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What Does a Doctor Have to Say About Natural Hair Products? An Interview with Dr. Susan Walker, ND of Earthtones Naturals

6:32 PM

Earthtones Naturals Review
Earthtones Naturals Products
It's a new season for natural hair.

Long gone are the days where trips to Target, Wal-Mart, and CVS would yield purchases of Garnier Styling Putty, Pantene Conditioner, and a prayer.

Or was it just me?
Earthtones Naturals Review
My "curls" were powered by the residual hope of Obama's 2008 election. 
I experimented with my "natural hair" before I even knew it was a thing. In reality, it was a heat and color damage fiasco loosely held together by drugstore fix-a-flat surfer hair putty, Let's Jam, and Profectiv Healthy Ends (don't tell me I was the only one who used that stuff lmao).

I say all this to say, we're in a new era. Natural hair products have quite literally taken over the hair aisle at major retailers. I beam with pride every time I pass an endcap at Target prominently featuring products made for us, by us.

We've officially glow'd up.

But the crazy part? We're just getting started.

The way I see it, natural hair products come in waves. The first wave we owe to mothers and enterprising naturalistas who wanted better products for themselves and their little ones - products with natural ingredients that worked.

The second wave saw more enterprising young women, along with bloggers and influencers who built their audiences (turned customers) and struck out on their own.

Right now, we're in the third wave. The wave of professionals with science and medicine backgrounds, who are combining their formal training and knowledge with their experiences as women with natural hair.

Earthtones Naturals Review
Susan Walker, ND. She fly too!
Enter: Susan Walker, ND and founder of Earthtones Naturals.

As soon as I learned Dr. Walker's story, I knew I couldn't just write any ol' product review. I wanted to tell her story - to use her knowledge and expertise to expand how we think about natural hair products.

Lean in for a quick Q&A with Dr. Walker - followed by my full review of her Curl Replenish Restorative Hair Mask, Curl Quench Coconut Moisture Milk, and Curl Define Curl Enhancing Gelly!

For those of us that may not be familiar, what does it mean to be a Naturopathic Doctor?
Naturopathic medicine is a system of medicine that has been practiced in North America for over 125 years. It involves a functional medicine approach to healthcare identifying the biochemical and physiological imbalances within the individual, and using natural, scientifically-proven solutions to support the body’s natural ability to heal itself and correct these imbalances. [We] focus not only on the symptoms, but the underlying conditions that cause the symptoms. We focus on healing the whole person through individualized treatment, and teach the principles of healthy living and preventative medicine.

What certifications do you have in this field?
Many Naturopaths specialize in a specific area such as cancer care or women’s health. I’ve chosen to focus on the hair and scalp. As a result, I continued my studies after Naturopathic Medicine to become a Certified Trichologist. 

In Canada there are currently 5 provinces that have regulations for Naturopathic Medicine with Ontario – where I reside – being one of them. For regulated jurisdictions the path to becoming a Naturopathic Doctor is quite extensive. There are seven accredited schools of naturopathic medicine in North America and I attended one of them. Training in naturopathic medicine requires a minimum of seven years of post-secondary education from a recognized school before being allowed to register as a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) in Ontario. [In addition], I chose to study extensively and become educated in [Trichology] through the World Trichology Society to become a Certified Trichologist.

Why did you choose the path of becoming a Naturopathic Doctor? Tell us a little bit of your story.
My mother was a Anesthesiologist...so I sort of always knew I wanted to go into medicine since it’s what I grew up around. I looked at Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy and, through volunteer works in these areas, decided that they weren’t for me. Then someone told me about Naturopathic Medicine and the philosophy intrigued me. I did some extensive research on this system of medicine and after weeks of perusal, decided that this was what I was going to do. I took the required prerequisite courses to apply to the program and the rest is, as they say, history.


