deemed and packaged as “Certified Organic,” but I know my source is 100% pure, natural and unprocessed, I trust my source and it has been proven to be safe.
I also read the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) carefully, if I see anything that seems unsafe I don’t use that particular raw material. If I don’t have the ability to prove my source is safe then the “Certified Organic” seal gives me a measure of peace of mind that the ingredient is safe.
MR: Have you considered mass producing your products? If no, why not?
Jamia: I have considered it, but feel products lose a certain quality, purity and personableness when they are mass produced.
MR: I tend to agree. So how did you come up with each product in the line?
Jamia: Many of the recipes and formulas have been passed down to me by my mother. She is a human ecologist and herbalist. She graduated from Howard University with a degree in Human Ecology and went to Africa in the 1960s where she learned firsthand how to prepare herbal remedies. She also did old school research on endless herbs, their properties and their benefits as well as side effects. There is not an herb I have asked my mom about that she cannot break down and tell me it’s properties and how it will affect the body and the environment. I also took an intensive university course in Botany to learn more about the make up of plants, their function, their benefits and side effects.
There is a saying that “necessity is the mother of invention.” So out of sheer need and sometimes desperation I’ve had to develop formulas that are made with 100% pure & natural, edible ingredients since the chemical grade did not agree with my hair, skin and scalp. I have been fortunate to have my mothers wealth of knowledge to draw from. I also consult with a qualified chemist that I have worked with for years to make sure the natural ingredients I use are formulated to be safe and effective. One of my first jobs was as a graphic designer for a cosmetic company. So I also have knowledge of how chemical or synthetic ingredients and cosmetics are processed and have studied those ingredients and learned how to substitute many chemical grade ingredients with all natural ones. I also do daily research and testing to improve and refine the formulas that I create.
MR: How do you determine what new product to bring to market?
Jamia: Based on true need. I don’t feel the need to create an arsenal of products because I believe the hair and skin only need certain basic things. If I feel a product needs to be improved, I add new ingredients to my existing products as opposed to creating an entirely new line of products.
MR: There is no shampoo in your line, why is that?
Jamia: I have yet to find a product that has sudsing properties, natural or otherwise, that does not dry out my hair and skin. The only thing that works for me at this time are well diluted OACV (Organic Apple Cider Vinegar) and herbal rinses. My hair and scalp secrete minimal to no natural oils so I don’t find I have the need for traditional shampoo. Co-washing seems to coat and weigh my hair down. And many of the synthetic softeners, emulsifiers and silicones cause my scalp to become inflamed because of my sensitivities. I assume there are others like me who also don’t secrete oil and therefore don’t naturally need soap or sudsing type cleansers to clean their hair and skin.
What may cause one to need traditional shampoo is the use of products that may heavily coat the hair and scalp. The ingredients I use in the products absorb completely, don’t heavily coat the hair and skin and therefore rinse away very easily. I have actually cleansed my hair effectively with just plain warm water at times. Though I usually follow with a well diluted OACV and/or herbal rinse. I recommend my customers to use the products sparingly so as not to clog the pores of their scalp and skin which can cause severe build up and attract a lot of unnecessary dirt and bacteria. I do however recommend the use of a carefully researched and safe shampoo in the event a customer is a product junkie or is very heavy handed with oil-based products..
MR: Is product knowledge / education just as important as the product itself?
Jamia: Yes, I believe product knowledge is important to the extent that you must learn what works for YOUR hair. The first thing is to learn what your own individual hair type(s) need. I find most hair and skin have similar needs, for the most part. When I style hair, I use the exact same products on everyone. However, I may adjust the process, amount of product and length of time that I use it on each client. It works because either through trial and error or just being familiar with different hair types, I know how to manipulate the product and my technique to accommodate every hair texture. So while education is important, unless you are studying to be a hair care professional, study and manipulate your own hair well enough to learn what works best for it. Be sure whatever products you use to use them properly and as recommended by the manufacturer to achieve the best results.
MR: With major hair companies looking to claim greater market share in the booming natural hair care industry, how do you differentiate your product from the others?
