Q&A with Sabrina Rowe Holdsworth

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to meet the fabulous Sabrina Rowe Holdsworth, celebrity hairstylist & founder of NTRL by Sabs, at an event in Soho.

Q&A with Sabrina Rowe

I was even luckier to take home some NTRL by Sabs goodies: a Lavender and Rosemary Natural Lip Balm, Coco Lav Lotion Bar # 1, LavRiche Shampoo Bar, and a CocoRiche Conditioner Bar. Truthfully, everything I have sampled smells amazing and has left my skin, hair, and lips softer than ever. And it’s so gratifying to know that the ingredients are all clean.

I got the scoop from Sabrina herself on all things NTRL by Sabs:

What was the inspiration for NTRL by Sabs, and how was the brand’s vision and mission shaped by your experience as a celebrity hairstylist?

The inception of NTRL by Sabs was sparked by my lifelong desire to manifest a tangible contribution to the beauty industry. I’ve always been intrigued by the marriage of creativity and science, and cosmetic formulation became a compelling outlet to explore this intersection.

The real challenge, however, lay in determining the timing, methodology, and personal readiness to launch a brand in a fiercely competitive market. My vast experience as a hairstylist and makeup artist played a crucial role in shaping the direction I wanted my brand to take.

Given my exposure to the beauty industry’s multifaceted dimensions, I realized the importance of emphasizing basic hair, skin, and body care. These foundational aspects often form the cornerstone of an individual’s beauty regimen. In a market teeming with complex, specialized products, I felt the need to return to these basics, but with a unique, thoughtful approach.

Our brand’s mission is therefore to provide inclusive, clean beauty solutions, all while minimizing our environmental footprint. This mission aligns seamlessly with my personal values and is integral to differentiating NTRL by Sabs within the beauty landscape. In essence, the brand embodies my belief that beauty should be accessible, responsible, and, above all, empowering for everyone.

Q&A with Sabrina Rowe

How did you approach formulating your first products, and did your expertise in hair care influence their development?

The journey of formulating the inaugural products for NTRL by Sabs was a rigorous one, underpinned by the principle of continuous learning and iteration. Much like any innovative process, it involved a substantial amount of trial and error. My extensive expertise in hair care played a crucial role in this process, shaping my understanding of product performance and the desired outcomes for our customers. This industry knowledge continues to be a guiding force in all our formulation endeavors. Formulating natural, effective beauty products is an intricate process that requires not only scientific understanding but also a deep appreciation for the complex needs of diverse customers. To navigate this multifaceted discipline, I pursued studies with master formulators and continue to learn from them to refine our product development process. This ongoing learning process helps us ensure that the NTRL by Sabs product line consistently meets our high standards of quality, performance, and sustainability while staying true to our mission of providing clean, natural beauty solutions.

In what ways does NTRL by Sabs prioritize inclusivity and cater to the diverse range of hair types and textures? 

Inclusivity is not just a business principle at NTRL by Sabs, but a personal value that I hold dear. It forms the backbone of our brand ethos and directly influences our product development and marketing strategies. In my two-decade-long career as a beauty service provider, I’ve learned that hair types and textures transcend racial, cultural, and gender lines. Therefore, it is a priority for us to ensure that our products cater to the vast spectrum of hair types and textures I’ve encountered in both arenas.NTRL by Sabs adamantly believes that beauty products should not be marketed based on gender, race, or culture. We aim to break free from the restrictive boxes created by traditional beauty norms, many of which have been crafted through a lens of prejudice. Our mission is to make everyone feel seen, recognized, and catered to, regardless of their hair type or texture. We strive to create a brand that not only meets diverse beauty needs but also fosters a sense of belonging and acceptance in every customer who engages with NTRL by Sabs.

What are some of the key botanical ingredients used in your products and how do they specifically benefit different hair types?

All hair types can benefit from the ingredients we use to formulate; going back to our mission of inclusivity. Some of my favorite ingredients to formulate with are:

Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is a highly nourishing oil, rich in medium-chain fatty acids that can deeply moisturize and condition the skin and hair. It’s also known for its antibacterial and antifungal properties, making it great for maintaining a healthy scalp and skin.

Castor Oil: Castor oil is well-known for promoting hair growth and has been traditionally used to thicken eyebrows and eyelashes. It can also provide deep conditioning for the hair, combating dryness and enhancing shine. For the skin, castor oil can help in moisturizing and promoting overall skin health due to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

Cocoa Butter: Cocoa butter is a highly emollient fat extracted from cocoa beans that helps to lock in moisture and protect the skin and hair from environmental damage. It’s high in fatty acids, which can improve skin elasticity and provide a barrier to retain moisture in the skin.

Rosemary: Rosemary has a variety of skin and hair benefits. It’s rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which can help to reduce swelling and puffiness of the skin. For hair, rosemary can stimulate the scalp to boost hair growth, and its antifungal properties can help combat dandruff. It can also add shine and luster to hair.

What steps have you taken to ensure your brand aligns with eco-friendly practices? 

