As a Black woman, I enjoy experimenting with my hair. Over the past few years, I've done faux locs, Bantu knots, cornrows, and box braids. For my birthday this year, I wanted a bold look and decided to go for '90s-inspired box braids with a bob. Excited to execute this properly, I pulled photos of Tessa Thompson, Zoë Kravitz, and a few others.
My braider spent five-and-a-half hours installing my new birthday look, and it turned out exactly how I envisioned it, if not better. The braids hung just below my shoulders and were A-lined with layers. Dressed in straight leg jeans, heels, and sleek black sunglasses, I had one glorious day of sporting the look. Unfortunately, the next morning I woke up scratching my neck so vigorously that it formed a textured, bumpy flare-up. The rash was layered from the front of my neck to the back, stung, and was as dry as sandpaper by the evening.
Desperate to know what was happening, I consulted my braider and the Internet to figure out what I was allergic to. My hair lady thought it was the gel we used, while braid wearers online said it could be a combination of the gel and the synthetic hair. Many recommended apple cider soaks and dipping braids in boiling water. Unfortunately, none of this worked, and my $250 box braids had to come out within 48 hours of installing them.
Sadly, my story is not unique. In fact, many women react poorly to synthetic hair. That was the case for Ciara May, founder of Rebundle, a new plant-based hair extensions company. Her solution to irritating scalps was to create an alternative to avoid the issue altogether. “I was wearing braids back-to-back, and my scalp was inflamed. I didn’t feel like I had any other options, and I didn’t like that feeling,” May tells Byrdie.
Synthetic hair is made using an acrylic fiber with an alkaline coating that can rub against the scalp and skin and cause irritation. With plant-based hair, made entirely of natural materials, alkaline coating becomes a thing of the past. Rebundle focuses on the environment; all bundles are biodegradable and can be disposed of the same way you handle food compost.
The vision for Rebundle is simple: provide the Black community an alternative. “We deserve to have ownership and control over a product that we primarily use, but have very little ownership of,” May adds while referencing the trillion-dollar haircare industry in which Black people own four percent. May hopes to be the brand that encapsulates braid extensions' beauty and what they mean to Black culture.
Rebundle was slated to launch in December 2020, but due to the year's gravity, they will now launch during the first few weeks of January 2021.