The Beautiful Rainforest

For the couple behind Rahua Beauty, the environment always comes first

For Fabian Lliguin and Anna Ayers, the husband-and-wife team behind the Rahua hair and body care line, it’s always been about the rainforest. “We started our company as environmentalists, and that’s still the priority,” says Ayers. “Beauty is just a tool to create awareness.”

Over a decade ago, Lliguin, an Ecuadorian working as a hair stylist in New York City, felt like he “wanted to do something bigger.” He founded Ecoagents—an NGO dedicated to protecting the Amazon rainforest, its people and their culture—and began traveling frequently to that region, serving as a resource for the indigenous Quechua Achuar communities. On one trip, he spotted a group of tribeswomen applying something to each other’s long, lustrous locks from a ceramic bowl, with handmade combs. Intrigued, he asked what they were doing—and heard all about the magic of Rahua oil, derived from the ungurahua jungle nut.

Lliguin took a sample of the Omega-9-rich oil back to New York, and soon saw firsthand how incredible it was for rebalancing the scalp and strengthening hair. He was inspired to create products featuring the miraculous ingredient, but hesitated, not wanting to disrupt the environment or the local culture. Luckily, the Amazonian women set him straight. “They explained that the process of making the oil is sustainable, because the twice-yearly harvest is actually necessary to help regenerate the forest and keep it intact,” remembers Ayers. “No trees are cut down, nothing is planted or destroyed—the jungle remains wild. And the trees won’t produce the nuts if the area becomes compromised, so harvesting the nuts helps ensure the area stays in balance.”

Launched in 2008, the ensuing Rahua (pronounced “ra-wa”) line is so committed to sustainability that the owners have coined the production standards “symbiotic,” which means the ingredients (which also include other Amazonian nut and wood oils) are not only 100-percent plant-derived, but also grown in virgin rainforest and hand-processed by indigenous people, using traditional practices.“

From the beginning, the company had an agreement with, and commitment to, the communities,” Ayers stresses. “They are the guardians of the forest; outsiders have to be invited there.” Rahua pays its local partners directly (in rates that are higher than market and Fair Trade), organizes workshops and classes, and is working to both build an economy for them and preserve this ancient ancestral tradition, which was disappearing with the younger generation.

Rahua and Ecoagents also undertake projects for the communities each year, from providing them with solar panels, computers and food essentials to sponsoring two indigenous students to go to college in the city. In celebration of their 10th anniversary (both as a couple and a company), Ayers and Lliguin also recently launched the Enchanted Island Salt Spray for hair, with a portion of proceeds going to help clean up efforts in 20 flamingo habitats in the Galapagos region—another opportunity for what Ayers calls “conscious consumption.”

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Sandra Ramani

Sandra Ramani

Senior Contributing Editor at Organic Spa Magazine
In addition to serving as OSM’s Senior Contributing Editor, writer/editor Sandra Ramani covers travel, wellness, and lifestyle topics for such publications as Travel + Leisure, Robb Report, Premier Traveler, AFAR, Bridal Guide, Elite Traveler, and Every Day with Rachael Ray. She is also the author of “Day Trips from Dallas / Fort Worth,” now in its second edition. Recent assignments have found her sleeping in the Sahara, hopping helicopters in New Zealand, and making this new friend in Bali.
Sandra Ramani

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