After a six-hour flight from New York to Colorado in 2016, Maeva Heim opened her suitcase only to be greeted by an exploded kit of hair relaxer leaking all over her stuff. Heim, a beauty marketing professional, was visiting the United States from Australia, which she calls home. Far up in the Colorado mountains, there was nowhere for Heim to replace her ruptured relaxer. In that moment, she decided to give up chemically altering her hair after 20 years — for good.
"I grew up only ever using products designed for straight hair," Heim tells me over the phone. "So when I set out to find products designed for my textured hair, I was shocked." Walking through the multi-cultural aisle to shop for natural hair care was daunting for Heim, who wanted to look past the endless varieties of sprays, gels, and mousses for essential items to care for her 4C strands in their natural state. "I felt like I was in a time machine back to 1995," she says. "That frustration sparked the idea for a contemporary, simplified brand that meets mine and many others' needs."
Heim's eureka moment made her pay more careful attention to her work in the marketing space. Her growing frustration with brands and their lack of authentic connection to Black women became the inspiration for BREAD, a collection of natural hair essentials set to disrupt the hair-care aisle in a big way. "I was fed up with the hair market, so I quit my job and set out to create a brand that would serve us how other brands weren't," she explains. "At the time, I had no idea what that would be, but my mission was to create a better product and brand experience for women like me."
From the start, Heim began to form a "wishlist" for the future of BREAD. At the very top of that list was the goal of seeing her brand on shelves at Sephora. "I wanted the woman who was shopping for her makeup and skin care at Sephora to have an option in hair that she could relate to, which truly services her," she says. Heim was accepted to the 2017 Sephora Accelerate program, a six-month process that provides mentorship, grants, and other funding to small business founders.
Changing the narrative around Black hair was also high up on Heim's list of priorities for BREAD. "Growing up in Australia, 'beachy and effortless' is the beauty ideal," she says. "It certainly not the mold that I, or any other Black women I know, fit into." BREAD's messaging goes against the idea that Black hair is challenging, difficult, or needs to be controlled. Instead, the brand embraces normalizing whatever a Black woman chooses to do with her hair. "I'd like to change that narrative, and lean into the idea that 'lazy girl' can be for Black women too," Heim says. "I want bushy afros, frizzy puffs, and whatever casual styling she wants to do for her hair to be normalized as aspirational."
Part of reshaping the Black-hair dialogue with BREAD is paring natural hair care down to the basics. To achieve this, BREAD — the name of which was inspired by the simplicity and versatility of everyone's favorite starchy staple — is launching at Sephora with four essential products: shampoo, a hair mask, hair oil, and a large scrunchie fittingly called the "BREAD Puff," all to edit down your wash day.
The BREAD Gentle Milky Cleanser is "like skin care for your scalp," Heim says. The cream cleanser is where sulfate-free shampoo meets co-wash, designed to gently rid your scalp and strands of product buildup without leaving your curls feeling dry or wiry thanks to argan oil, aloe vera juice, and lemon tea tree oil. The best part? After massaging it in for a few minutes, your bathroom will have the faint, delicious aroma of Fruit Loops milk that'll take you back to Sunday morning cartoons.
Inside of the BREAD Creamy Deep Conditioner packet is Australian beauty standout Kakadu plum, which contains collagen and elastin to keep curls plump, plus starflower oil to help strengthen hair and prevent excessive shedding. I left the formula on my curls for about 15 minutes in the shower and was impressed with the thorough slip, which left my hair defined and detangled.
More impressive still are the hefty pouches each product is packaged in, for sustainability and usability purposes. "I wanted to provide our product in a large format to best suit our needs, so we went with spout pouches as our hero form," Heim explains. "It also meant that we would be using about 60 to 70% less plastic than a standard plastic bottle, which is a huge win."
The Everyday Gloss, the sole styling product in the BREAD lineup, might just be my favorite part of the collection: In a sleek glass bottle with a mauve-pink top comes a hydrating oil for all hair textures. Comparable to lip gloss, but for your hair, the Everyday Gloss leaves the driest of curls (like mine) with a soft sheen that isn't heavy or greasy. The rectangular bottle is also a chic addition to any top-shelf set-up in your bedroom or bathroom.
While Heim's dream for BREAD is a "bakery" full of dope products, her mission is a consistent recipe of empowering women to do whatever they want, however they want, with their hair. "Ultimately, I'd like for Black women, or any woman with textured hair, to walk into the boardroom wearing Bantu knots, a large Afro, or whatever style she wants, and for not a single person to bat an eye," she says. "That's the new normal that I want BREAD to be a part of shaping."
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