Earthtones Naturals Review
Curl Quench is bae.
How did this journey inspire you to create Earthtones Naturals?
Interestingly enough, Earthtones Naturals was the name given by my husband for a mineral makeup line I wanted to create for women of colour. After a ton of research and no development, I put that idea down. A few years later after the birth of my first daughter, I had a moment. I’m adopted and I know absolutely nothing about my birth parents. At that time, my daughter was the only person in the world I knew shared my DNA. Among her other features, I looked at her hair and wondered where it came from. At the same time I was going through my own bout of postpartum hair loss and had to do something. So I promptly decided to do a Big Chop cutting off all of my texturized hair. At that point I was scared because I had no clue about my own hair texture, nor did I know what products to use. After viewing various YouTube videos and spending a ton of money on products that did nothing for my hair, I finally found a product line that worked for me. However, after my hair started growing out and the weather changed, those products didn't work the same anymore. This led me on a journey to create the perfect gel for MY hair. After several months of trial and error, I finally created the perfect product and along with it, products for my daughter’s hair. Thus, Earthtones Naturals was resurrected as a hair care line.

Why are natural and nature-derived ingredients important in hair care?
The skin [including scalp] is the largest organ in the the body and has a massive surface area for the absorption of ingredients. It’s an extremely important organ and it’s crucial in the maintenance of health. It’s a living, breathing organ that reacts to foreign substances, manifests sickness and illness, and has the ability to be affected negatively or positively by what is put onto it. It also absorbs substances, often to the detriment of our health. Because of this, the Environmental Working Group launched Skin Deep in 2004 to create online profiles for cosmetics and personal care products and their potential hazards, health concerns and toxicity in the body. It turns out that many ingredients used in popular personal care products can wreak havoc on our body’s hormonal system, our ability to detoxify and fight certain diseases.

There is so much research indicating the benefits of botanical and essential oils to improving the cosmetic look and feel to the hair and promoting a healthy scalp that there really is no excuse anymore for product formulators to create products that contain a lot of synthetic ingredients. With the proliferation of so many natural hair care product lines coming the market, the challenge for the consumer will be to sift through the claims of “natural” and “organic” and a lot of the marketing hype surrounding specific natural ingredients believed to be beneficial to the hair. Naturalistas will really need to be discerning when it comes to purchasing products and it’s necessarily that product labels are fully understood and deciphered.


Earthtones Naturals Review
The perfect protein/moisture balance.
What are some of the “no no” ingredients you avoid in creating your products and why?
For me I avoid formulating with the typical ingredients that are supposedly “bad” for natural hair - silicones, mineral oil and sodium lauryl sulfate. I use quotation marks for “bad” because if you do some careful research on these ingredients you’ll find that the demonization of them isn’t warranted. For example, mineral oil has been shown to be the BEST ingredient, along with silicone - for sealing in moisture. The primary reason for me not including a lot of synthetic ingredients in my formulations is that they can be found in many natural hair care products on the market, and they don’t really confer any other “nutritious” benefits to the hair or scalp.

Please, don’t be fooled. Many “natural” products on the market are not 100% natural even though they make those claims in their marketing. I absolutely don’t make those claims for my products because it wouldn’t it be true. Hair softening and repairing ingredients such as conditioners, other emulsifiers and surfactants are not natural. They have been chemically modified to have a specific effect on the hair. I have no problem using these types of ingredients in my hair products because without them my products wouldn’t have the effect they do on the hair. However I ensure that I don’t use any cheap, unnecessary ingredients that don’t really have a benefit to the look, feel and overall strength of the hair. I make certain that the bulk of the ingredients I use in my formulations are natural and naturally-derived.

