They say those who weather the storm are met with endless treasures. And, in Lulu Cordero’s case, treasures continue to take form in her curly hair-loving beauty brand, Bomba Curls. The Afro-Latinx-owned haircare label specializes in curly hair and was established to fight for inclusivity by broadening the vision of beauty. “Being Black in Latin America oftentimes feels like you’re invisible because we are never in magazines or the telenovelas,” Cordero tells TZR.
Growing up, it was rare for the hair guru to see women who shared the same skin tone and hair texture celebrated and represented in the Dominican Republic. This erasure caused Cordero to feel that her own hair was "deficient" at a young age. “When it came to beauty, beauty never looked like me or any of the women in my family," says Cordero. "And I wanted to change that.” Despite only being a year old, the brand is doing just that.
For starters, Bomba Curls offers deep conditioning and moisturizing products that achieve maximum length, retention, and curls. Being a vegetarian for almost 14 years and a “naturalista,” Cordero’s products are 100% organic and rooted in passed-down Afro-Dominican remedies. Before Bomba Curls, Cordero found it difficult to find haircare products that weren't loaded with chemical-based ingredients such as petrochemicals and sulfates. These ingredients, alongside other harmful chemicals, are now blacklisted from any Bomba Curl formula. Cordero’s dedication to organic products is at the forefront and her reputation certainly precedes her with her own manufacturers. “When they see my shadow they say ‘there she is’,” Cordero jokes.
But Cordero’s unwavering loyalty to natural remedies stems from a complicated past. Though the brand officially launched in October of 2019, it’s first product, Dominican Forbidden Hair Oil, was actually conceived almost a decade earlier when Cordero felt that her relationship with [her] hair was at the an all-time low.
At the time, she was indulging her love for chemistry by pursuing a degree in biomedicine at the University of Chicago. Amidst all the academic stress that inherently comes with pursuing a notoriously difficult major, Cordero found herself faced with another challenge: caring for her hair.
“I suffered from traction alopecia,” Cordero recalls to TZR. The hair loss condition she mentions is caused by repeatedly pulling one's hair and can even be the result of tight hairstyles such as tights buns, braids, and ponytails.
“When I finally decided to wear my hair naturally, I had no idea how to care for it. I wore it in tight buns and my hairline paid for it.” According to Cordero, not knowing how to care for — or even appreciate — her curly hair stems from the implications of anti-Blackness in the Dominican Republic. Though Cordero wears her heritage and curly hair proudly, she felt that the insistent desire for silky, straight hair made her own seem “difficult to care for or ugly” during her childhood. The simple act of caring for curly hair seemed foreign.
When her parents began to notice Cordero’s hair damage, it was her mother who suggested that her daughter return to the more natural remedies from their hometown in the Dominican Republic that catered specifically to curly hair. One of the main ingredients in many of these solutions is coffee. When applied to topically, coffee's natural properties can stimulate hair growth.
Marrying her love of chemistry with a newfound interest in these homegrown remedies, Cordero was able to unlock a solution that restored her hairline to its healthy state — and Bomba Curls' first product was born. And, after sharing her early prototype with classmates at her university, who always came back for more, a business idea sparked.
Before she could fully commit to her new enterprise, however, Cordero took a slight detour to help her father with his property management company back in the Dominican Republic. Cordero felt that her newly acquired entrepreneurial skills would aid in his enterprise and, in return, she learned what it truly takes to run a business. Although she loved helping her father’s business grow, Cordero knew it wasn’t her life's purpose. “I decided to let go of my fear, trust the universe, and go for it.”
Go for it indeed. Bomba Curls officially launched in 2019 with three inaugural products: the Dominican Forbidden Oil, Forbidden Hair Mask, and Silk Satin Scrunchies. Quality exceeds quantity for the small but mighty label, however, Cordero hints to TZR that Bomba Curls will be launching a few new products for the 2020 holiday season. Since becoming fully operational, the brand has been featured in numerous publications and deemed a must-have haircare product for curly hair by Vogue in July 2020.
Though Cordero now loves and celebrates her curls, her personal goals still haven’t been fully achieved. Yes, Bomba Curls was conceived to offer effective and healthy products for curly hair, but the mission extends much further than that. Aside from products, Cordero’s brand works tirelessly in building a community of those who may share similar experiences with her own — better known as the “Bomba Family.”
Catering to said family, the Bomba Curls Blog is an extremely useful informational tool for those with curly hair as it covers everything from the importance of natural ingredients in hair products to why satin is the best fabric to use with curly hair. The brand also encourages its customers to participate in the “Grow with Bomba Curls 30-Day Hair Growth” challenge, where customers are able to share their hair growth results via social media after using the products.
Cordero has also participated in several panels that cover topics relevant to the Bomba Curls user. She most recently sat on Nordstrom's "Inclusive Beauty" Zoom panel alongside Hannah Choi and Shannon Kennard of Baby Tress and Ozohu Adoh of Epara.
“We are all tied together by shared experiences of learning how to embrace our hair and see our own beauty in a world that oftentimes tells us that we aren’t [beautiful]. I try to bring healing to our community, but it really takes a community to do that,” says Cordero.
And as the “Bomba Family” grows with those who align with the label's mission, so does the business itself. This past summer, Cordero came across an email that read “Nordstrom x Bomba Curls" in the subject line. What she originally thought was a prank ended up being the next major step for her curly-hair-loving beauty brand.
Now available in 27 stores across the United States and online, Bomba Curls has found a home at the mega retailer. “They immediately got the vision, appreciated how particular I am with quality, and saw all the love that goes into it.” For Cordero, this milestone is only the beginning, but also one that is the result of a lot of hard work and even more love.
When asked how she hopes younger, curly haired shoppers feel when they come across Bomba Curls on the shelves of Nordstrom, Cordero simply says: “That they are beautiful. Just as they are.”
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