To mark International Day of Forests, environmentalist and founder of Amazon Beauty Anna Ayers shares the story of how she and husband Fabian Lliguin created the Rahua brand to actively preserve the rainforest, and how they work alongside the Indigenous People of the Amazon to gather rainforest grown ingredients to produce their natural beauty products, protecting one acre of land per year for every bottle sold.
When New York hair stylist and colourist Fabian Lliguin learned of the unique benefits of Rahua oil during a environmental trip to the Amazon rainforest, he knew this could be a tool not only to create innovative natural beauty products, but also to protect and preserve the land on which Rahua oil is harvested, and the ceremonial traditions of the Indigenous communities who have been extracting the oil for generations.
Originally from Ecuador, Fabian had moved to New York when he was in his twenties, where he met his wife – fashion designer and trend forecaster Anna Ayers. Both passionate environmentalists, the couple bonded over their love for mother nature. Fabian frequently travelled back to Ecuador, and eventually to the rainforest, where he found ties to his lineage and built connections with the local Indigenous communities.
It was during a visit to the Quechua-Shuar tribe deep in the Amazon that Fabian realised that he was surrounded by women with long, lustrous hair that cascaded past their waists. The women told Fabian that their secret was Rahua oil, which the members of the tribe had been using for centuries to nourish their hair and skin. The nut oil, which is rich in Omega 9, has an extraordinarily small molecular structure. Unlike other botanical oils or synthetic silicones, Rahua Oil deeply penetrates the hair’s cortex – bonding and repairing it, while simultaneously smoothing the cuticle.
“Every drop of Rahua is potent and magical,” explains Anna. “Rahua oil is a Symbiotic, handmade oil made using ancestral knowledge. This powerful oil mends and transforms the health of hair and scalp; resulting in stronger, longer, shinier hair.”
Fabian returned to his New York hair salon with a bottle of Rahua oil he had been given, which he trialled on his clients with incredible results. But although he knew that he had something very special on his hands, initially he was reluctant to turn it into a product. “We were concerned about what that might do to the forest,” recalls Anna. “We didn’t want to do anything that was extracting or harming because we were looking for ways to protect the forest.”
“Rahua only grows in virgin forest. If roads are built in these areas, or if any destruction happens, then the trees don’t grow and the seeds don’t thrive and it doesn’t work. It has to grow wild, and if the trees grow too close to each other, they fight for the same nutrients in the soil.”
The couple learned that the process of extracting Rahua is an ancestral, ceremonial tradition. “It takes a long time,” says Anna. “But when we learnt all of these factors, we said, well, actually that works for us as environmentalists because we can make a product that will honour nature and help take care of nature and help take care of these traditions for the future.”
Together they launched the Rahua brand, drawing on the wisdom of the tribe to formulate a line of innovative, plant-based products to heal, nourish, beautify, and transform, with a promise to never harvest non-regenerative rainforest ingredients.
“Rahua and our company Amazon Beauty were created to protect and preserve the Amazon Rainforest,” says Anna. “The indigenous communities that live in the rainforest are the guardians of the rainforest. And as long as they’re living there, these lands, these traditions, and this knowledge, and these trees, will keep existing for our future and for the future health of our world. So this is what inspires our environmental work.”
Rahua oil was – and still is – produced by the Quechua-Shuar tribe in the same complex, ritualistic, and sustainable fashion it has been for generations. The hand-harvested process is carried out by the indigenous women of the tribes under guidelines including fasting, no salt and specific humidity levels. The entire process is dictated by the moon cycle.
“The Indigenous communities do what they have always done. They make Rahua oil in the most sustainable way you can imagine; using their ancient wisdom and knowledge of the forest and plants. They know how to work with Nature so that it flourishes,” says Anna.
Today, more than 500 families from the Quechua-Shuar, Achuar, and neighbouring tribes work with Fabian and Anna to cultivate the rainforest grown ingredients used in the Rahua hair care and body care collections in self-sustained forests.
Symbiotic® is Rahua’s signature standard. “Symbiotic ingredients are grown in pristine forest and made from pure plants,” explains Anna. “Symbiotic ingredients are handmade with ancestral methods and ancient wisdom. We use Rahua oil, Sacha Inchi, Morete oil, Guayusa.”
In order for an ingredient to be classified as Symbiotic®, it must be rainforest grown (wild) in undisturbed virgin forest, harvested and prepared using indigenous knowledge by people indigenous to the virgin forest environment, and it must be purchased at a price that helps to grow and sustain these traditions, build economies, and empower the indigenous people.
Incredibly, through the purchase of one bottle of Rahua, one acre of rainforest is preserved per year. To date, 37,500 hectares of pristine and biodiverse tribal lands deep in the Amazon Rainforest has been preserved for perpetuity.
“We focus on high quality, concentrated, beautiful products that deliver,” Anna shares. “This year we have introduced refills, reducing packaging by 90% and are encouraging everyone to hold on to their bottle. We choose materials that can be recycled globally, and have added more minimalistic glass packaging that can be repurposed. We prioritise preserving Rainforest trees to balance the footprint of our company and our clients and retailers. Additionally we are planting trees throughout the areas that we work.”
“It’s been a very grassroots process, but it’s just helping something that exists already revive and flourish. There’s no middle people involved in our process. Fabian has been building relationships with the indigenous leaders, the presidents and the vice presidents of these communities since the ‘90s. We pay above fair trade price, because this needs to not only pay for the ingredient, but also support and create an economy that didn’t exist before. The Indigenous tribes have this amazing wisdom and knowledge and our main goal is to ensure that this exists for the future. We have so much to learn from them.”