Rahua’s new Color Full Hair Mask and Glossing Oil Mist
Nowadays, often when a new beauty brand is launching, they choose a nonprofit partner or two for a giveback component. But with Rahua, the whole reason the brand was created was to give back, specifically to the rainforest. “As environmentalists, Fabian and I both share an immense love for Mother Nature,” says Anna Ayers, CEO of Rahua, who co-founded the brand with her husband, Fabian Lliguin. “It was a trip to visit Fabian’s homeland about 18 years ago that we decided the best way to honor the land, and indigenous culture and traditions, would be to save the rainforest through the power of beauty. When meeting the women of the Quechua-Shuar tribe, and seeing their long, beautiful hair, we knew we had the key to our sustainability efforts by tapping into the rainforest’s potent rahua oil that kept their hair so lustrous and strong. After learning that rahua could only be obtained from undisturbed forests and made through ancestral methods, we knew this was the answer to help protect the rainforest.”
Lliguin was a hairstylist in New York City when he and Ayers first met. Originally hailing from Ecuador, he comes from a long line of hair professionals. “My mom and dad were hairdressers, so growing up I thought everyone was a hairdresser,” Lliguin laughs, sharing that he gave his first haircut when he was 5-years-old. “My parents were so familiar with the traditions, like using avocado for treating hair and coming up with their own treatments with local ingredients.” Knowing where everything was sourced from gave Lliguin a special appreciation for the rainforest.
Rahua co-founder Anna Ayers (second from left) with women in the Amazon
Ayers studied fashion and design at Savannah College of Art and Design and moved to New York City where she worked in the fashion industry as a designer and trend forecaster. She met Lliguin in his hair salon and later learned about his work in the Amazon Rainforest. “A few years prior to creating our brand Rahua and company Amazon Beauty Inc. I worked closely with Fabian to set up his Upper East Side hair studio where he taught me to cut hair and behind the scenes I learned so much about what clients want and the kind of products they need,” Ayers says. “In 2008 we combined our knowledge and experience with the mission and the Rahua brand was created to preserve the Amazon rainforest.”
Rahua (pronounced “ra-wa”) is an Incan word rooted in the phrase “for volcanic fire,” and it’s also the name of a beautiful Incan princess. The word was adopted as the name of the ancient Indigenous ceremonial process of obtaining rahua oil in the Amazon rainforest. “The brand was founded on the discovery of the wondrous benefits that rahua oil provides to the hair,” Ayers says. “The potent rahua oil has been used for centuries by the members of the Quechua and Shuar tribes to nourish their hair and skin. This transformational elixir is still produced by the tribe through a complex, sustainable ritual for generations. The rahua nut is known to possess naturally fortifying and strengthening benefits that nourish hair, promote the hair follicle and scalp health, and keep hair color vibrant by pushing color pigmentation deep into the hair shaft.”
Rahua’s Enchanted Island Collection
Ten percent of Rahua’s proceeds benefit the Amazon rainforest. “A lot of medicine comes from the rainforest, so after discovering how effective the ingredients are, I wanted to use them in a hair line,” Lliguin says. “The pharmaceutical world has taken a lot of cues mimicking what they do in the rainforest to the lab. This is science.”
Rahua oil is still produced in the same Amazonian rituals, and in a sustainable manner handmade and unchanged for many centuries by the Quechua and Shuar tribes. The tradition of Rahua making had become rarer, and only a small group elders in the community were still carrying it on before Rahua was launched. “Today there are more than 500 families from the Quechua, Shuar, Achuar and neighboring tribes that help cultivate our rainforest grown ingredients,” Ayers says. “We are creating workshops deep in the rainforest to help rahua-making experts share and teach the younger generations in the Amazon about the importance of the ritual and how to make rahua oil.” This helps preserve their land, culture and history, giving them ownership and protection of their own rainforest in perpetuity.
Rahua co-founder Fabian Lliguin meeting with rainforest children
Before Ayers and Lliguin founded Rahua, they established the nonprofit Ecoagents to create awareness about the Amazon rainforest and the importance of protecting its biodiversity, lands, wildlife, trees and our oxygen. So far they have protected and preserved more than 150,000 acres of rainforest. These forests absorb five tons of carbon dioxide per acre per year, totaling 750,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, making Rahua a beyond carbon neutral company.
Additionally, Rahua’s Enchanted Island Collection was created to protect the Galapagos Islands’ endemic species through their Pink Flamingo Project, established in 2017. “After noticing that the Island’s flamingo population was severely endangered due to plastic waste washing along the coastline, we partnered with locals to clean up the beaches of thousands of plastic bottles and debris that were destroying the habitats and nesting grounds for flamingos, penguins, marine iguanas and sea birds,” Ayers says.
Rahua’s new Scalp & Skin Toner’s new Scalp & Skin Toner
Rahua’s packaging is recyclable, reusable and they offer refillable options for their shampoos and conditioners. “Our products are highly concentrated, so little is required to achieve results and they last much longer than traditional hair care formulas,” Ayers says. “Our plant-based formulas prevent pollution by preventing toxic ingredients from entering our waterways.”
While plant-based products have claimed a large space in the beauty world, that wasn’t the case when Rahua was starting out. In fact, Ayers says the biggest challenge of launching Rahua was convincing the public and the industry that not only chemicals could do the job of cleansing, styling and beautifying hair. “We carved a new path and set out to bring people closer to nature through plant powered beauty,” she says. “To the untrained eye, the hair care and generally the beauty industry was creating many new and exciting products, however behind the scenes beauty products were made using mostly toxic ingredients, polluting the world and endangering human lives. We challenged the status quo through research and development, for instance discovering one of the first natural preservation systems by using only plants, specifically when we introduced palo santo as an important element in our first natural preservation system. Many more natural preservation systems have been created after that, using the same principle. It is very rewarding knowing that we do not have to use dangerous chemicals as was done before and someday every single cosmetic will be preserved with the power of nature alone.”
Lliguin styling in the rainforest
Their dedication to the power of nature in beauty is stronger than ever, as Rahua’s latest launches prove. They approached the development of their new Scalp & Skin Toner as if it were a skincare product. “So many people have scalp issues and skin imbalances, and it is not something that everyone talks about,” Ayers says. “We wanted to create the Scalp & Skin Toner to bring peace of mind to those who experience these imbalances.” Made to work on both the scalp and skin, it balances the microbiome so that healthy hair can flourish.
Then there’s the new Color Full Glossing Oil Mist and Color Full Hair Mask, designed to complement their Color Full Shampoo and Conditioner to keep all hair colors, including natural, vibrant and bright. “We wanted to produce a salon quality, non-toxic gloss that would promote shiny, vivid hair color,” Ayers says. “The novel formulas use our signature rahua, morete and sacha inchi oils with blue tansy flower oils and lilac clay to achieve these results without chemicals or a visit to the salon. Hair strength is also optimized to prevent breakage or brittleness associated with chemical hair color treatments and services.”
More product launches are in store for 2023, which means healthier hair—and a healthier planet, thanks to their efforts of rainforest preservation. Lliguin says, “My dream is one day, every single cosmetic will be plant-based, so people will favor plants instead of petroleum.”