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Girl+Hair Founder Dr. Camille Verovic On The Science Behind Her Revolutionary Haircare Line

"I stay true to science. I have to stand by my products as a physician."

BOSS UP

The first time I met Dr. Camille Verovic was at a natural hair event held at a Target in Atlanta. She was showcasing her haircare line, Girl+Hair, and celebrating her newly secured spot with the retailer.

Among her were a few beautiful black queens with a variety of different hairstyles: wigs, braids, afros, you name it. They were all in the aisle talking to other women about their hair concerns, textures, and the benefits of the Girl+Hair products. I ear-hustled a bit and overheard one of the girls mention that Dr. Camille was becoming a dermatologist and that she uses her studies to create the right formula for women of color.

Interestingly enough, Dr. Camille's career did not start in medicine. Instead, one passion opened the door to another.

She began her career as a marketing professional for an advertising agency which gave her all the tools, resources, and knowledge to build a brand. During her time working at the advertising agency, she also embarked on another journey: her hair. At that time, she chemically treated her hair with relaxers to the point where her real hair started to break off. As a remedy for her unhealthy hair, Dr. Camille decided to go natural and big chop. While on the mission to grow strong and healthy hair, she ran into another problem — she didn't have the right products. After struggling to find the right products, she decided to just solve the problem herself and Girl+Hair was the solution. Shortly after, Dr. Camille discovered a passion for dermatology to further help and create safe spaces for black women to express their hair concerns far beyond Girl+Hair.

Take a look into how Girl+Hair founder Dr. Camille Verovic breaks down the key to healthy haircare:

What inspired you to start Girl+Hair?

When I had a sew-in, I became concerned because I couldn't find products on the shelf to help me take care of my new growth while it was in a sew-in; and I have this protective style to retain length but I couldn't find products to maintain my hair while it was in that style. I was nervous that it would get dry, brittle, and go back to where I started. I couldn't find shampoos because they were too thick [and] the utility was all wrong. I would buy shampoo and mix it with water to get into the base of my braids and try to dilute my conditioner but it would always feel like I didn't know what I was getting and all the conditioners I liked didn't use the best ingredients. All of those things, out of frustration, created the concept of Girl+Hair.

"I would buy shampoo and mix it with water to get into the base of my braids and try to dilute my conditioner but it would always feel like I didn't know what I was getting and all the conditioners I liked didn't use the best ingredients. All of those things, out of frustration, created the concept of Girl+Hair."

What sets Girl+Hair apart from other products that claim to support hair growth with protective styling?

I think for our products, we think of different prongs. For each product, we think about how it's being used. For instance, not all products are [low porosity] or runny. We always make the shampoos low viscosity on purpose because if you have a braided style, you want the product to get to where it needs to go quickly and properly and you want it to perform well. Then there's the leave-in conditioner; we left out a regular conditioner on purpose because we wanted to make the steps a little easier. Then there's a daily restore product. It's a castor oil-based product and it's not a low porosity product because you want a protective oil. So, if you have a sew-in, you want the oil to stay at the base of the place. You don't want it running all over your sew-in. If you have braids, you want it to stay on your scalp to coat the shaft of your hair.

The second thing is, and I think this is where my expertise comes in, is the selection of ingredients. We just don't select ingredients just to do it. When I think of ingredients in my products, I actually go through a scientific database and look at studies to see why would I use these ingredients. When you think about Girl+Hair, I want people to know that there is a person behind the brand who actually tries to find scientific backing as to why we selected these things.

Do you think there’s a pressure within the hair industry as far as what ingredients to use?

I do feel that there's pressure. I'm not sure if it's the consumer driving it or the companies. I'm not sure if consumers express their interest on social media. I'm not sure if companies look at consumers as thought leaders and create products for what they're doing already or if everyone is following suit. I'm not quite sure. But you do feel pressure because once that key ingredient becomes a thing, as a brand, you'll do something with that ingredient too.

How do you stay away from that and avoid following suit?

I stay true to science. At the end of the day, I love what I do and I feel privileged to do what I do and there's an ethical code that comes with being a physician that I can't shake and I don't want to. I have to stand by my products as a physician.

Dr. Camille Verovic

"I stay true to science. I have to stand by my products as a physician."

How long did it take you to come up with the entire line?

Maybe two strong years, a lot of it was branding. I kind of knew my ingredients for the products but I understand the importance of branding from my years in marketing. I understood that branding is important. You want brand equity, so you have to put in the work when it comes to that. I also spent a lot of time identifying my customer. What does she want? Who is she? If Girl+Hair was a girl, would my customer be her friend? How likely would they hang out together? Then once I had that, I focused on formulations and finding the right one, having the base foundation products, and finding the money.

What inspired you to become a dermatologist?

I'm in my second year of dermatology training and I complete that next June and I take my board exam in July. One of the biggest things that I love about dermatology is it's a visual field, so you can look at something and, based on the visual acuity, diagnose conditions. I think that's amazing! Most things in the body need some sort of imaging or something to give a diagnosis. With dermatology, you literally use your eyes and sometimes your touch to help you figure out what's wrong. The second thing and why I feel so privileged to be in this field is that there aren't many black dermatologists. It's so crazy and so sad! It's a joy you feel when the patient sees you and they feel like you understand them and their skin a little bit better.

When it comes to hair loss with women of color, what do you think are some common causes from your experience and expertise? 

In our community, it's an epidemic honestly. But I do think that consumers and patients are more intelligent as a people, so we have access to social media, access to information that helps us navigate that world of not having really tight braids or weaves. Most of us know that that's not right, it's painful, it's wrong, and it's causing damage. What I see too is CCCA. That's actually an inflammatory process going on in the scalp that no stylist can help you with per se, and you need to see a doctor about that. There's also something called LPP. There are different medical conditions that can cause hair loss, but I feel like when I see black women throughout the week, usually it's going to be traction alopecia.

Do you have any other suggestions on other ways to combat hair loss? Would you recommend men/women to see a dermatologist a certain amount of times a year?

I'm always into healthy styling practices and I'm not against protective styles as long as it is protective and not a damaging style; because some people will say it's protective but it's actually damaging. I'm also into:

  • Frequent hair cleansing. I think that's another thing people don't do. They don't wash their hair often enough — at least once a week.
  • Conditioning your hair properly.
  • If you feel something, say something. If you feel something on your scalp, pain, burning, or tenderness in one spot, you should say something. You should say something to your hairstylist or dermatologist. But when you feel something on your scalp, you should definitely see someone about it because that could be the initial sign of something more serious going on.

Girl+Hair

Do you think there should be a different hair routine from wearing your hair and a protective style?

No. I think the same amount of care and concern that you give to your hair and scalp while you have your hair out should be the same concern and effort when it's tucked away. I think the biggest misconception is because it's protected, I don't have to think about it, and that's not true at all. You should be just as aware. You still have to moisturize. Take care of it just the same.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention that you’d like people to know?

I think one of the biggest things when it comes to our brand is education. Our brand is about smart haircare. It's smart because you have a founder who can sit at a table with companies and speak on behalf of black women but who's also a physician, and you have that backing the brand. I think with protective styles, it's just [about] educating ourselves as black women about the importance of taking care of ourselves. With Girl+Hair, it's that underlying current of self-care and self-care every single day, even when you don't want to. Also, I want to mention something called Skin of Color Society. People can go and find a derm doc in your area.

Follow Dr. Camille and Girl+Hair, follow them on social media at @girlandhair or www.girlandhair.com.

Originally published on August 12, 2019

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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