Susan Kinuthia, a.k.a Ess Kay, returned natural in 2011 and has since then been a powerhouse in the Kenyan natural hair circles. She has always been open and consistent with sharing her hair, skin and make up journey, making her posts a highlight for any natural hair group member’s day to date. Her advice has always been easy to understand and follow. I remember ogling at her bright red coiffed hair at the first-ever Kenyan natural meet up at Sierra Restaurant in Yaya Centre, Nairobi. I also recall the painful journey when she had to cut her hair and regain its health after suffering complications brought on by colouring.
Ess started mixing her own butters and oils for her hair and skin. She was one of the first people to embrace the art of understanding ingredients and how they were good or bad for her hair and skin. So it only makes perfect sense that she’s now grown into a well recognised and respected Napprenuers who is running her own natural hair and skincare company, Ruzena Naturals, since August 2015. Ruzena means Rose in Latin, inspired by her late mother’s name. “The brand is a tribute to her. I am because she was,” says Ess.
“I started Ruzena Naturals for the love of natural hair and beauty,” she explains. It was an idea in her mind since she returned natural but at the time she didn’t think it would be a viable business because most Naturalistas at the time were whipping up their own products. However, it wasn’t until she started making remedies to manage her son’s eczema that she started to toy with the idea of creating a skincare product line.
Like most Napprenuers, Ess’ initial factory was her very own home. However, in 2016 she considered finding a company to help with production but didn’t go through with it. “Let me just say I have major trust issues when it comes to production mainly because I’m a perfectionist. I can’t let production out of my sight and even after training a few people, I end up micro managing them to a fault,” she enlightens.
Ruzena Naturals is anchored on two core values: Customer satisfaction and product quality consistency. “We listen to our customers needs, we ask them what they want and we address that need in the best way possible. We also make sure that our quality remains consistent. The shampoo bar you bought last year is the very same one you’ll buy this year; and if not, it can only be better but we don’t compromise on quality. My worst fear is if a customer asked why a product has changed,” she says.
Sheconfirms that she’s in charge of the product from beginning to end, “I do my own formulations and recipes from scratch and that is exactly what I enjoy most about this business because I’m in my element. I have a creative mind and production is where the magic happens, it’s literally the business and without handling my own production I’d probably close the business out of sheer boredom. I enjoy it too much and I do it with love.”
Her creativity stems from being a graphic designer by profession. While her marketing and sales prowess was honed while working in an Outdoor advertising company as a Corporate Branding expert for 9 years. Alongside running Ruzena she also owns and manages BrandVenus Ltd, a branding, graphic design and signage company.
To add to her inexhaustible talents, Ess is one of the original administrators of Kurlly Diaries (KD), a Facebook group that was set up in June 2013 and is currently has a membership of just over 2,000. The group has remained well managed with daily structured posts and challenges set out by the Admin team. Members are respectful of one another and many have created deep friendships from being members. KD is also known for throwing down one of the must attend Naturalista events of the year.
Currently, Ruzena is marketing a starter pack that promises to be an affordable and easy way for anyone to start one’s natural hair journey. The three products in the starter pack ensures that one washes, treats, oils, seals and styles their hair while nourishing it. Ess shares a breakdown of the ingredients in the products and their benefits:
The ACV Moringa Shampoo bar washes hair without stripping it and the lather is so soft that you can detangle hair with it. It is made with Apple Cider Vinegar (it balances the PH of the hair and flattens the cuticle making the hair less prone to tangling and breaking. It prevents dandruff, itchiness and removed product build-up). It also has fresh Moringa powder (Moringa Oleifera is also called the ‘tree of life’. Moringa contains 46 antioxidants and 90 nutrients among those being methionine, which provides sulphur that prevents hair loss, dandruff and promotes hair growth. We would need a whole book to expound on the benefits of Moringa for hair.
It also has Bentonite Clay, a naturally occurring clay. It works as a magnet, which draws metals and toxins out of the hair because it contains a strong negative electromagnetic charge making it perfect for clarifying & cleansing. Its minerals also nourish and conditions hair leaving it so soft and curly. It is hands down one of Ess’ favourite formulation as it contains a clever selection of oils and butters with every ingredient counting for something.
Black Castor Oil is a tried and tested hair growth stimulator that also thickens and softens natural hair to make it easily manageable. It’s a humectant meaning it draws moisture to itself making it an invaluable sealant. It can be used daily on both the scalp and strands and also for hot oil treatment by warming it in a bowl of hot water, apply it on clean hair and rinse it off with warm water after an hour or so. “It’s the ultimate oil for natural hair,” says Ess.
The Ruzena Hair Butter is a fine blend of unrefined Shea butter, cocoa butter, cold pressed oils and essential oils. Both cocoa butter and Shea butter have very similar properties being natural emollients rich in vitamins that nourish conditions and gives sheen to dull lifeless hair. It is best used on the hair, not the scalp. “Our butter is solid and very dense because we prefer to just mix it rather than whip it since it melts so easily anyway by just rubbing on your hands and it definitely lasts longer,” she explains.
In regards to plans for Ruzena in 2017, Ess indicates that there are four products lined up for launch, one of them being a Co-wash and detangling conditioner. She also plans to have a full range of both skin and natural hair over the next few years with soap remaining their core products. “We absolutely can’t wait! We will share details as we move along,” Ess says excitedly.
It is great to see someone who has been dedicated to the Kenyan natural hair industry, from day one, grow exponentially along with it. Her plans to provide Naturalistas with quality and affordable products for their hair and skin are commendable. We’ll keep watching Ess, Ruzena and anything else that she sets out to take up.
You can reach Ruzena on +254 725 878 338 or visit them at G90b, Ground Floor, Jamia Mall. Also follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
Images courtesy of Susan