One woman’s quest to provide natural products for all
Insights from Georgia Parker, Ashley Lauren Natural Products (Evanston)
These days, drugstore beauty aisles are filled with labels that market products as “non-toxic,” “natural,” or “organic.” It’s hard to know which labels you can trust, and how important it actually is to choose the most “natural” products. Georgia Parker, founder of Ashley Lauren Natural Products, had a personal experience that not only convinced her that non-toxic is better, but also led her to create and sell 100% natural products that benefit all women, regardless of hair type or skin color.
20 years ago, Georgia developed alopecia areata, an autoimmune skin disease that causes sudden hair loss. She consulted doctors who prescribed products that she believes ultimately caused her to develop another disease called scarring alopecia: "It felt terrible. It felt emotional. It felt psychological. It was just devastating.”
Shortly after Georgia had developed alopecia, she gave birth to her daughter, Ashley Lauren Parker, the namesake of her company. She was frustrated with the lack of natural products in the market and didn’t want to harm her newborn daughter with exposure to toxic ingredients.
Educated as a chemist, Georgia decided to take matters into her own hands. She formulated an all-natural hair growth product in her kitchen using jojoba oil. Her creation helped her hair grow back and drew interest from women in her church. She started selling homemade bottles of the hair oil at neighborhood parties and gradually expanded to a full-fledged business that carries entire lines of products dedicated to skin, hair and body care.
While her business has grown dramatically, Georgia’s dedication to purity, quality and inclusivity remains unchanged: "We as human beings, we're natural. I believe that we just do better when… we use natural products.” Every product she creates is labelled 100% natural, and she incorporates as many organic ingredients as she can without compromising performance. Plus, being a licensed esthetician and trichologist allows for her company to thrive even without the backing of research dollars from bigger companies. “You don't want to be completely dependent on the guys in the lab to make the product for you.” Georgia manufactures her products in a small, family-operated factory in Skokie and formulates them herself. She believes that the quality of the final product is dependent on the quality of ingredients.
Georgia believes that quality products like Ashley Lauren’s should be available to all people, regardless of race, class, sex or age. Her customers are “white, black, young, old, rich, poor, Indian, Chinese… from truckers to lawyers to doctors. … My products are multi-cultural.”
She’s also a strong believer in embracing natural hair texture. While she was working a corporate job, she felt pressured to relax her curly hair in order to maintain a more “professional” appearance. The perms caused damage to her hair that she believes contributed to her alopecia. Since then, she has worn her hair natural for almost 20 years: “Curly hair is beautiful.” While she’s not against straightened hair, she thinks that “it is best for your health and mind and body and spirit to love yourself the way that you are." Georgia is working to change the fact that “women of color have been disenfranchised when it comes to skin and hair care products” by giving people of all different backgrounds and appearances the specific care that they need.
Georgia’s own identity as a woman of color has also affected her experience as a small business owner. “People think, ‘Is she smart enough? Can she really help me?’” She sees a cultural belief that “the white male might be the smartest,” and often feels underestimated. But she doesn’t let these perceptions stop her: “We just have to put our mind toward it and just do it. No sexism, no racism, no anything can stop us.”
Georgia hopes that Ashley Lauren Natural Products can go on to reach even more women, giving them “access to quality… and purity.” She hopes that her company can continue to inspire women to start their own businesses and provide safe and effective products to all.