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Mission Driven: Jazmin Alvarez of Pretty Well Beauty Talks Going Natural and Making Clean Beauty More Inclusive

September 15, 2021

5 Min read

In our Mission Driven series we explore how we shape our hair and how our hair shapes us, through the words of leaders shaking up the status quo. 

Here we chat with Jazmin Alvarez, founder and chief curator of Pretty Well Beauty, on how her heritage inspired her business and how going natural completely changed her life.

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Homemade haircuts 

I never washed my own hair until I was 15 years-old. Every Saturday, I would go to my mom’s salon to get it done. She had this beautiful long, wavy, silky hair that went all the way down her back to her waist. I was obsessed with it—I loved brushing it. One day I came home and she had chopped it all off and I remember crying. I was so devastated! 

She always taught me, though, that as long as your hair is healthy, it’s going to look amazing—no matter what style, what length, anything. That’s always stuck with me. 

Making ‘clean’ more inclusive

Using ingredients from Mother Nature for personal care, beauty, and wellbeing is very much part of my cultural identity, as a Latina and Black woman, and it’s rooted in the cultural identities of many people of color. As a consumer, I became frustrated that I couldn’t find a one-stop shop for clean beauty and wellness that aligned with my standards and values—and also provided a warm experience. To me, the majority of these stores felt exclusive and exclusionary, and that really rubbed me the wrong way. In 2019, I launched Pretty Well Beauty because I wanted to democratize the clean space and offer a different point of view—one that was authentic, diverse, and accessible.

Growing pains of going natural 

I’ve been wearing my hair natural for about three years now. Before that, I’d been chemically straightening it since I was 13. At the time, I was interested in modeling and my mom thought that it would make my hair more manageable.

I decided to grow it out because I was really curious about the texture. I’d been straightening it for so long, I had no idea what my natural hair was. The process was interesting, frustrating, exciting…and scary. I really struggled with having two different hair textures—especially when it came to detangling. Surprisingly, the straight parts were the hardest for me to comb. The curly parts were really easy. I watched a lot of YouTube videos, spending hours just trying to find girls with hair that looked like mine, seeing what they were doing with their hair, what they were putting in their hair. But my hair just didn’t look good—the only thing I could do was wear it in a bun.

It took me about a year before I finally cut off all of the dead, straight, damaged hair. I remember I was FaceTiming my best friend who was living in Bangkok at the time. I was like— ‘I’m just gonna do it!’—and I went into the bathroom and took scissors to my hair, wetting it first so I could see where the curls ended and where the straight parts started. I felt so free afterwards. When I got in the shower. I put my head underneath the water to wash it, and for the very first time, I didn’t feel hair down my back.

Once I cut it, it was totally uneven. So, I kept wearing it in a bun or a towel for about six months. When I had enough growth, I went to a hair salon that specializes in curly hair. They gave me a trim and it was actually my first time getting my hair done professionally by someone other than my mom. And it was my first time getting my hair done as a curly-haired person.

I fell in love with my hair after that, finally seeing what it actually looked like and what it could be. I saw the potential of it. I decided, okay, I’m going to nurture it and take the best possible care of it. My hair started to flourish and grow so fast—eight inches in six months!

Embracing your roots

My hair ranges from a 3A in the back to 3B in the front and 3C at the crown, which is great because it gives me a bit of volume. I only do my hair once a week—it’s my Sunday ritual. Everyone knows that Sunday is my hair day. None of my friends even bother asking to make plans, because they just already know. Typically, I start the routine on Saturday evening. I apply a scalp mask and give myself a little massage. Then, I apply this creamy, Ayurvedic pre-cleanse treatment. 

The next day, Sunday, I wash my hair, detangle, and apply a deep-conditioning mask. I leave that on my hair for 30 or 45 minutes, using a heated, hooded cap to help the formula penetrate.  After I rinse that out, I apply a leave-in conditioner, styling cream, and an oil and let it air-dry. It takes around ten hours to dry if I’m just in my apartment, but in the summer when I’m outside it’ll only take a couple of hours.

My only regret is that I didn’t go natural sooner. I love my hair! I wish that I had never chemically straightened it, to be honest. Before, when I wore my hair straight, if it started to rain or if it was humid outside I would just run away from it. Those aren’t things that I have to worry about anymore—curly hair loves moisture. It just makes it better. If I ever do have a ‘bad hair day’, I can just spray some water on it and run my fingers through it and it’s good. Now, my hair is something that I never have to stress about—I’m not beholden to it, and that’s so liberating.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maura Lynch is Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and content strategist. She previously served as the beauty & lifestyle director for Women’s Health, and her work has appeared in Allure, ELLE, Marie Claire, Well + Good, and other leading lifestyle publications.

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