With a Kickstarter campaign that fundraised well over The Brown Crayon Project's $25,000 goal in just weeks earlier this year, there's no question that mothers across the country instantly recognized the genius of a certified-organic line of skin and hair products created especially for their babies and toddlers of color.
We sat down with The Brown Crayon Project founder Selma Idris to talk about the motivation behind her innovative brand, digital media’s influence on the products, and which items in the 6-piece line-up moms are most likely to obsess over.
What does your brand's motto "hair with character and skin with soul" mean to you?
“'Hair with character and skin with soul' describes the beauty that I see in us. It is the beauty in the name. I'm amazed by the versatility and texture of a child's hair—just like the versatility of crayons. I look at my sons’ hair and it is beautiful. I love running my hands through their hair. And skin with soul tells our story. There is a long history with every ounce of melanin in our skin. That is The Brown Crayon Project.
How important was community outreach in getting the brand off the ground?
"I was so scared to create the Kickstarter but we got close to our goal in the first week! Afterwards, I started getting the most beautiful messages. I’m still getting messages from mothers across the world asking how can they can get involved, which has made me feel fantastic. Community outreach is an essential part of our process; everything from talking about the textures to the products to identifying and responding to real needs. The outpour of love for doing something you believe to be right and good is really inspiring. You definitely stand taller knowing that you are a part of a family."
What about the products makes them specifically for children of color?
"The products are all based on recipes that have been in my culture for centuries. We refined those using the finest available ingredients and I tested them on my children and children in my community. The products are super rich, but really light, hydrating and they smell fantastic. Although other children can use them, these products were intentionally formulated, designed, and tested for and with children of color. The Brown Crayon Project considers children who have dry hair, coarse hair, or dry skin. So these products will be great for any child with those features."
What is your recommendation for parents using different products for their children?
"Parents should definitely try to use natural products on their children. If you are using synthetic products on your children that are considered clean and safe, stay clear of artificial colors and artificial fragrances. The skin of people of color is porous so we absorb what is put onto it. Our children not only absorb more, but they also stick their hands in their mouths all of the time. So whatever you are putting on your child’s skin, it is going into their mouth. Avoid the poison. And that goes for all children, not just children of color. Our line makes products available to give black children the results we want that are also safe."
Which product of your line is the must-have for a mother to use on her child?
"I would have to say the Everyday Skin Whip. If you really want great results, do the Everyday Skin Whip plus the Sunday Oil as a boost. It is super luxurious, absorbs really quickly, and lasts all day—especially when you use the boost of the oil. One mother told me it helped her child’s eczema tremendously. It cleared right up."
What other products can be expected to join the line?
"We are definitely producing more products. I am going into element protection for summer and winter because that is really important for babies. Also, I am looking into producing different forms of our products, including wipes. A lot of it will be based on feedback and talking to mothers, fathers, and pediatricians about the needs of children of color."
How does digital media play a role in The Brown Crayon Project?
"Digital media is a great way to enforce our message of nourishing and nurturing the ego of our children. For example, we will do something called 'brown-outs' which will allow different families to take over our social media accounts in order to give us a glimpse into their life. It is great to see because it shows people that we are not unicorns. We exist everywhere so we hope to have the 'brown-outs' go global, as well. It is so important to be able to see each other’s families and understand each other’s perspectives."
Many brands mention being natural or organic, but why is it important to actually be certified?
"I did not go into producing the line wanting to be certified. I went into it trying to make the best, cleanest product I could make. I knew for other mothers to be comfortable, there had to be a way to say that the products were gluten free, vegan, and no animals were involved. When it came to the quality of ingredients, I wanted to be able to provide the highest quality I could. Products can be USDA certified if all food grade ingredients are used to produce them. Our oils are all food grade ingredients so we are able to certify USDA organic standards. Our other products also go to the highest standard available, which allows us to have NSF certification. So there is a certifying authority coming in and checking everything. They want to know where your ingredients come from, where they are grown, and we can ensure that our ingredients are GMO free. I wanted to provide that assurance for families."
Shop The Brown Crayon Project products now for $16 each at thebrowncrayonproject.com.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.