Rahua: The Ancient Amazon Rainforest Secret for Healthy Hair
Interview with Fabian Lliguin of Rahua
Fabian Lliguin, a New York City hairstylist, visited an indigenous tribe in the Amazon and discovered their centuries-old secret for healthy, waist-length hair: rahua oil. He and his wife, Anna Ayers, now work with the tribe to create rahua-based hair care products that respect the tribe and protect the rainforest—all while working beautifully. Their passion for environmentalism shines through in the Rahua brand product line and company ethos.
Parvati Magazine: You embarked on an amazing journey that brought you to rahua oil. Was Rahua really borne of the moment you tried it on a client’s damaged hair?
Fabian Lliguin: When we met the indigenous women, we were so impressed with their extraordinary hair, which they attributed to rahua oil (Ungarahua). When returning to New York and using it on women with damaged hair, we were amazed at the transformation. Although the idea was sparked to begin a beauty business, we were very hesitant. Our priority is to protect the rainforest and its people. We were afraid that bringing rahua oil and its benefits into the public eye would spark others to want to cultivate it. However, when we learned that the trees need to be grown naturally and at a large distance from each other in order to produce the rahua nuts, we knew it couldn’t be mass-produced.
Parvati Magazine: What was that moment like, when you learned you could bring together your hair expertise with your environmentalist passion? Had you always felt the two could go hand in hand?
Fabian Lliguin: The decision to go into business was very thoughtfully planned and not rushed into. The rahua oil being cultivated by the indigenous people in the same ancient ceremonial processes that have been done for centuries was not embraced much by the younger people. Realizing we could marry the three concepts of protecting the forest, growing [the tribes’] economies, and providing the beauty industry with clean, non-toxic, plant-powered ingredients was exhilarating!
Parvati Magazine: Although rahua oil is your star ingredient, palo santo oil gets front and center in one of your newer products. How did this foray into fragrance come about?
Fabian Lliguin: Rahua is the first beauty company to use palo santo oil in hair products, and we did so because we wanted to use a natural preservative as opposed to a synthetic. Palo santo answered that calling. Palo santo also has antibacterial benefits, along with its intoxicating aroma. People gravitate towards it, as the scent is very uplifting and promotes positivity.
Parvati Magazine: Rahua, from its inception, was always rooted in sustainable practices and preservation of the Amazonian rainforest. What drew you to become advocates for this ecosystem?
Fabian Lliguin: After being in the beauty industry and cutting and coloring hair for many years, I had a deepened desire to do something greater for the Earth. I was born in Ecuador and of Inca descent. As a child, I used to visit the Amazon and loved all its natural beauty. When I returned as an adult, I was disheartened to see the destruction that came from the oil companies. I felt that something needed to be done to protect the rainforest. We now have over 500 families building a sustainable economy by producing rahua oil. We are proud to say that we have preserved 37,500 hectares (roughly 100 acres) of pristine and biodiverse tribal lands deep in the Amazon rainforest for perpetuity.
Parvati Magazine: You took the green beauty category to the next level by introducing “symbiotic” into the game, meaning that the ingredients are grown wild and hand-processed through ancestral knowledge, and that makers are paid above fair-trade price. Why was it important to you to not stop at just being organic and fair trade?
Fabian Lliguin: In order for a product or ingredient to be certified “organic,” it must be farmed and regulated for authorities to be able to inspect it. Since our ingredients come from the Amazon rainforest, none of the ingredients are farmed. Aside from this, our ingredients are harvested deep in the rainforest where regulators would not be able to travel for inspection.
Parvati Magazine: You are currently involved in a number of environmental efforts and practices, from Ecoagents and the Pink Flamingos Project to water conservation and carbon neutrality. How do you manage your time and resources between them?
Fabian Lliguin: I am highly motivated and passionate about the environment and this good green earth! My subconscious is always trying to resolve any issues, and my conscious mind is present in the daily operations of business, whether it be environmental or Rahua.
While on an environmental mission in the Amazon rainforest, Fabian Lliguin and Anna Ayers were introduced to the rare rahua oil by indigenous women with lustrous hair. Lliguin, a hairdresser, brought the oil back to his salon and when it transformed his clients’ hair, he knew there was an opportunity to build a business, support local tribes, and preserve the Earth.