Reduce, reuse, Rebundle — the hair company combining sustainability and beauty

Thirty million pounds of plastic, synthetic hair end up in U.S landfills, but ReBundle's plant-based hair extensions hope to change that. 

Today is Earth Day, and over 50 years since its inception, sustainability remains a hot topic across industries as we continue the fight against climate change. Over the past few years, the beauty world has implemented several positive changes, from abandoning microplastics to brands like Fenty Beauty and Humanrace normalizing reusable packaging, eco-friendly decisions are slowly being embedded into our routines. 

Earth Day 2023, Rebundle, sustainable haircare, Rebundle Ciara Imani May, Rebundle braidbetter, Black sustainability
Reduce, Reuse, Rebundle with this plant-based hair extension company (Photo Credit: Rebundle)

But as we become more conscious, Ciara Imani May, CEO and founder of hair extension company Rebundle, encourages us to reimagine what sustainability looks like for the Black community. 

“There’s more to be said and researched about what sustainability looks like when it’s nuanced by culture,” May told theGrio. 

As the founder of the pioneering plant-based faux hair brand, Rebundle, May’s personal experiences inspired her to build the revolutionary brand. Before starting her brand, May was part of the one in three women who experienced scalp irritation from the plastic, synthetic hair typically used for her favorite protective style. Understanding the discomfort of an itchy scalp and the financial burden of constantly using human hair for braids, the founder sought an alternative to traditional extensions, ultimately creating the “braidbetter “collection. Crafted using innovative technology and biopolymers combined with naturally extracted banana fiber, the brand’s hair extensions offer a more comfortable and less wasteful solution. 

“Something that I was really intentional about in those early days was not only building community because, you know, it sort of just happens if you do it, right,” May said when reflecting on building the brand. “But I was talking about this problem and this product before we had a product and connecting with people over this shared experience we were having with braids. I was including the experiences and feedback that other Black women and people who wear braids were having before I had anything to sell.”

Intended to show both the earth and the user’s scalp the love it deserves, Rebundle’s braidbetter hair is specifically formulated to match textured hair. It is entirely free from any chemicals, making it the first hair extensions brand to earn USDA Certification for Biobased Product Label.  

With the hair extension industry projected to reach $11.8 billion in value by 2030, its consumers must understand its environmental impact. Often when we think about waste, we think about the plastic containers, papers, and trash we throw away. However, hair extensions are just as harmful to the environment as plastic straws are to baby turtles. 

It’s a little-known fact to consumers that the careless disposal of synthetic extensions can lead to environmental consequences. Most synthetic hair comprises materials such as polyester, acrylic, or PVC, which are non-biodegradable. As a result, when synthetic hair is not disposed of responsibly, it can harm the environment — to the tune of 30 million pounds of plastic, synthetic hair ending up in U.S landfills. 

As May worked on discovering a suitable material for her hair braiding vision, the founder also launched a recycling system that sustainably disposes of traditional synthetic hair. Described as the verb form of Rebundle, the initiative encourages users to send the brand their old braiding hair after takedown instead of throwing it in the trash. Recycling those bundles into outdoor furniture, the company has collected 390 pounds of hair since its founding in 2019. 

“My goal was to keep hair out of the landfills, and that’s really what the program does. It’s not a revenue generator,” May said candidly. “It’s just my way of giving people the opportunity to choose sustainability, no matter where they are in their journeys, and to slow the waste accumulation in the hair extension industry.” 

Despite her initial reservations about venture capital, Founder May has secured $2.1M in funding to advance her vision of transforming the haircare space with the help of investors like NFL star Colin Kaepernick and NBA All-Star Chris Paul. Following its ethos of “more comfort, less waste,” the brand hopes to continue reimagining the hair experience for the underrepresented communities that pour the most money into the industry. While the founder is unsure of what’s next for Rebundle beyond braiding hair, May is open to shifting how and where hair extensions are purchased. Understanding that Black consumers spend nine times more money on haircare than any other ethnic group, May intends to prioritize their experience when thinking about Rebundle’s next big move. 

Ultimately, May is not only realizing her vision of revolutionizing the haircare industry and leading the charge. 

“If you want a better experience, a different experience and are tired of being given less than, braidbetter is the brand you should try.”

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Haniyah Philogene is a multimedia storyteller and Lifestyle reporter covering all things culture. With a passion for digital media, she goes above and beyond to find new ways to tell and share stories.

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