Janine van Throo is an entrepreneur, product formulator, and a natural hair therapist whose passion is empowering women.  She is the founder of Sisay Cosmetics, a cosmetics brand that specializes in natural hair products. Presently, Janine lives in Belgium, Europe, with her teenage daughter. Check out our exclusive one on one with this dynamic trendsetter.

What is a product formulator?

A product formulator is someone who formulates ( cosmetic)  products.  This all starts on paper. Matching and combining different ingredients to make the best product to serve a specific goal. As a formulator, I first determine what the product would need to do (condition, detangle, nurture) and then put together the ingredients that will serve this goal.  I love formulating!

It’s always amazing when you are the ‘first’ in anything.  Please tell us about any obstacles or challenges you encountered as the first black woman to start a natural hair care boutique in Amsterdam.

 Opening the first natural hair boutique, Sisay wellness boutique in Amsterdam has been quite an experience. I started this after launching the website where I offered products for natural hair. However, shortly after the launch, a lot of people started to approach me and ask if I offered services. I said “yes.”  I got help from a gentleman who owned a black hair salon in Amsterdam.  He offered me a chair in his salon for free to start up.  That really helped.  The challenges I faced were those who wanted to see “certification.”  In the Netherlands, there was no such thing as education in natural hair.  Sixteen years later, there still is not. I have knocked on so many doors  from schools to include natural hair into their curriculum. They simply did not want to understand the difference between natural hair and “black hair” as they called it. There were two schools offering courses teaching how to chemically treat black hair. This is why I eventually started to offer workshops and courses.

You mentioned that you started your business out of curiosity and frustration. Please tell us a bit more about the ‘’frustration’’ aspects.

It was end 2003 when I did my first big chop and decided to return.  As a black girl growing up in the Netherlands, there was not a lot of information on how to treat your natural hair.  There was still not any education on this, and there were no products available that worked on my hair. The search for good product was frustrating.   Looking back, I had absolutely no clue of what a “good product” was, but what I did know is that the products that I was using then, did not work for my hair.  I started to experiment with natural products, oils, clays, herbs.  This eventually triggered me to learn how to formulate my own products.

What is NISH?

A couple of years ago, I developed the holistic hair care philosophy called ‘NISH.’ NISH is an acronym and it stands for Nutrition-Ingredients-Scalp Care- Hair maintenance.  I came up with this after being in the natural hair industry and noticing that the majority of the people only focus on products to apply.  Healthy hair comes from the inside.  Hair care is a combination of the four pillars in NISH all used at the same time.  NISH magazine started as a natural hair care magazine. The idea is to showcase global natural hair.  We run a series called “natural in”, where different ladies and gentlemen, from different countries around the world, tell their story on “being natural” in their country. We kicked off with South Africa, but now we even have Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Suriname.  In the magazine, we also discuss other topics relevant to NISH such as health, nutrition, and much more. 

Why is there a need for your product on a global scale?

There are enough products on the market, this is true. However, I had the privilege to be able to create products with “the people.”  Normally, a company creates and launches the product with “the consumer in mind”. I could launch the product with the consumer “next to me.”  While formulating, I had (and still have) tester groups that give feedback. I listen, twist, tweak, and involve the consumer in the process.  Since I also test all the products on myself and my daughters’ hair, I always make sure that the formulations are safe and that I stay away from harsh chemical ingredients. Next to this, the products are a tool. They are part of the NISH philosophy where health – Nutrition is just as important as the product. We offer coaching and education and not “just products.”

Where do you see yourself in three years and what role will your company play in helping women with similar aspirations?

In 3 years from now, I want to have expanded into different countries. With the certification courses we are offering, I also hope to have created a minimum of 5,000 natural hair therapists. This will help women to start their own business in this industry.
What does culture mean and how do you incorporate this philosophy into your technique?

Culture to me are traditions and customs that have been given from generation to generation. Although I grew up in Europe, for me it was not hard to keep traditions from back home. I had to learn to “jump” from one tradition to another. For instance, there is a ritual after giving birth that contains womb steaming with herbs and herbal baths for both the mom and the baby.   As well, it is typically Dutch tradition to give biscuits with colored sprinkles to those who are coming to visit when the baby is born.  Culture is about respect. You do not have to agree with my customs, as long as you respect that I do things differently and vice versa.

What should women not do when starting natural hair products?

Do not look at other people’s results. Just like you, your hair is unique. Find out what the need of your hair is, and based on that need, find a product that will fill that need.  Once you have found something that works for you, stick with it for at least 3 months.    

What final advice can you give woman?
I would advise every woman to be the queen they are.  Sadly, a lot of us forget that we are queens from birth. Yes, life happens, but that does not take away your queendom.  Educate yourself and the sisters around you and reign!

For more on Sisay Cosmetics, click here.

Click here to visit Janine Van Throo’s official website.

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All images by Raul Neijehorst