The summer and fall seasons brings with it the trend of protective styles. When we talk about protective styles, we’re referring to a range of options like braids—box braids, knotless braids, tropics braids, tribal braids, cornrows, and many more. For Black women, braids are the ideal choice for a ready to go hairstyle. These styles not only demand minimal upkeep, but also promote hair growth, all while offering versatility in styling.
Sporting and styling the braids is the fun part but taking them down is the real struggle. The time required to take down braids, which can range in size and quantity, varies and can span from one to four hours or even longer.
For this reason, Natasha Anderson and her daughter, Khadija Imara, joined forces to develop an inventive solution for efficiently and harmlessly unbraiding hair. Pioneering the way, their creation—the Original Unbraider—is a unique double-sided comb engineered to swiftly dismantle six to eight braids. Simultaneously, it detangles the hair, curtailing the extensive and arduous process of manual braid removal. The versatile two-in-one tool can be used on many different braid and protective styles.
“There has to be a faster way of taking down braids,” Anderson thought to herself while spending several days taking down her own braids and the braids of six other girls in the family using a rat tail comb that would often break.
Imara echoed a similar sentiment. “For me, I hated the process of taking braids down,” she said. “I just remember it being an all-weekend process because of how many heads my mom had to take down. She also had other things to do. She had to cook, clean, and help take us to different places for extracurricular activities. We couldn’t just sit down for 18 hours a day and knock out all 4 or 5 heads. We had to get it done when we could, and I remember it would take up our whole weekend.”
As a mother of five children, Anderson had a unique motivation and vision in 2004 to improve minority hair care by altering the way Black women, beauticians, parents, and kids take down braids and provide entrepreneurial opportunities for young women.
Over a span of nine months, Anderson worked with engineers to develop a model comb that could take down multiple braids at once, making the take down process more efficient without damaging the hair. After testing several prototypes, she created the Original Unbraider and launched the product in 2005, selling locally in mall kiosks and beauty salons in California.
After Anderson’s mom, Imara’s grandmother, who was the family’s matriarch, passed away, the business slowly came to a halt. Years later, during what Imara considers the renaissance of Black hair, businesses, and culture, she stepped up to run the business and bring her mother’s vision back to life.
“I envisioned bringing not just a product, but a line of products that I use on my own hair because I am big on hair styles and hair products that make my hair grow,” Imara told ESSENCE. “I want to expand the line of products that we have that enhance and protect our hair, but also provide an entrepreneurial path for other people. We want to pour back into our community using our resources and our platform to provide experiences, knowledge, and resources for other people.”
In an era where 11 percent of all beauty consumers are Black, yet only 2.5 percent of Black-owned or founded brands make up the $60 billion beauty industry, Anderson and Imara sought to revolutionize the space by designing haircare for Black men and women, empowering young women to be entrepreneurs, and investing in the Black community. The company encourages young men and women to start their own businesses as Unbraiders in which they can purchase the tool and offer braid take down services for women who may not want to take down their own braids.
“Black entrepreneurship is so important because in order for our communities to survive, we need an economic base,” Imara said. “If we understand the power that we have in our own dollar, the power that we have in our culture, the power that we have in our skillset, our versatility, and our beauty, and we pour into ourselves, love ourselves, and see ourselves, we have a chance to build an economic base. With an economic base, we have a chance to thrive, we have a chance to build our own communities, schools, businesses, and so on.”
Fast forward to today, Imara has helped bring the Original Unbraider to Black homes and Black owned businesses across the globe, making it a staple, next to the hot comb and the bonnet. The Original Unbraider exists not only to meet a hair-care need, but to also demonstrate that young Black women can be entrepreneurs and innovators, providing creative solutions that will improve minority communities and positively impact Black culture.
To purchase the Original Unbraider tool, visit https://theunbraiderco.com.