“I’ve had this craziness on my head my whole life,” Sahar Saidi says of her bountiful tendrils. As a kid, she’d keep it in a braid or bun to try and hide it. Sometimes, her mom would chop it off, unsure of how to deal with her daughter’s curls. “I was super self-conscious and got teased and bullied,” she remembers.
When she got a part-time job as a teen and started having her own money, she’d buy products and experiment with different ways of styling her hair. “I was probably 17 or 18 before I ever left my hair down,” she says. Her technique involved a two-hour process of piling on products. It’d last a day and then she’d start again the next morning.
In her 20s, when she started working in an office, her boss took her aside and said, ‘You look really cute with your curly hair, but we have a meeting at headquarters and you need to do something about it. No one’s going to take you seriously if you show up looking like that.’”
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Straightening her “big, pouffy, fried, bleached hair” would take her about six hours, “no exaggeration,” she says. Three if she went to a salon. “I thought, ‘This isn’t going to work, so I bought a wig and on the days when I had big meetings, I wore the wig.”
“Looking back at it, I’m like, ‘How ridiculous was it that I thought wearing a Halloween wig somehow made me look more professional?’”
Recently, Saidi was cleaning out her desk and found her old I.D. badges from that job. On one of them, she was pictured with the dark straight wig. “Looking back at it, I’m like, ‘How ridiculous was it that I thought wearing a Halloween wig somehow made me look more professional?’ That’s going back 20 years, but it’s still happening today.”
Not if she has anything to say about it. Tired of being made to feel like her hair was a problem, the Torontonian decided to take matters in her own hands. “I literally googled ‘How to start a hair care brand’ and then started looking up the best cosmetic chemists in North America and begging them for their time.”
Her goal was simple. She wanted to create a hair range that made enhancing curls easy but also enjoyable. “It was driving me nuts that all these companies were making stuff that doesn’t work and using super negative messaging to sell us products, saying things like ‘control your mane and tame your frizz,’” says Saidi. “I wanted to tell people, ‘Your hair is already beautiful, but if you’re going to use products and bring out the natural pattern of your hair, we have three. Here you go.’”
It took more than a year to develop the formulations. Saidi tried them out on her own hair and enlisted friends and family to test samples, collecting their feedback and going back to the labs until she had a lineup she was happy with.
She called it LUS Brands, short for “love yourself,” and launched with a three-step system, made up of a shampoo that infuses moisture back into the hair while drawing out impurities, a detangling conditioner and all-in-one styling product. “It’s meant to hydrate your hair, define it and leave you with some shine, so it’s three to five different products baked into one,” she says of the latter. There are three different versions to cater to all curl types, from barely there waves to kinks and coils.
“I want people to feel like they have control and I want women to feel beautiful with their own natural hair,” says Saidi. But beyond striving to help consumers love their curls, she hopes to see a larger shift in the perception of textured hair in general.
“We’ve been shamed and put down for the way our hair naturally grows out of our head and it’s insane”
“We’ve been shamed and put down for the way our hair naturally grows out of our head and it’s insane,” she says. “Why do we think some hairstyles are professional and others aren’t? I don’t think these bosses and people in a position of influence are doing it to be mean. They’re just ignorant as to why someone’s hair looks like that and the fact that we’re not doing it to be extra, this is just how our hair is. Hair needs to be included in diversity training so we can disabuse people of their ignorance, especially if they’re in management, because that can impact someone’s life and it really needs to change.”