Bomba Curls founder Lulu Cordero shares the impetus to start a natural hair care line for Black women using sacred and natural ingredients from her island.
BY JOHANNA FERREIRA
Lulu Cordero was 17 years old when she decided to go natural. She had embarked on a journey of educating herself on proper nutrition, becoming a vegetarian and making major lifestyle changes, including parting ways with harmful and unnecessary chemicals.
Doing away with relaxers and growing out her natural curls just felt like the next step in living more holistically.
Initially, it was a struggle but little by little everything started to come together when Cordero, who was born in Villa Mella in the Dominican Republic and migrated to the states when she was 8, decided to look to her roots, her heritage, and her culture for the answers. Months after growing out her natural hair, Cordero started experiencing significant hair loss from keeping her hair tightly pulled back which she later learned was traction alopecia.
“My mom was, of course, the one that was like back home in the Dominican Republic, we use natural ingredients like coffee and rosemary to grow hair and to use those natural ingredients that women back home have been using forever and that’s exactly what I did,” Cordero says. Her hair quickly started growing back after making her own concoctions using natural ingredients from the island and thus the Bomba Curls Dominican Forbidden Oil was born - a pure coffee and castor oil infused treatment designed to treat the scalp and promote healthy hair growth.
Like many Dominican women, Cordero grew up hearing terms like “pelo malo” which means “bad hair” in Spanish and refers to curly or afro-textured hair. She got her hair relaxed and blown out straight at the Dominican salon every week. It was a place that was safe and familiar but also harmful in many ways with it’s constant and intentional attempt at erasing Blackness while upholding whiteness. In a culture that takes so much pride in beauty and in physical presentation, Cordero wanted to find a way to honor her heritage while still being able to embrace her Blackness and natural beauty.
“Dominican culture loves hair so much. We all grew up making our own hair masks or seeing our moms do it or our aunts. Even at the Dominican hair salon they were always mixing up a remedy and that is such an inextricable part of our culture and I wanted to honor it,” Cordero says. “But at the same time, I wanted to redefine beauty for our culture as well, because it is a culture that’s very Eurocentric especially when it comes to hair and beauty standards. I wanted to show that same amount of love and celebration to our natural hair and our natural curls because for the longest time — for generations — it was not celebrated and it was not celebrated by people — who the majority of had textured or curly hair. Why is that? We know why historically speaking. We know the history and the story behind it but it was time to just start writing our stories anew and in our own way and celebrate what needed to be celebrated. It was changing the narrative so the next generation has it better, knows better, and doesn’t continue that same message of “pelo malo” or feels bad about the features that come from their African ancestry.”
“I wanted to redefine beauty for our culture as well, because it is a culture that’s very Eurocentric especially when it comes to hair and beauty standards. I wanted to show that same amount of love and celebration to our natural hair and our natural curls because for the longest time — for generations — it was not celebrated and it was not celebrated by people — who the majority of had textured or curly hair.”
Get to Know – Lulu Cordero
Do you have a beauty philosophy? What is it?
Self-love is the best love! By loving myself, as I am, head to toe – I am honoring myself and that is beautiful. Learning to love oneself…that creates a beauty that never fades.
What inspires you most about the beauty landscape and industry today?
The spectrum of beauty is being broadened and I am elated that we’re seeing this progress. Beauty no longer has to fit in this neat little box — it does not have to look one way. We’re finally starting to see a landscape that is more representative of the world that we live in and it encourages me as a founder to keep on marching on my mission.
What has been the biggest challenge in starting your business?
Honestly, just starting. I was so afraid to let go and jump in. You’ll always [find] a million reasons for why you can’t start! I had to internally turn that fear switch off and trust in my vision. Doing that allowed me to make Bomba Curls happen with the limited resources that I had available, because what mattered was bringing the vision to life.
What has been the biggest win thus far?
Breaking into retail. Our products are now accessible to customers across the country and new customers can discover us every time they set foot into stores. I feel so proud that Bomba Curls is not only bringing representation to retail shelves but also showing that Black-owned brands also create stellar products and belong in retail.
What would you like to see more of in the beauty industry when it comes to diversity and inclusivity?
I would like to see more of it – period. We live in a world that is vibrant and diverse. There is beauty in that. Let’s celebrate the fact that beauty comes in more than just one size, color and hair texture. The beauty industry is finally taking strides in the right direction though.