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.
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