Ceremonia Founder Babba Rivera Wants You to Think of Haircare as Wellness

The cult-favorite brand doesn't want to mask you hair problems, but get to the root of them.

BEAUTY BOSS: Babba Rivera/Ceremonia
Photo: Alec Kugler

For Ceremonia founder Babba Rivera, haircare is a wellness ritual much like taking a few moments to go through your nighttime skincare routine.

"The haircare industry has been dominated by celebrity hairstylists, but I have no ambition to create a red carpet hairstyle to go to the office," Rivera tells InStyle. "That's not the life I live, nor do I think the vast majoring of humans do, so I think there's a need for renaissance in how we approach hair."

And because a good hair day doesn't always equal a sleek chignon, Rivera has instead taken a wellness approach to creating her brand's products. In addition to treating common pain points like dryness, dullness, and frizz across a wide spectrum of hair types, she's also building Ceremonia with the Latinx community in mind, a high-spending demographic that's still often neglected by haircare brands.

That's why you'll see nourishing ingredients native to Latin America like cupaçu butter and maracujá, patauá, and babassu oils infused throughout the brand's products.

Here, InStyle caught up with Rivera to learn more about her ritualistic approach to haircare, why representation in the beauty industry is so important, what Ceremonia products are a must-try, and more.

What inspired Ceremonia?

There are two driving forces that inspired Ceremonia. On the one hand, it was my personal experience with beauty rituals growing up, which shaped my approach to beauty as a whole. My dad was a hairdresser back in Chile and my mom has always loved caring for herself, treating beauty rituals as a form of self-love and self-care. My parents never really instilled beauty as a form of masking oneself or changing the way you look. I realized there is a disconnect between the approach to beauty I grew up with to the way beauty is advertised in the conventional market — especially haircare. Most haircare brands out there have a makeup approach, in that they're filled with ingredients that mask the hair for the day —almost like applying a thick foundation — instead of approaching it from the inside out. I went on a personal journey of switching out my beauty rituals for clean ones and had a hard time with haircare. I realized that if I, as someone who has a lot of interest in this space, has difficult navigating a clean, effective haircare routine, how is the general consumer supposed to do it.

The second inspiration for me was the realization that the beauty industry lacks representation. It's interesting when you think about it because the Latinx demographic are some of the biggest spenders in haircare, but many products aren't created with us in mind and we don't have people we can relate to at the front of the company and very rarely behind the company. As a person who has dedicated their entire career to empower women to walk the unbeaten path, I felt very excited to go down this path and hopefully break some glass ceilings.

What's your approach to making products? Do you consider the ritual or ingredients first?

This is what I spend the most time on. I'm obviously not a chemist, so we have an in-house one and a product developer who has specifically worked in haircare for 20 years. Between my personal experience of having a dad who's a hairdresser, Latinx rituals, and these experts' backgrounds, it usually a mix of things when we ideate products. We like to first listen to our community of 160 Latinx folks, which include a wide spectrum of different hair types and needs. We picked Latinx people for this because we want to create something that has them in mind, even though the formulas work for all hair types. After hearing about their pain points, whether it's frizz or dryness, we try to think about what is actually causing it. Our Guava Leave-in Conditioner is a good example of this. We created a product that gives you the satisfaction of a moisturizing, repairing leave-in conditioner and infused it with ingredients that help protect your hair without adding another step to your routine.

What products are you especially proud of seeing take off?

This is hard for me because we are so intentional with each product we launch. I think Aceite de Moska Hair Oil and Guava Rescue Spray are the two products that are my best friends. The scalp remedy is so unique to us and it's truly a little miracle oil. It works on a full spectrum of hair types, which I'm really proud of, and helps accelerate hair growth and detoxify the scalp without leaving it dry or stripped of important oils. The other is the Rescue Spray. I use it every day, especially during the summer. I'll spray it before and after I go into the ocean and then I don't feel like I need to wash my hair. It's one of those really multifunctional formulas.

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What are your hopes for the future of haircare and the beauty industry as a whole?

I really hope clean beauty gets regulated. Everything feels so personal when you're a small brand. And right now, it kills me when a brand calls themselves clean and then I see silicones are the first ingredient in their products. We're bending over backwards to really create the best in clean haircare and we're passionate about it. I think it can be hard for customers to know the difference. That's why players like Credo Beauty are great because they are leading the way and helping consumers navigate the Wild West of unregulated clean beauty.

Shop Ceremonia Haircare Products

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Aceite de Moska Hair Oil

Ceremonia Haircare Products

Because good hair days start with a healthy scalp, Ceremonia's hero product is a balancing oil that helps nourish, boost shine, and reduce frizz. It comes from the beloved Aceite de Moska, derived from the Dominican Republic.

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Guava Rescue Spray

Ceremonia Haircare Products

Not only does guava smell and taste delicious, the superfruit also boasts haircare benefits, too. In Ceremonia's multitasking detangler spray, it helps protect hair against UV rays. Avocado and butterfly ginger help filter blue light and provide extra hydration. The spray can also be used as a heat protectant for hot tools up to 450F.

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Pequi Curl Activator

Ceremonia Haircare Products

This milky serum is designed to bring out your best curls without any stickiness or added weight. The formula is built around Brazilian fruit pequi, and also includes castor oil and murumuru butter for added hydration.

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Champú de Yucca & Witch Hazel Shampoo

Ceremonia Haircare Products

This universal shampoo strengthens, hydrates, and boosts shine. Thanks to yuca extract and witch hazel, hair is cleansed without getting stripped. And if sweet or floral-scented hair products aren't your thing, then this shampoo is for you. It smells lightly smoky and herbaceous.

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Acondicionador de Cupuaçu & Castor Conditioner

Ceremonia Haircare Products

Post shampoo, follow with the corresponding conditioner, which is infused with hydrating, smoothing, strengthening ingredients such as cupuaçu butter and castor oil.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Beauty Boss profiles the brains behind the brands making waves in the beauty industry. From the ideas that first inspire brands to how best-selling hair, makeup, and skincare products are made, find out how these leaders get it done.

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