17-year-old launches Afro beauty range after learning hair skills as young carer

A savvy 17-year-old has launched an all-natural range of Afro beauty products – after learning how to do her own hair when her mum was injured in accident.

Now the teenager is up for a National Diversity Award and wants to spread the word about her organic hair butters and raise awareness about young carers.

Lucia became a young carer at 11-years-old. She had just started secondary school and her mum broke her back in a serious car accident, leaving Lucia as the main carer for her mother and young brother.

As well as taking on the house work and cooking, Lucia also had to learn how to care for her and her brother’s long Afro hair, she had no experience, but she quickly picked up the skills – and that blossomed into the beginnings of her business.

‘The hardest part was seeing my mum go from being such an active part of her community to being immobilised and pretty isolated,’ Lucia tells Metro.co.uk.

‘I think from that, as cheesy as it sounds, what I have learnt is that life is too short and to take every opportunity you can to be successful.

‘For so long I didn’t feel like I was doing anything but in hindsight I see that I do have such a different experience to my peers, which is why I feel strongly that there needs to be more awareness, so that young carers know they are special and get the support they deserve.’

Lucia started her business – Lucia Loves… – when she was 14. Now she has products in local shops in north London and has big dreams to expand before she finishes college.

‘My mum always took care of my hair. When she got injured, I had to learn to look after it myself literally overnight,’ explains Lucia.

‘I used to mix different products together to see what would work. I remember putting Cantu with oil and some shea moisture in the food blender, then putting it in a spray bottle. I found it fun, but my mum was not impressed.

‘She bought me some raw ingredients like shea butter and cocoa butter, and I taught myself how to make these into a hair butter (while making a lot of mess), when clearing up, I realised that the hair butter made my skin feel nice too. I named it Melting Joy.

‘I then got the opportunity to sell products in a shop and my mum encouraged me to start my business doing what I was already doing with my products, she taught me about the importance of group economics and I now buy my ingredients and use stockists from other black-owned businesses as much as possible.’

For black and mixed-race women, hair is historically political. Western beauty standards make it incredibly difficult to embrace and celebrate natural Afro hair, and that is something that can be hard to unlearn.

‘To be honest, I have always wished my hair was softer and easier to manage because I found it annoying,’ says Lucia.

‘People always said to me I would look so much better if I straightened my hair but recently, especially since starting my business, I have seen so much positivity around natural Afro hair, which is good.

‘I feel actually proud of my hair. When I see people with Afros I get excited and I really appreciate how much time and effort hair care takes.

‘My hair has lots of different curl patterns in it. The texture of my hair has changed so it’s always a learning process.

‘Of course, there is so much stigma around our hair type in society still. People think it’s unprofessional, I have been told my hair is a distraction and messy, when often that is not the case.

‘When we embrace our natural hair, we can be a part of reducing the stigma and by extension help alleviate the discrimination black and mixed women often face.’

Lucia is mixed-race and has struggled with discrimination and negative perceptions during her education – a lot of that stemmed from prejudice about her hair.

‘When I was in nursery, I remember girls saying I couldn’t play with them because I had to choose if I was black or white and I wasn’t either,’ says Lucia.

‘My mum remembers me asking her, at like three years old, why I didn’t have hair like hers – she showed me Alicia Keys and taught me that my hair was amazing.

‘All through school, teachers and my peers always made comments about my hair, they said it got in the way of the board, when I had corn rows they told me I looked like a boy, when I wore it out they said my hair was distracting. In both primary and secondary school, I was bullied.

‘I loved school and I enjoy learning, but I found it difficult to fit in.’

But this sense of alienation pushed Lucia to throw herself into her business – and she’s come a long way since she started out.

‘My whole range is natural and 100% certified organic. All of my packaging is environmentally sustainable and I encourage customers to return the jars and tins to be reused,’ says Lucia.

‘My products are all tested on myself and my family, never animals! None of my products or their ingredients are tested on animals as I have been a vegetarian all of my life.

‘I do not use water or preservatives either. They are made by someone who actually has experience with natural, Afro hair. Also, my business is just a regular person, facing regular challenges. For example, I have only just been able to start my re-branding now I am in college, so I have gained access to the computers and software that I need, as I couldn’t afford it myself.

‘Look out for my re-branded product labels on my social media in the next few months.

‘I hope to expand the Lucia Loves… brand into more than just hair products.

‘I want to make it about connecting with different communities who face challenges, for example I have started writing a book aimed at young people about what it means to be a young carer. “Being a Young Carer is…..”.

‘I am holding an event on 13th July called “Love Your Hair” aimed at parents with children who have Afro or curly hair, it’s about empowering children to embrace their curls and teaching parents and carers how to manage the curls naturally.

‘I love animation, I hope to study it at university and for this to be my career path. I hope to use animation as a medium to further connect with marginalised communities through positive representation.’

The National Diversity Awards receives over 25,000 nominations and votes annually, and Lucia is up for an award in her age category. You can vote for Lucia until the 31st May, when the voting closes.

‘My advice for young entrepreneurs? Just don’t let anyone or anything stop you,’ says Lucia.

‘Look at the people who inspire you in your life and use what has made them successful to your own benefit. Even if it’s something as seemingly small as doing commissions on the side to do something you like – when people pay you for you services that’s the first step in being a successful business owner.

‘The world is your oyster – as clichéd as that is.

‘People who have inspired me are my mum, who has shown me how to be brave, and also a woman called Shakayra who started the Mixed Girl Meet Up – which is a fantastic organisation for mixed-race women to meet and talk and connect. It is so refreshing to be around other inspiring women and I have learnt so much about life and the world around me!’

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