Jamia: First and foremost I provide a minimalist, high quality, highly concentrated, 100% all natural line of hair and skin care products. It has proven to be the most effective yet safest product for my hair, skin type and condition. They are concentrated and economical. I make products out of genuine concern for the welfare of those who use the product. I do it ultimately out of love and if I could give them away I would. I’m not interested in being the biggest or greatest or largest selling product line in the world. I’m happy to sell to a select clientele, region or locality to a select group of customers so that I can continue to give that personal touch, time and attention to the products that I make and to the customers that I serve. I enjoy interacting personally with customers as much as possible. You can’t do that if your primary concern is claiming a greater market. So I’m happy to remain a small personable specialty product maker.
MR: Will the line continue to grow?
Jamia: I am a product minimalist and instead of making new products constantly I choose to enrich and improve on the products that I already make by adding new and better ingredients to my existing products. I do have other products that I will be adding, but they will be few.
MR: How do you ensure the integrity of your brand?
Jamia: I ensure the integrity of our brand by staying up on my research, on new and more effective and potent yet safe ingredients. Adding them to my existing products to keep the line minimal, but highly effective and of the highest quality at a price that does not exploit the customer. Also by endeavoring to give the best possible service to the customer, helping them to understand how to properly use each product and consulting with them when they have individual questions or concerns.
MR: Is there a shelf life for your products?
Jamia: I recommend the products be used within the first year of purchase, when they are most potent. Keeping them potent can be achieved by storing the products in a cool dark place, such as a medicine cabinet or closet, so the sunlight does not absorb the nutrients out of them. We could package them in dark amber glass bottles, but that would greatly increase the cost of the product to the customer.
MR: Do any products require refrigeration?
Jamia: Just the Fruit, Herbs and Flowers Setting Balm and the diluted ACV which are most potent when freshly prepared. I recommend refrigerating them once they have been prepared to ensure they stay fresh for as long as possible, usually 30 days or longer. Everything else is naturally shelf stable and does not need to be refrigerated. We do however, have a new pre-made and preserved version of our setting lotion and spray gel.
MR: Where can individuals purchase your products?
Jamia: The products are sold in all of the beauty supply stores in my local DMV area (Washington, DC, MD, VA). and select salons and stores in other states. The best way to find the entire line is on our website, www.naturaloasisproducts.com.
MR: What has been the general feedback from customers?
Jamia: By far the majority of customers that have given me feedback say they absolutely love the products. If their hair is relaxed they may use them as maintenance products in conjunction with other products they like. Considering I can’t keep the products in stock and that it is one of the most coveted, sought after and protected beauty products sold in the stores in my area, I think that alone speaks volumes about their quality and effectiveness.
MR: What’s the one takeaway you wish to leave your customers?
Jamia: That it is of utmost importance to get to know your hair, to accept your hair whatever texture, length, curl pattern, etc you may have. Love it unconditionally. It’s like anything or anyone that you love. The more you love it the better your relationship with it will be, the better you’ll take care of it and the more it will thrive. But if you don't love it and neglect it, it will not flourish. Eating properly, rest and exercise will also improve the health of the hair.
It’s just as important to utilize proper technique as it is to have great products. Don’t be overly consumed with your hair, how it looks, how defined your curls are or aren’t. Allow it to rest with the use of protective styles, satin lined funky hats or stylish scarves and head wraps. Accentuate yourself with beautiful jewelry and well applied makeup. Don’t let whether your hair is always perfect determine whether or not you can be happy with it or with yourself.
Your hair can be a beautiful accessory, but don’t make it your God.
Thanks to Jamia for taking time to share her passion. Be sure to visit her YouTube channel As a lover of the product line, you will not be disappointed. (The statements made in this article are not meant to cure, prevent or heal any disorders or medical conditions. If you feel you have a medical condition please consult with a qualified medical doctor for diagnosis and/or treatment.)
ItsSimpleMR (Michelle Richardson), author of the contemporary series Experience Life from a Different Perspective, believes there is so much more to people of color than currently depicted in all forms of media. Through written word, speaking engagements, one-on-one or group sessions, Michelle is determined to show a more positive side to our relationships. For more about Michelle, visit her website.