If you had to choose just one, which Earthtones Naturals product is your absolute favorite? Why?
I absolutely love the Curl Define™ Curl Enhancing Gelly. It’s one of the best stylers I’ve ever tried and yes, I know I’m biased. It’s also the FIRST product I formulated. When I first embraced my natural hair in 2010, I - like many naturals - spent my days watching YouTube videos and reading blogs determined to understand what my hair was all about. This caused me to go on a quest not only for the best curl definition I could achieve, but a quest for the perfect styler for my hair. It took me about 10 months of R&D to create the product and then a few more months of testing. Even after I launched the product line I still went back to improve the product based on feedback from clients. The final result of all of this research is the Curl Define™ Curl Enhancing Gelly that is the #1 seller in the product line. I consider it to be the signature product for Earthtones Naturals.


Earthtones Naturals Review
Listen...
Which Earthtones Naturals products are your best sellers?
Curl Define™ Curl Enhancing Gelly, the ULTIMATE styler for coils and kinky hair and Curl Quench™  Hair Butter, the ULTIMATE moisturizer for thick hair, regardless of curl pattern and hair type.

Tell us a bit about the Canadian natural hair scene. What’s it like? Who are some of your favorite Canadian natural hair bloggers/vloggers?
It’s very similar to the U.S. but on a smaller scale. We have more and more women who are embracing their natural textures and craving information and education. There are meetups, workshops and seminars but not near as numerous or as frequent as you all have. One concern that continues to be ongoing is access to effective products. There are boutiques and stores that continue to be diligent in bringing in the latest and greatest; however the cost to import products can be a barrier as shipping charges, brokerage and customs fees can put product prices at a level that many may not be willing to pay. 

As far as Canadian bloggers and vloggers, I really like Jade Janelle. Aside from being super sweet, I love her style. She’s edgy, funky and embraces what I believe wearing your hair natural is all about; freedom. She does whatever she wants with her hair, colours it any hue she feels like, chops it off on an impulse and really uses her curly crown to express who she is. I love that!

Any new products on the horizon for Earthtones Naturals?
Absolutely! I don’t come up with ideas and formulate products without there being a specific need for them. This is one of the reasons the Earthtones Naturals product line doesn’t have 1,000 different products. I believe in simplistic hair care regimens with very few products and I believe in teaching the basics and best practices of natural hair care. I always strive to create products that offer a solution to a problem. So the next set of products that will be created are those specifically for scalp care and various forms of hair loss and thinning.

Any least words for readers?
I just want to thank you Christina for your blog and bringing integrity to the natural hair product space through your reviews and education. This is extremely important. The natural hair movement has inspired many naturals to become kitchen chemists, making their own products for personal use and branching out to become entrepreneurs. I applaud those who have taken that leap to create a legacy. This market is a multi-billion dollar industry and the natural hair movement is highly influenced by bloggers like yourself. You have an important role to play in genuine product evaluation and ensuring women are informed about hair products before they spend their hard-earned product on the latest concoction.

Awww shucks! Well thank YOU, Dr. Walker for an AMAZING interview and some kick-butt insight into the mind of a doctor and entrepreneur!

Still with me product junkies? Good. Now it's time for what you've been waiting for.... the review!!!


Earthtones Naturals Review
[Insert praise hands emoji here]
Curl Replenish Restorative Hair Mask
Cost
$25 for 8oz

Where to Buy
www.earthtonesnaturals.com and for ladies in the US www.curlydew.com

Active Ingredients

  • Water
  • Aloe Vera Juice: Acts as a natural conditioning agent that restores the hair's sheen, luster, and shine. It not only makes the hair soft, but it also enhances strength and suppleness.
  • Glycerin: Vegetable-based humectant that draws in moisture to the hair.
  • Behentrimonium Methosulfate: Gentle surfactant made from non-GMO rapeseed (canola oil), and is one of the mildest detangling ingredients out there. It doesn't cause buildup or irritation to the scalp.
  • Cetyl Alcohol: Considered "fatty alcohol" -- NOT to be confused with drying alcohols such as ethyl. Acts as a lubricant, thickener, and emollient. Also gives conditioner its velvety feel without making hair greasy. Is additionally used to keep product ingredients from separating.
  • Coconut Oil: Oil high in saturated fats (which is why when cold, it is solid). One of the few known oils to penetrate the hair shaft and truly moisturize hair. Coconut oil helps to moisturize, seal, and prevent breakage.

