when your fro just ain’t workin, check out oyin handmade

August 13, 2010
Options for natural hair are much more vast than we seem to believe. Whether you go for a loc and twist style or a short fro, maintaining it is always an issue. My senior year of high school was transition city for me. This meant no perms and no chemical bullshit. With no more perms came a head full of coarse hair and no products to keep it nourished and unbreakable. I tried locs, a bald head and now I am rocking a fade/fro style. But still the idea of finding products that were good for my hair and smelled good became a challenge. All of this happened until I was introduced to Oyin Handmade. Oyin Handmade is a natural hair care line full of good, nourishing products mixed with love. Recently I caught up with Jamyla Bennu, the Grand Mixtress, and talked juices, berries and butter. Yummy!

When Your Fro Just Ain’t Workin, Check out Oyin Handmade
Interview Kia Chenelle

What does Oyin Handmade mean and how did you come up with that name?
I was raised by Panafricanist Black American parents who gave us all Yoruba naming ceremonies. These are beautiful ceremonies where the child is introduced to the community and to life by a shared tasting of foods and spices that represent different elements of life. I remember the priest singing a rousing song about ‘oyin’ when the time came to talk about honey and its representation of sweetness and joy. it’s been my favorite word ever since. When I was first experimenting with making my own hair products and discovered what a huge help honey can be to our hair and skin, it was a no-brainer to call the products oyin.

How did you get the name “The Mixtress?”

(laughing) I just have always liked calling myself that. It makes me smile. I don’t believe in taking life too seriously. (Smiles)

Owner, Jamyla Bennu

Is there a science to your product or was it all trial and error?

Both. I think trial and error is an important aspect of science as well as keeping good records, researching ingredients and their properties, coming up with hypotheses, and being willing to be one’s own guinea pig; which is how these products were created. That being said, I do not have a scientific educational background, a chemical engineering degree, or anything like that. I have been learning as I go along, and am still learning every day. I think this might be why our products have such a focus on natural ingredients, cooking, etc. Since I started it in my kitchen by using food-grade ingredients that were nourishing, rather than picking chemicals with xyz reactive property or whatever.

What influenced your decision to start a natural hair care line?

I was looking for something that I couldn’t find. Back in 1994 when I chopped off my last perm, there was zero industry around natural hair. I grew used to experimenting with different products, or mixing different products together to achieve what I needed. I fell in love with the concept of handmade cosmetics in 1995 when studying abroad in London. A small boutique called LUSH became my best friend – the shop smelled so good, and everything looked like a deli!! A couple of years later I discovered Carol’s Daughter while living in Brooklyn and thought, “even better… handmade and with hair like MINE in mind!” It was during a Personal Economic Downturn (laughs) when I couldn’t afford either of my two natural product ‘fixes’ that I started experimenting with ingredients in my own kitchen.

What sets your products apart from other lines?

They are handmade, nourishing, and made with love. Seriously, we love what we do, and have a lot of fun doing it – we are so thankful that the work of our hands goes out into so many homes and helps folks fall in love with their own awesome hair.

If your products could reach one person who would that be and why?

You! (Gentle reader) because I bet you’d love them. (smiles)

Tell me about the infamous Juices and Berries and Burnt Sugar pomade.

The stories of those products are best told on the product info pages – i’ll include the links!
Juices: Click here

What is your top selling product?

I think juices (combined) are our top sellers, but the whipped pudding is a very close second.

What is the best way to avoid dry hair and breakage?

In a nutshell, by keeping the hair moisturized and protected from over styling. Be sure to rinse and condition hair more often than you wash it. Wash regularly using a gentle cleanser without sulfates. Use water-based moisturizers, and use oils to ‘seal in’ the moisture. Finally, try and find products which include humectant ingredients – these help your hair draw moisture from the environment. Wear ‘protective’ styles when you can like braids, buns, twists, etc, which keep your ends protected, tucked-in, or don’t have to be restyled every single day. Voila! more details are on our site in the ‘care & feeding of a healthy natural head’ article.

What products do you use daily for your hair and what’s your favorite style?

What I use varies depending on what I’m doing. For instance, yesterday I used one of the juices, a little honey hemp conditioner, and some burnt sugar for a sheen, moisturized high afro puff. Today I conditioner-rinsed w/honey hemp then used shine & define and whipped pudding for a ‘stretch&go,’ out style. The style I use most often is a low puff – but whenever I wear it, the hubster tsks me, like “you are the Mixtress! You better represent!” But it’s so easy and simple — it’s my fallback style. My FAVORITE style is a freshly done set of cornrows – super protective and so beautiful. But I rarely have the time to braid my hair nowadays.

What are your views of African American’s and the natural hair movement in America?

I really love seeing more and more people embracing their hair’s awesome natural texture. African-descended people have such a gift in our hair — it’s just so versatile, beautiful, and can do such amazing things. Also, it’s like a fingerprint in that it’s unique to each one of us. I think it’s a powerful and beautiful thing that more of us are wearing it without chemical alteration.

What is it like running a family business and maintaining a home?

It can be challenging at times, but its heck of fun. my husband Pierre and I have been working together almost since the day we met – with me helping on his film shoots to teaching arts workshops together, etc. Oyin is what it is today b/c from day one I’ve had his unconditional support, his day to day help (he was the entire shipping department for like the first 6 years!), and his creative vision. Not only does he create all our media, but he also came up with all the most interesting product names! (laughs)

Any suggestions for people trying to start a family business?

Strengthen the family! There’s a lot of stress that can be associated with running a business, so you’d better make sure your communication game is tight. Make sure you can efficiently and fairly allocate household chores, for instance, before you start mixing up family and business. (smiles)

To find more info and buy Oyin Handmade products please visit and Exittheapple store every Saturday from 12-7

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Ever use Oyin? How did it work for you? What are some other brands that work for your fro? Join the discussion here.