When former fashion stylist Israel Segal and his partner adopted newborn twins eight years ago, in addition to figuring out the basics of childcare (times two), there was another challenge: "Our children are African-American—we are not—and I quickly realized that their hair needs are different from ours." He started looking for gentle, moisturizing products, and you probably know where this is going: Unhappy with the available options, Segal set about creating his own. This year he launched Free Your Mane , a line of six superhydrating hair products.
There are a bajillion—give or take a few—hair products out there. You really couldn't find anything that worked?
My aha moment came at Target. I stood in front of shelves and shelves of hair products, with a tiny "ethnic" section that had the same stuff I remembered seeing when I was a kid. Next thing I knew, I was calling a cosmetic chemist to ask him if he could make hair products that offered extreme hydration, so my own kids could wear their hair down and embrace their natural texture. But—and this is key—I didn't want any potentially harmful or harsh ingredients: parabens, phthalates, sulfates, mineral oil, or petrolatum.
What's the secret? How were you able to make a product that's gentle and effective?
I was very demanding—and very patient. I spent more than three years experimenting with formulas that could offer the best of nature and the best of chemistry. All my products contain a cocktail of moisturizing natural oils—baobab, argan, sweet almond, and pomegranate seed. But I also wanted to take advantage of the smoothing power of silicones, which have come a long way in recent years. The newest ones manage frizz without leaving a sticky film on your hair.
Do your kids appreciate their dad's efforts?
My daughter definitely likes her hair texture better; we're doing many fewer ponytails. My son's main hairstyling criteria are "quick" and "painless," so he loves how the daily conditioner has improved the detangling process.