When Selma Idris’ infant son, Adam, developed a case of cradle cap, she went in search of the best product to soothe her baby’s scratchy, flaky scalp.
As a new mom, Idris did her research and bought the best-reviewed, most-expensive product she could find. While it cleared up the cradle cap, the flake-free results came with a rather unfortunate side effect: The harsh product destroyed Adam’s hair.
“It wasn’t made for his kind of hair,” Idris said in an interview with TakePart. “It was very stripping. It dried it. His hair was wiry. People asked me what happened to his hair. I felt terrible about it.” The mishap drew Idris’ attention to a hole in the baby care market for children of color, inspiring the New York mom to start developing her own line of hair and skin products created for children like her son.
Four years later, Idris is ready to share the line, called the Brown Crayon Project, with other parents. Last month, she launched a Kickstarter campaign, seeking $25,000 in funding to get her products into the hands of customers. The six-product line of moisturizers, bath soaps, and body oil is meant to meet all the needs of children who have “hair with character and skin with soul.”
“It’s a sincere mission,” Idris said, noting that the products have “only the good stuff” in them. Creating body products has long been a part of Idris’ Northeast African culture (she is originally from Sudan). But for this endeavor, she collaborated with a chemist to ensure the products contained solely safe and high-quality ingredients. That means no parabens, sulfates, artificial colors, or artificial fragrances. They also boast organic and vegan certifications—a rarity in body care products for children of color.
According to Idris, other than her line, there is not a single brand of certified organic skin and hair products designed for babies of color. “There’s a few that have chemicals, there’s a few that say they’re natural, and there are none that are certified,” she explained.
(Photo: Courtesy Brown Crayon Project)
While the Brown Crayon products can be used on all children, they work best on children of color, according to Idris. The typical drugstore shampoo made for a white consumer removes natural oils while cleansing, preventing a greasy or wet appearance. But Afro-textured hair naturally contains less moisture. Using a cleanser made for a different hair type could strip the hair of the natural oils it thrives on and make it more susceptible to breaking.
To that end, Idris’ products are designed to enhance kinkier textures. Take the Wake-Up Hair Mist, which she compares to bedhead-type styling gels.
“When you’re wearing your hair natural and you have the ’fro or your hair’s curly, you’re not going to wake up and put your comb in dry hair,” Idris explained. “This spray gives life back to the hair [and allows you] to be able to reshape it with your fingers.” She uses it daily on her two boys, who both sport what she calls “glorious, huge Afros.”
Other products, like the head-to-toe Sunday Oil, hark back to Idris’ upbringing. “For me, growing up—and I know for a lot of children of color—Sunday night was the big wash your hair, braid your hair, press it, whatever it is that you are getting ready for the week,” she said. “It’s that boost on Sunday that you might do after a long bath.”
Idris plans to send the Brown Crayon Project line to her backers sometime this summer. In the meantime, she’s working on additional products, such as sun protection lotions and skin products for use during harsh, dry winters.
“There’s other needs that I’d like to address,” she said. “The conversation about health is more than a bath and making your hair look great for school on Monday.”