Wearing her natural texture used to give her anxiety — here's how she turned things around.
Julissa Prado first wore her natural curls to school at 15. As with many others who have gone through curl journeys, this was a moment she thought about and planned for months. Up until then, she had mainly been wearing her hair straight or pulled back into a gelled updo — and the people whose hair she would do as well typically asked for the same.
"I thought I was going to throw up in an anxious moment," she tells InStyle over Zoom. "I remember practicing my hairstyle at home, wearing it around at home, getting comfortable with it, and then being like, 'Okay, tomorrow's the day.'"
Times were different back then. This was before YouTube tutorials and social media became learning tools for those looking for guidance, and Prado remembers that there weren't many brands with products that catered to curly hair. At the time, she didn't think much of it, she just went to work and made her own concoctions to help her curls thrive — never thinking they would one day lead to her becoming a business owner.
"Something that's very Latino, very immigrant, is having these remedies and traditions based on natural ingredients and seeing the value and importance of using them," she explains, furthering that it was her grandmother who taught her how to use them. She grew up in a rural Mexican town where Prado says there isn't even a road, and every time she'd go visit her from her home in L.A., her grandmother would teach her about the local ingredients. "She taught me knowledge about not only how to use them to make your hair look beautiful, but also to make your hair healthier," Prado shares.
Over the years, she fine-tuned her concoctions and would carry them around in Ziplock bags. Eventually, she went to college, got a Masters degree, and went on to work a corporate job — a job she loved and that paid well. Never in a million years did Prado think she'd quit her job to work on what today is her wildly successful haircare brand — Rizos Curls — but she did.
Here, she tells InStyle how her passion for helping others in their curl journeys fuels her business, what the most rewarding part of having a brand is, and the challenges and responsibilities that come with being a founder.
Why did you start Rizos Curls?
I was that kid, who during homecoming and prom season, seniors would book me to do their hair — I was the hair girl. I grew up in predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods, and pretty much everyone who I styled had wavy, curly, or coily hair textures — but we all straightened it. Then, in ninth grade, I decided I wanted to learn how to style my natural hair — as did my clients.
I went on this journey to understand natural hair textures. So, I did that and started wearing my hair natural — and I was making my own little concoctions based on my grandma's teachings. On the side, I was meeting others and doing their hair on the side. I'd meet these people and they'd have worried looks on their faces, like, "I don't know what to do with my natural hair. I've never worn it natural. I've been straightening my whole life," Helping them through that journey, showing them how to wear their hair natural, and then seeing that first moment when they look at themselves in the mirror and see their hair natural and actually liking it — it was something so special and so impactful that I got addicted to that feeling.
So, with my products, it was more convenient to make my formulas more professionally because it was annoying that they would go bad or I would have to refrigerate [the concoctions] — I didn't even think of it as a real business.
"I was working full-time when I launched Rizos Curls in 2017, and I thought it was going to be my little side hobby/passion project," Prado says. "I had a great job. It was just that this grew way faster and way more than I thought it would — it forced me to quit my job, which was scary. But I would think about [Rizos Curls] when I went to bed, every time I ate, every time I showered. My whole life was consumed with this feeling of doing this. And I'm a Pisces. I'm so emotional, I couldn't ignore it."
The name of the brand is bilingual— was that intentional?
Yes, it's a little Spanish lesson. Originally, I just wanted to call it Rizos, and then was like, "You know what? We're going to teach people what 'Rizos' means." [Editor's note: "rizos" is the Spanish word for curls.]
Every brand defines "clean beauty" differently, so what does "clean" mean to Rizos Curls?
Clean beauty is something that really did originate from immigrant communities, so I grew up practicing clean beauty before it was even a term. Practicing clean beauty is not me staying on-trend. It's me supporting my roots, supporting my heritage, supporting my own family traditions and culture, and staying true to the way I was raised and grew up.
Rizos Curls abides by European standards. In addition, we have an ingredient glossary on our website where we state a long list of all the things that we don't formulate with. We're also big on transparency, so every single ingredient in all our products is listed with the EWG rating that rate show safe it is. And we describe exactly what the purpose of that ingredient is for our product.
What's the best part of having Rizos Curls?
All the connections we've been able to make and all the people we've been able to meet. I just love to have created this community with really amazing people that have textured hair who are either on their journey to embrace it or have already done so. It's also such a beautiful journey of self-love because hair is much deeper than just hair — it's just really amazing to play any type of role on that journey for people.
What's the most challenging part of having Rizos Curls?
We're a hundred percent self-funded, which is very, very rare once you enter retail. The way it works is you get an order from a huge retailer, and that order usually costs a lot of money to fulfill, and that has to come from your pocket. So, you have to make sure you have enough funds anytime you get an order. You also have to fund your own growth. There's a lot of money that's needed to keep your business going even when you make a lot of money. And the more that you grow and the more money that you make, the more money you need to keep it going.
What's the best piece of advice you have for aspiring Beauty Bosses?
To be authentic, and to make sure that you actually truly love your products.
Shop Rizos Curls
To shop: $30; rizoscurls.com
When Prado formulates, she says she likes to look at ingredients typically used in skincare and see how they benefit hair. "Our vitamin C technology is clinically proven to help repair your hair after just five minute usage by increasing manageability and shine," she says.
To shop: $28; rizoscurls.com
In a similar vein to why she used vitamin C in the above hair mask, clay was a source of inspiration to Prado because she uses it all the time and realized how much it could benefit the scalp, and thus promote healthier hair. "I love a clay mask for my face because it really absorbs impurities, detoxes, and takes everything off," she explains of her love for the ingredient. "Our Detox Scalp Scrub has aloe vera, pink clay, and these little hydrated silica, biodegradable beads that are infused with peppermint."
To shop: $25; rizoscurls.com
This lightweight oil is so good, Prado even uses it on her skin. "It has 100% natural essential oils," she says. "It has carrot seed oil, which is another ingredient that's really amazing in skincare, and has great benefits for haircare and scalp care as well,"
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Beauty Boss profiles the brains behind the brands making waves in the beauty industry. From the ideas that first inspire brands to how best-selling hair, makeup, and skincare products are made, find out how these leaders get it done.
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