Protein Free?
Nope! This beauty is protein-packed - with hydrolyzed jojoba, rice, corn, wheat, and soy proteins! My kinda party!

Curly Girl Friendly?
Yes!

The Good
Where do I begin? Curl Replenish smells heavenly. Like a warm vanilla sugar, dulce de leche mashup. I've considered tasting it on more than one occasion - it smells THAT good. The consistency rich and creamy, but not super thick. It works easily through the hair and has amazing slip. Although it's packed with proteins (and I'm a FAN of that...like you have NO idea!), it's also incredibly moisturizing. After 20 minutes with Curl Replenish under my hooded dryer, my curls are in soft, strong, butter-smooth heaven. 

The Bad
I sat long and hard thinking about this one. I don't have a single solitary bad thing to say. Like, nothing. If your hair loves a nice balance of protein and moisture, you'll love Curl Replenish.

The Bottom Line
Curl Replenish is an all around dope deep treatment, period. It's perfect for virgin and color-treated curls, and provides an on point balance of proteins and moisturizers that make curls pop! I'm so glad I got the chance to try Curl Replenish out!


Earthtones Naturals Review
Definition for dayssssss
Curl Quench Coconut Moisture Milk
Cost
$24 for 8oz

Where to Buy
www.earthtonesnaturals.com and for ladies in the US www.curlydew.com

Active Ingredients

  • Water
  • Glycerin: Vegetable-based humectant that draws in moisture to the hair.
  • Aloe Vera Juice: Acts as a natural conditioning agent that restores the hair's sheen, luster, and shine. It not only makes the hair soft, but it also enhances strength and suppleness.
  • Coconut Oil: Oil high in saturated fats (which is why when cold, it is solid). One of the few known oils to penetrate the hair shaft and truly moisturize hair. Coconut oil helps to moisturize, seal, and prevent breakage.
  • Behentrimonium Methosulfate: Gentle surfactant made from non-GMO rapeseed (canola oil), and is one of the mildest detangling ingredients out there. It doesn't cause buildup or irritation to the scalp.
  • Cetearyl Alcohol: Considered "fatty alcohol" -- NOT to be confused with drying alcohols such as ethyl. Acts as a lubricant, thickener, and emollient. Also gives conditioner its velvety feel without making hair greasy. Is additionally used to keep product ingredients from separating.
  • Avocado Oil: Omega 3-rich nourishing oil extract that can enhances shine, moisture retention, softness, and elasticity in hair.

Protein Free?
No - contains hydrolyzed oats.

Curly Girl Friendly?
Yes!

The Good
You guys know I live for a good hair lotion/milk. They work amazing as leave-ins, refreshers, and between-wash moisturizers. The right milk will laaaaaay your curls - enveloping them in moisture and softness that adds definition, smoothness, and longevity of wear to your style.

Let me be clear when I say this - 

CURL QUENCH DOES NOT DISAPPOINT. 

Not even a lil' bit.

This stuff is so creamy, so smooth, so moisturizing - I fell in LOVE with it on contact. Packed with ingredients that my hair loves - like aloe and avocado, Curl Quench set me up for a successful wash and go in a real way. It soaks right into my hair, leaving my curls supple and primed for styling.

And that folks, is what quality products will do - lend themselves to amazing style results.

The Bad
I gotta admit, there's nothing wrong with the product itself. It's thick, but not too thick, velvety and smooth. Unfortunately, I don't think it's packed in the right container. Or maybe mine just went wonky. But for whatever reason, I couldn't get a drop of Curl Quench to come out of the pump. I ended up unscrewing the top and squeezing it out OG style. 

