Butter up your skin

  • More than skin deep: Charmaine Russell with her son Surii, who was the inspiration for her homemade body butter (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
  • Hairstylist Charmaine Nicole creates own line of homemade, natural products (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
  • Product range: Hairstylist Charmaine Russell creates own line of homemade, natural products (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Healthy skin is beautiful skin. Charmaine Russell’s affirming philosophy can be found on the side of each of her homemade body butters.

Her quest for healthful skin began when she discovered dry patches on her one-year-old son’s legs.

A trip to California made it worse. “It was cracked like an alligator. The rest of his skin is beautiful — it’s just there,” she said of Surii, now 8.

When she couldn’t find products that soothed his eczema, she took to experimenting at home.

“I tried everything, E45, Aveeno, everything that was for skin ailments and they didn’t really work,” she said.

“I went about trying to find something that was more natural.”

A friend of hers sold shea butter. She liked the product, but didn’t like its grainy consistency.

“I needed to find a way to make it smoother to apply. I went about researching how I could make my own body butter.”

Her custom blend of shea butter, coconut, jojoba, almond and essential oils were born.

“Once I saw progress with his skin, I made a concoction for work. I took it to my salon on a Saturday and asked my clients to test it out and see if they liked it,” the hairdresser told Lifestyle.

She didn’t realise she could capitalise on it until a client requested more.

“[She] went to Caesar’s Pharmacy and said, I’m going to get some containers because you’re not getting this back,” Ms Russell laughed.

Surishae + Co is a hybrid of her children’s names, Calshae and Surii. Her third child, Luca, was born last year. “Calshae had minor ailments as a kid, so I said let me blend the two names together,” she said.

Her journey into natural cosmetics began before her son’s condition. Many of her salon customers were transitioning to wearing their hair natural.

The 43-year-old credits the recession for the collective change.

“That’s when it really started to kick off,” said the owner of Charmaine Nicole Hairloft. “They were coming in droves [saying] I need help, so I started to research natural ingredients.”

Ms Russell, who has been in the business for 20 years, earned the nickname “magic fingers” for her gift at restoring healthy hair and getting it to grow.

“I’ve always been one to want people to take care of their hair more than the hairstyle. I just want your hair to be healthy and your scalp.”

Her line has since grown from the body butters, to bath salts and scrubs, beard oil, a hair oil “for all hair types and textures”, shampoo and conditioner.

“I try it on myself first and then I want feedback. It’s a good thing that I have clients because I can always give it to them to try.

“They trust my judgment. I’ve always been into quality products.”

The products are made with “100 per cent organic, high-quality essential oils”.

“I try to get everything high quality because I want you to get all the benefits,” she said.

“I don’t even melt my shea butter. Just like with our vegetables, if we heat them up too long, we take some of the nutrients out. I just make sure to whip it very smooth because you don’t want that grain in there. It’s meant to moisturise. It can heal rashes, sunburn.

“Therapeutic. That’s the key word. I want everything to be therapeutic.”

The products are stocked at Urban Cottage, Sunshine Company and online at Salt + Cedar.

When she got pregnant again, she planned to give up thinking that she wouldn’t have the time, but then “something told me to try again”.

She did a full rebrand.

The earthy, brown packaging of Suriishae Naturals was replaced with a clean, white design. The italicised logo was simplified.

“This time I want to target, not just black people, we want everybody,” she said. “I always awaited to make my own products, but never thought it would be skin. I thought it would be hair.”

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