When we think of Australia we think of a racially homogenous country with not much diversity, but much to our surprise there’s a growing natural hair community Down Under! One of its advocates is Tomasina Boone, Founder of the commerce site Afro Puffs. They ship naturally curly hair products all over Australia.
You’ve lived in Sydney, Australia for 9 years! Why did you move there from the United States?
While I loved working at Essence magazine as the Advertising Beauty Director, I was praying for the opportunity to spend more time with my 1 year old daughter. We decided living abroad would help us press that reset button. While interviewing with firms in London, my husband got a great offer from a firm in Sydney, Australia.
Sydney presented better work/life balance, a more family focused culture and a great platform to explore Asia as a family. We both resigned in June, stopped working in July, packed up the brownstone and moved in August to Sydney. We are now dual citizens.
Are there many naturals in Sydney? Is there a vibrant natural community?
The term “natural” doesn’t resonate here in Australia as in America and gets a little lost in translation. But I will say, in addition to the natural African-American and African immigrants and the many children of mixed ancestry, there are many women of various ethnicities in Australia with naturally curly hair (eg. Lebanese, Jewish, Greek, Italian, etc.).
Interesting fact: Australia has the largest Greek population outside of Greece. They have hair grades similar to those seen in the black community and are well served by our products and hair care treatments. I was surprised when Jewish women at a community service event in Sydney were telling me about their love for Miss Jessie’s and Carol’s Daughter products and did not even associate the products with a black company or as being created for black hair.
You own your own natural hair online store (www.afropuffs.com.au). Why did you decide to launch this site?
Actually, I bought the site two years ago. It was launched by another African-American expat with mixed children to help provide solutions for similar families and was initially centered around the Mixed Chicks line. I leveraged my contacts in the beauty and haircare industry from my days at Essence and Hype Hair magazines to significantly expand those options. I wanted to provide healthy haircare solutions to meet the needs of the larger community and the varying grades of hair.
I understand when you want to use different products from different product lines. Like a fingerprint, every curl is different. I wanted to give people the opportunity to make their own healthy hair “cocktail” or system that is suited to their hair and their styling needs. I also provide customer education to help create support and community for those going natural or learning to care for their children’s hair.
How does the weather in Australia effect curls? We imagine the heat wreaks havoc on your hair!
The humidity and the sun are real. That hole in the ozone layer is right over Australia and the sun will cook your hair. You have to rock a hat or some headcover if you are going to be outside in the sun for a long period to keep your hair healthy. But beyond that, there is also the pH and quality of the water here.
The tap water is “hard” and, in combination with the sun and the humidity, there is a real drying effect. Lets not even mention the salt water at the beach or the chlorine in the pools. I tell clients that it is all about getting that moisture back in the hair.
Is there a natural hair salon in Sydney that you would recommend to fellow naturals in Australia?
Rumbie Co. is a salon in the Chippendale suburb of Sydney. The salon is owned by licensed beautician from Zimbabwe who is natural and knows natural hair. Hair Rules a line that I love from the states follows a salon in Sydney named Project One that is also in the Chippendale suburb. For that occasional flat iron of natural hair, head to Sharon’s Salon in the Surry Hills suburb of Sydney.
Do Australians in general admire naturally curly hair?
Yes indeed, however I do feel that they love it more on people of colour. They are still trying to understand and manage their curls personally.
What are 3 products you cannot live without right now?!
My current hair cocktail is 1.Bye Bye Paraben’s Essential Healing Oil Treatment 2. Shea Moisture’s Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Grow Leave-In Conditioner 3. TGIN’s Moisture Rich Sulfate Free Shampoo.
See how other naturally curly women care for their hair in our Being Natural In A Foreign Country series.