BEAUTY HONESTLY

“My life experiences are in this bottle of conditioner”

Loretta De Feo in Liberty London's Women of Liberty Campaign. Photo: Mary McCartney for Liberty London

Loretta De Feo has disrupted the haircare industry with the launch of her multicultural brand Dizziak. Tobi Oredein talks to the beauty entrepreneur about underrepresentation, going it alone and creating the winning formula

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By Tobi Oredein on

“I got tired of waiting for someone else to create this brand, so I did it,” smiles Loretta De Feo, founder of Dizziak – a new multicultural haircare range for all hair types, but with the primary aim to fulfil the needs of those with afro-textured hair. Launched last month, Dizziak’s debut product is a deep, shine-boosting conditioner. Free of parabens, sulfates, silicone and mineral oils, the conditioner is music to the ears of many black women who, for too long, have had to rely on hard-to-find hair products that are often filled with chemicals that do more damage than good.

Like many women of black heritage, Loretta’s hair history is an emotional one. Frustration was the primary emotion when she was growing up, brought on by living in a tiny town in Essex and constantly watching hair adverts featuring women who didn’t look like her.

“I wanted hair like my friends. I wanted straight hair and I think I somewhat resented my big hair. I remember watching loads of adverts like Pantene and Frizz Ease and I thought [the latter] would change my hair to be [straight] like everyone else’s,” she laughs.

“I hated spending all day Sunday getting my hair braided by my mum and driving to London to buy suitable hair products. So, when I was 14, my mum let me relax my hair and I absolutely loved it.”

During her teens and twenties, Loretta admits that she didn’t give her hair the love and attention it deserved, because she struggled to find products that worked for afro hair. Like many other black women, Loretta resorted to buying products from across the pond.

“When I was working as a beauty contributor for a magazine, I would be sent loads of products to try and I would be asked to recommend good shampoos, styling creams and conditioners, but I genuinely struggled. The only products I could recommend were the ones I would import from America, so I just thought I am going to make my own [haircare line] and that was four years ago.”

The conditioner is music to the ears of many black women who, for too long, have had to rely on hard-to-find hair products that are often filled with chemicals that do more damage than good

Loretta spent every spare hour she had outside of work researching what would make the perfect deep conditioner. So, when she was made redundant from her day job in the music industry in November 2016, she kicked things up a gear. She devoted all her time and money to one mission: creating the perfect deep conditioner. After working with a UK-based cosmetic scientist, she finally found her winning formula.

“Dizziak is the deepest conditioning, moisture hydration hit you will get, but [it is] still lightweight and it smells great,” explains Loretta. She tried and tested the product on a group of 30 people with varying hair types, from those with thin, straight hair to those with thick, afro curls, and it was when she got positive feedback from every participant that she knew that she had the right formula.

But, for Loretta, creating Dizziak isn’t just about the product – it is also about changing the beauty-shopping experience for black women. For so long, the black-haircare market has been dominated by South Asian businessmen, who make up the majority of owners of afro-hair shops within the UK. The lack of ownership by black women in the black-hair industry was a source of dissatisfaction for Loretta, and something she wanted to change: “When I remember all the times we would drive up to London to get our hair products and the stores we had to go in to get them, it was a process that just frustrated me. These hair shops were run by men who claimed to know more about our hair than black women.”

Add to this the fact that haircare products for afro hair have not traditionally been represented in mainstream shopping destinations, and it’s hardly surprising that Loretta beams with pride when she explains how important it was to get Dizziak stocked on Cult Beauty, one of the UK’s biggest online-beauty retailers and in prestigious department shop Liberty London.

There is no denying that the black-haircare market is going through a transformational period. Thanks to the rise of natural-hair bloggers and YouTubers, more and more black women are turning their backs on chemical relaxers and using their money to buy products that will help them look after their natural hair textures. And the big beauty players are slowly getting on board – brands such as Pantene and L’Oréal are specifically making products targeted towards afro hair, something black women wouldn’t have dreamed of five years ago.

For me, this isn’t a business – it is something I’ve wanted so badly. The beauty industry is finally noticing the needs of those with afro hair

 

But when it comes to Dizziak, it’s personal experience and a deep understanding of the market that Loretta believes will set it apart. “This is my life experience in a conditioner bottle. For me, this isn’t a business – it is something I’ve wanted so badly. The beauty industry is finally noticing the needs of those with afro hair because they see some money in it. It is not hard to know that a lot of black men and women spend money on beauty.

“I also made sure that I tested this product on men – men with different hair textures, as this product is totally democratic. I don’t want to be another black-owned haircare brand that just uses a girl of mixed heritage on the front of the product.”

With Loretta committed to making hair products for those who have long been ignored by the beauty industry, it is unsurprising that, in this chapter of her hair journey, the emotion she feels most towards her hair is empowerment. Is it those empowered feelings that are the fuel behind her mission to shake up the hair industry on her own terms? “I want everyone to stop thinking that you need a big company or loads of money to make changes within the beauty industry.”

Loretta’s commitment to making a change in the beauty world is paying off. Liberty has cited it as one of the bestselling brands of the year so far, A-list hairdressers are requesting the product and it’s even been used on the red carpet. Loretta is also beginning to have conversations with American distributors – which is no small feat for a product that was launched less than a month ago.

Despite already making her mark in the haircare industry on both sides of the Atlantic, Loretta is already working on her second product and has much more in the pipeline: “I want to make every product that I need to have healthy hair because, if I need it, then that means many other black women will need these products, too.”

As someone who has shelves full of half-used hair products, I was eager to see if Dizziak’s deep conditioner lived up to the hype. So, I did what any black woman with afro hair does when trying a new product – I set aside half a morning and went through the steps of pre-pooing (giving my hair an oil and conditioner treatment before shampooing), shampooing, conditioning and finally deep-conditioning with Dizziak. The results? The formula slides on like butter and it left my hair feeling soft and nourished, not to mention my curls looking super defined. So, not only does Dizziak live up to the hype it’s starting to create in the hair industry, but Loretta may be right – it might just be the best deepest-conditioning moisture-hydration hit you can get.

@IamTobiOredein

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Loretta De Feo in Liberty London's Women of Liberty Campaign. Photo: Mary McCartney for Liberty London
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