Nneka Fleming

AirFro founder Nneka Fleming reveals the role her six-year-old son played in creating an innovative haircare product the world was missing...

We love the name AIRFRO. What's the meaning behind it?

My six year old very innocently referred to his hair as “up hair” and other hair types as “down hair” and when you have textured hair you can relate to that. However that phrase was said to him by classmates which could be construed negatively but we wanted to make it a positive for him and others with similar hair. We want them to see “up hair” as a source of strength and a bit like a superpower so we called it AIRFRO – for hair that defies gravity. Also, we used the word 'air' - because we create products that are light, they don’t weigh down your hair and they are also gentle on the environment with natural ingredients and sustainable packaging and the word 'fro' links to the beautiful nature of textured hair and curls.

Nneka Fleming
Nneka Fleming

You have a background in skincare and fashion. What have you learnt since crossing over into hair?

I think my experience in natural skincare has helped me understand that inclusivity starts when you understand what’s in a product and how it works. At AIRFRO we focus on functional natural ingredients that are widely proven to work. For example a lot of people, at some point, has used Aloe vera leaf on a wound and so you personally know about its healing properties. The same goes for honey, when you have a sore throat, so we don’t need to re-educate our customers or leave them feeling out of the loop with a new ingredient they’ve never heard of.

My experience in fashion is something that I think is missing in haircare. You only really need one white shirt and the rest you alternate depending on mood – clothes fit your lifestyle. With AIRFRO we know you don’t need another bottle on your shelf doing the same thing as all the others. You need something that meets your lifestyle needs. As exercise and healthy living become increasingly important, we found that people with textured and curly hair shy away from physical exercise because sweat means washing your hair and that takes time. No one wants to walk around with sweaty hair. For people with gym curls wash day is still once a month! Sweat is very drying on the hair and irritating to the scalp. So poor haircare after the gym or a workout can lead to yeast and bacteria build up causing dermatitis and flaking of the scalp.


Your sons are of mixed heritage. Have their hair journeys played a role in the development of the brand?

Yes, my co-founder, Cathy, and I have five sons between us and they all have very different hair textures. We both struggled to know what to do with them as my afro products were too heavy and her European products were to drying and all were too “feminine” in fragrance and branding. And we both agreed they need speed! So with AIRFRO we removed heavy oils, strong fragrances and long process times. And of course the kids care about the environment so our bottles are made from aluminium which is widely recyclable or can be refilled with our eco pouches.

When making the formula, what were some of your demands?

AIRFRO 00.3 DFY is the curly hair equivalent of a Dry Shampoo so we had to figure out how to do that without being drying. While straight hair needs oils to be minimised curly hair needs to stay hydrated to stay manageable, shiny and defined between washes. We also wanted functional natural ingredients with cleansing and antimicrobial properties. It had to be fast acting, fast to apply and no synthetic fragrance. AIRFRO 00.3 DFY is made with hydrosols rather than oils because no one wants to add oils to sweaty hair and research also shows that applying oils to your scalp can actually cause dermatitis on the scalp. Hydrosols like Aloe vera, honey and a pro-vitamin B5 can relieve itching and dryness. Aloe vera protects the hair and proteins strengthen curls. It’s the perfect combination to look after your curls quickly as a post gym hair product or daily haircare after a work out or training.


How would you describe the AIRFRO user? Who is he or she?

The AIRFRO user wants great curls fast. They are seeking faster and streamlined solutions for their hair but they don’t want to sacrifice quality and style. They currently wash their hair twice a month at most but know they need to do more to protect and strengthen their hair between washes. And they care about the environment. There’s no one else like us.

What can we expect in the future?

We will be launching other products 00.2 and 00.1 which uphold our ethos of multi-functioning products that help look after textured hair quickly. And we’re interviewing professional athletes, dancers and fitness experts with textured hair and sharing their haircare tips to help remove the barriers to healthy active lifestyles people with texture face when it comes to maintaining a healthy active lifestyle."

Visit https://www.myairfro.com/

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