To be honest, that worked better for me anyway - have you ever tried pumpking out hair product in the shower with wet hands? It's a travesty.

The Bottom Line
Simply amazing. I will definitely be working Curl Quench into my product rotation - I mean, the wash and go result speak for themselves!


Earthtones Naturals Review
I even smiled for you guys...so you know it's real!
Curl Define Curl Enhancing Gelly
Cost
$24 for 8oz

Where to Buy
www.earthtonesnaturals.com and for ladies in the US www.curlydew.com

Active Ingredients

  • Water
  • Glycerin: Vegetable-based humectant that draws in moisture to the hair.
  • Aloe Vera Juice: Acts as a natural conditioning agent that restores the hair's sheen, luster, and shine. It not only makes the hair soft, but it also enhances strength and suppleness.
  • Sodium PCA: A derivative of the naturally occuring amino acid proline that acts as a natural humectant and moisturizing factor for human 
  • Bamboo Extract: Silica rich extract that improves the natural moisture and sheen of hair, while adding strength and improving elasticity while supporting growth.
  • Sea Kelp Extract: Polysaccharide-rich extract that protects and moisturizes hair.
  • Silk Amino Acids: Building blocks of protein that help repair the cuticle layer of the hair. 

Protein Free?
Yes! A protein free curl definer for my protein sensitive naturalistas!

Curly Girl Friendly?
Yes!

The Good
I should just let this snapchat video do all the talking buttttt.... lol!


Listen.

Curl Define gave me so much LIFE! I was expecting good results, but not like knock-me-on-the-floor-amazing results. It's a thick gel, a little tacky and mucous-y (like Curl Maker), but definitely not heavy. It's the perfect gel for naturalistas who want a combination of definition and volume on day 1. It's super moisturizing, did not dry my hair out at ALL, and has amazing slip and spreadability. So much so that it's easy to overuse. A little bit goes a LONG way - which brings me to my next point.

The Bad
Curl Define takes a little time to work with and find the right rhythm. It's definitely not one of those gels you can slap in your head and keep it moving - I did that at first and boy, was it a mistake. I used wayyyyyy too much gel and as a result, had perpetually moist curls that didn't quite dry all the way - even after 2 days lol. 

I say all this to say - use a very, very, VERY light hand with Curl Define. I know, that sounds crazy coming out of my mouth - I'm the queen of product overuse. but seriously, per section - a tiny dab'll do ya. 

Once you get your ratio right - the results are GORGEOUS and soooo worth it!


Earthtones Naturals Review
3rd Day hair with Earthtones Naturals. Yassss!
The Bottom Line
Curl define is an amazing gel for naturalistas who crave both definition and volume. It leaves hair touchably soft, moisturized, defined, and with very minimal gel cast - all things I didn't know I could have with day 1 hair! I'm obsessed!

Thanks for reading my interview with Dr. Walker and my review of her Earthtones Naturals products! What did you think about her insights into the natural hair community? And her products? Will you be giving them a try? Let's talk in the comments below!

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5 comments

  1. Thanks so much for sharing! It is not often to hear companies mention the importance of EWG Skin Deep! Super pumped to support a black-owned business and to find safe products! I only wish the products didn't have fragrance or at least specified which ingredients are included in the fragrance. I have concerns about studies linking fragrance to hormone disruption. This is a pervasive problem though with haircare and personal care products generally.

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  2. Great article. Very informative.

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  3. Quite pricy but will definitely give a try, thanks for sharing this insight on natural hair from a professional practitioner

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  4. This was so so in-depth! I loved how Dr. Walker talked about how some products claim to be 100% natural but aren't. I find that way too often. I liked your results a lot. Your hair looks so healthy =).

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  5. Hi, medical student here! Loving these black owned businesses that are popping up. Also I'm loving that more women doctors are using their backgrounds to create products for us. I fully support! Thanks for such an informative review :)

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