While there may be many natural hair care products on the market today, a decade ago that was far from the case. Ali Syed, Ph.D., founder and head chemist of As I Am, realized this after he had founded hair care brand Avalon. Women with natural and coily hair textures would often approach him asking what products from the brand would be best for them, and while he had items he could recommend, he knew there needed to be more—which is precisely why he decided to establish As I Am.
"The brand was started in 2010 when the natural hair movement was in its early stages of introduction and growth," explains Syed. Embracing, styling, celebrating, and caring for one's natural hair texture—instead of hiding it—was gaining traction, as was the demand for products with good-for-you ingredients that worked effectively and efficiently.
As I Am
Founded: In 2010 by Ali Syed, Ph.D.
Based In: Melrose Park, Illinois
Best Known For: Scientifically-developed products for curly, natural, and coily hair.
Most Popular Products: Classic Coconut CoWash, Classic Curling Jelly, and Classic Leave-In Conditioner
Fun Fact: The brand is self-funded and owned and manufactures all of its own products at its headquarters.
Other Brands You'll Love: Mielle Organics, SheaMoisture, and Carol's Daughter
"We developed an entire system for treating naturally curly hair based on four subsystems—cleansing, conditioning, styling, and maintenance—rather than just developing one first product," says Syed. The line took over a dozen hair care chemists, hair stylists, a barrage of testers, and hundreds of hours to perfectly craft. It launched officially in 2011 with eleven carefully curated products—and the rest, as they say, is history.
Ahead, we dive into our favorite As I Am products.
Classic Coconut CoWash
Syed refers to the brand's most well-known product, launched in 2011, as "a gentle cleanser that carefully removes any build-up and residue while conditioning the hair."
This co-wash was the first thing I had the opportunity to try from the brand way back when it came out. I've always been super active, so I need to wash my hair more often than the average curly-haired person. But excessive washing left my strands feeling super dry. Enter the Classic Coconut CoWash.
It's perfect for those in-between days when you don't need a full wash, but you want to wash the sweat out of your scalp without excessive drying. And unlike just using your conditioner as a co-wash (something I've done), this one actually gets your scalp clean. It's a godsend.
Classic Curling Jelly
Wash-and-go folks know the benefits of a good gel. We need it to not flake, look shiny, and provide that perfect curl cast that gives you frizz-free strands.
And this one delivers on all three of those promises. I like to apply it after the shower while my hair is still dripping wet (I technically apply it in the shower for less mess in the bathroom). Then, I go in with my Denman brush to create ringlet curls, gently squeeze out any excess water, and diffuse until dry. After, I'm left with soft, bouncy curls that look hydrated and smooth. Iconic, truly.
Classic Leave-In Conditioner
This leave-in conditioner contains natural ingredients (like coconut, beet, and apple powders and extracts) that claim to promote hair growth and strengthen strands with every use.
I love to use it when I'm on my third or fourth day of my wash-and-go and my curls are looking a little dull and lifeless. I mix it with water and gently rake it through my hair. It's also great to use before the Curling Jelly if you have really dry hair and need that extra hydration.
Dry & Itchy Scalp Care Co-Wash
If you're managing a dry, sensitive, or itchy scalp, this co-wash treatment is for you. Its hero ingredient—zinc pyrithione—works to eliminate any and all traces of bacteria and yeast, leaving your scalp free of flakes, itchiness, and irritation. Also nice: Its infusion of olive and tea tree oil help soothe the scalp in the process.
This is my go-to when I've made the mistake of going a few days too long in between washes and my scalp is crying out for help—and help it gives. It has that awesome cooling/tingling feeling on the scalp and really leaves your hair feeling soft and shiny. Worth noting: My boyfriend is also a fan.
Classic DoubleButter Cream
If you have really thick, coarse hair and need a moisturizing product with a lot of good-for-your-hair ingredients, this is the one to go for. It's the perfect product for twist-outs and braids-outs when you need definition without the frizz.
I like to use it in place of gel sometimes if I want a sleek bun without flakiness, or during the winter when my hair is extra dry. It's made with castor, jojoba, and wheat germ oils, as well as cocoa and shea butter for a super creamy texture.
Note: A little goes a long way with this one. I know we curlies love to slather on the product, but this is one situation in which less is more, as it can build up really quickly.
Dry & Itchy Scalp Care Oil Treatment
Sometimes scalp care needs to go a bit beyond just washing your hair, which is precisely why this oil treatment was created. It uses a mixture of tea tree and olive oil, along with a whole bunch of other ingredients to nourish and add extra moisture to your dry, irritated scalp. It'll help relieve some of the itching, flaking, and irritation that comes with dandruff and other scalp conditions. Not to mention it works great in conjunction with the other products in the Dry & Itchy Scalp Care range.
Jamaican Black Castor Oil Water
This product is among the most interesting to me. It's designed to be used as a replacement for your shower water, which, according to the brand, can sometimes contain harsh chemicals and minerals that make it difficult for conditioners to penetrate your hair fibers.
"We use submicron technology in our Jamaican Black Castor Oil Water to help particularize the Jamaican black castor oil water (JBCO) so it can become sprayable," explains Syed. "Since JBCO typically separates in the presence of water, our technological achievement on this product allows consumers to really get the most out of it."
I've used it to wet my hair before getting in the shower and also to refresh my dry, three- or four-day-old hair. You can even use it on your skin and face—it's super handy during the dry winter months.
Dry & Itchy Scalp Care Shampoo
If you need something with a little more cleaning power than a cleansing conditioner, this shampoo is for you. The best thing about it is, unlike commercial shampoo brands that are dedicated to eliminating dandruff (but leave your hair dry and feeling like straw), this option is actually pretty hydrating.
"Our Dry & Itchy Scalp Care Shampoo eliminates dandruff but is also very conditioning at the same time, which is not common for dandruff shampoos," says Syed. It uses zinc pyrithione to fight dry, itchy scalp and the conditions that cause it (like dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis).
It feels amazing on the scalp, too. It's the perfect shampoo to use when my scalp is feeling a bit grimy after too many workouts. It's important that you're really working it into your scalp, so don't be afraid to bust out the scalp massager or really get in there with your fingers.
Dry & Itchy Scalp Care Conditioner
And last, but certainly not least, is the Dry & Itchy Scalp conditioner. It's the perfect complement to the shampoo and will make your hair and scalp feel like a million bucks. It not only helps eliminate dandruff, but will also moisturize, promote shine, strengthen, and repair hair with each use.
It's recommended to use at least twice a week, or as often as recommended by your doctor. Like the shampoo, you really want to focus your efforts on your scalp when you apply it. I like to give myself a really nice scalp massage and let it sit there for a few minutes before rinsing.
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