curly hair

Choosing natural beauty takes bravery. In a world where women are tempted by an overwhelming market of products designed to change their appearance in pursuit of perfection, the strength needed to turn down such temptation can be daunting.

We, however, challenge this need to conform with a call for uniqueness. Learning to express ourselves through style and trends, but also saying no to the cookie cutter mold, is a fine line to walk — often leaving us teetering on the edge of conformity. At Darling feel that the women who rise to meet this call for uniqueness deserve our recognition and admiration, which is why we would like to introduce (and applaud) one of the brave women we see forging the path for natural hair.

Brandie Kekoa, founder of Be Kekoa Hair Studio, wants women to celebrate their naturally curly hair by giving them the tools to enhance and embrace individual, natural beauty. Women with naturally curly hair often share the frustration of keeping their curls healthy, manageable, while also stylish. This frustration often leaves women longing for straight, easy hair that doesn’t require the upkeep of their own curls.

Brandie wants to change that.

The hair industry has always been a part of Brandie’s life. Her aunt and grandmother were both hair care professionals, making her a third generation professional herself. She found herself focused on a struggle that she and her clients both experienced: maintaining curly hair in a natural and healthy way.

So here’s the part where curly haired ladies should get really excited: Brandie’s curly hair product line, Be Kekoa, will change the way you maintain your curls. It’s all thanks to a special ingredient called tamanu oil. This oil is full of vitamins A and E, rich in anti-inflammatory omegas 3, 6, and 9, and famously heals, protects, and makes hair healthy and manageable. Her product has undergone several rounds of private testing, with Brandie even personally traveling to French Polynesia in order to bring this product line to life.

Be kekoa

Tamanu oil has become a highly prized raw material, indigenous to tropical Southeast Asia; growing in Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia, South India, Sri Lanka, and the Melanesian and Polynesian islands. The most important part of the Tamanu shrub, for those who are after its hair calming magic, is the nut. The kernel is picked and dried for several months, during which it becomes rich oil. The oil is then cold-pressed, turning it into a green-yellow oil that bears a resemblance to a nutty smelling olive oil. This precious oil is expensive and hard to come by because of the time consuming process of its creation. 100 kilograms of its fruit are needed in order to yield only 5 kilograms of cold pressed oil. This is equivalent to the full yield of the nuts of one tree.

For the Be Kekoa line, it was important to Brandie that those who put in this time consuming work are treated as valued partners in the business. After intentional planning and relationship building, Be Kekoa became the first and only brand to sign a contract for sustainable sourcing and production of Tamanu Oil in French Polynesia. This Fair Trade agreement allows families to thrive economically by compensating them for their knowledge, time, work, and for sharing what they consider a sacred tradition. As a result, Be Kekoa Tamanu Oil is the only Tamanu Oil that is made and sold on the beauty market with the blessing of the people of Huahine.

Be Kekoa became the first and only brand to sign a contract for sustainable sourcing and production of Tamanu Oil in French Polynesia.

Why Fair Trade? As a consumer in today’s market, it can seem almost impossible to buy products that have not been made using varying degrees of slave labor. By buying or establishing a Fair Trade business, brands like Be Kekoa and others have made a statement and decision to put equality and justice at the core of their practice. They set themselves at a standard by which we all should strive to live by.

If you aren’t familiar with Fair Trade, here are a few reasons why it is so important:

1. It can be a matter of life and death for those living in poverty.

International trading rules are complex and fundamentally unfair to many who struggle to keep afloat. These rules result in poverty, desperation and the eventual exploitation of people in developing countries, while others benefit from their suffering. When Brandie decided to establish a Fair Trade agreement with her partners in French Polynesia, she gave them an opportunity to trade their knowledge and skill under fair and ethical conditions, not conditions that lead to only her profit.


2. Fair trade workers have the relief of working in freedom of association, safe working conditions, and sustainable wages.

Fair Trade gives farmers and workers the freedom and relief found in safety. Safety to work without fear of dangerous conditions, wrongful termination or low wages. They are given the chance to live successfully and comfortably as a result of their own work, an opportunity that all hard working citizens of the word deserve. Farmers in French Polynesia that harvest the Tamanu nut into oil are doing so by their own choice, and by using their traditional farming process. They are benefitting economically, but not at the cost of sacrificing their freedom and dignity, unlike many who have been forced into slave labor as a result of international trade contracts.

3. Many fair trade producers are also environmentally aware and use practices that are safe for the world.

When deciding to go Fair Trade, those involved are not only making a choice for themselves, but also for the future inhabitants of a world that rely on us to keep it safe. Because the focus isn’t solely on how to yield profits without thought of cost, producers and workers can take the time to use wholesome ingredients rather than purely cost effective materials filled with chemicals and reliant on quick fixes. Supporting Fair Trade is more than just supporting the farmers and workers, it is also insuring that the precious oil Brandie is extracting from the Tamanu plant will be farmed consciously and ethically.

Choosing natural beauty is a brave choice, just like choosing to live ethically is a brave choice. Be Kekoa has embraced both, making them a brand that inspires and motivates us to do the same. We love hearing these stories and it gives us a sense of comfort and pride as we order and use their products.

curly hair

If you feel frustrated with your curls, or have found yourself wishing for straight hair, you are not alone. The curly hair movement is here to give you the confidence to enjoy your natural curls, with Brandie as a fearless leader who is helping us to do so. So, we’re joining with her to rise to the challenge, staying true to our natural beauty, and letting our curls run wild and free.

For more information on Be Kekoa, check out Brandie’s shop HERE and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Featured image via Julio De La Torre; Product images provided by Be Kekoa

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