Embracing sustainability and zero-waste initiatives are fundamental tenets at NTRL by Sabs, although they present distinct challenges for a self-funded, baby brand. However, I firmly believe it’s essential to do our part to safeguard our environment, and hence, our steps toward sustainability are highly deliberate. One of our key practices involves the careful selection of ingredients that are sustainably sourced, ensuring our products align with our commitment to the environment. We also prioritize recyclable and reusable packaging, and even our accessories are presented in compostable packaging, highlighting our effort to minimize waste across all facets of our operations. We consider the long-term environmental impact when deciding on new product developments. While there are numerous potential products we could create, we ensure we opt for those that align with our mission of sustainability. A significant achievement in this regard is our range of beauty bars, demonstrating that the pursuit of luxury and sustainability can harmoniously coexist. However, we understand the realities and limitations of the current recycling practices and their efficacy. In response, we strive to create products that leave no detrimental impact on the environment, do not disturb marine life, and are presented in packaging that can either be easily recycled or naturally degrade. Our commitment is to uphold high standards of environmental stewardship as we continue to grow and expand as a brand.

Q&A with Sabrina Rowe

In what ways does NTRL by Sabs promote representation and diversity within the beauty industry?

As a 100% Black, Latinx, Queer female-owned business, NTRL by Sabs is much more than just a beauty brand; we are a symbol of representation and diversity in an industry that has often lacked both. Our very existence serves as a powerful statement, emphasizing the necessity for diversity in beauty. Our team, though small, is both diverse and inclusive, fostering an environment that values different perspectives and backgrounds. We strongly believe that our strength and innovation lie within this diversity. By amplifying varied voices and experiences, we are better able to cater to a wide range of beauty needs. We are committed to partnering with other businesses owned by People of Color and women for all aspects of our operations, including public relations. These partnerships further broaden our impact by supporting and empowering underrepresented entrepreneurs within the industry. As we continue to grow, our contributions to promoting representation and diversity will exponentially expand. It’s a significant mission, but we believe that simply by being a part of the beauty industry, we’re sending an important message: diversity in beauty isn’t just an option—it’s vital. This mission is incredibly important to us, and we will relentlessly pursue it as we develop and expand the brand.

How do you find the balance between delivering high-quality products and making them affordable for a wide range of consumers? 

Striking a balance between maintaining high-quality standards and ensuring product affordability is an essential aspect of our philosophy at NTRL. We firmly believe that luxury products should not be a privilege but accessible to everyone. Our approach toward achieving this balance revolves around prioritizing our investments. We focus primarily on sourcing high-performance ingredients, as they form the crux of our products. Our commitment lies in delivering effective solutions that cater to the needs of our consumers, rather than investing heavily in elaborate packaging or marketing materials. This strategic allocation of resources allows us to manage our production costs effectively and pass these savings onto our customers, thus making our luxury range affordable. We believe that the true value of a product lies in its performance and the impact it has on our customers’ lives, rather than the aesthetics of its packaging. At NTRL by Sabs, the emphasis is, and will always be, on creating products that truly work for our customers.

Please share some success stories or testimonials from customers who have used NTRL by Sabs products and achieved positive results for their hair.

We’re always thrilled to receive feedback from customers about their positive experiences with our products. The most frequent praise we receive centers around the impressive performance of our bars after customers transition from traditional liquid products. Our customers are pleasantly surprised by the high levels of moisture retention and cleanliness they achieve, coupled with significant overall hair condition improvement. A particular testimonial that resonates deeply with me was shared by a mother and hairstylist, @stellastevenshairdesigns on Instagram. She encountered our shampoo bars following a podcast interview I participated in and had nothing but positive comments to share. She enthusiastically noted my introduction to the concept of a shampoo bar as a sustainable alternative to a bottled product, emphasizing the benefits: “No plastic!!” and its long-lasting nature, which also equates to cost-effectiveness. She was particularly impressed with its self-preserving quality. However, she also pointed out an unexpected advantage of our product that I hadn’t considered during its creation: its disability inclusivity. As a neurodiverse individual and mother to an autistic child who is sensitive to liquid textures, she found our bars to be a perfect solution for bathing, highlighting, “If you have a child who can’t tolerate touch, that can make bathing a big issue, and this is a great solution.”Feedback such as this not only validates our work but also enriches it by illuminating new dimensions of its impact. It confirms that we’re on the right path and motivates us to continue improving and innovating in our journey with NTRL by Sabs.

Are there any new product lines, collaborations, or expansion plans that you can share with us?

At NTRL by Sabs, we foresee a promising future characterized by conscious growth and strategic partnerships that align with our sustainability mission. We are committed to expanding at a pace that allows us to uphold our eco-friendly practices and maintain the quality and integrity of our products. It’s crucial to understand that the essence of sustainability doesn’t lend itself to virality or rapid scale-up. Instead, it’s a carefully calibrated journey that requires an unwavering dedication to responsible practices. Our approach to growth is embedded in this understanding, and we’re excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. While I can’t divulge specific details about new product lines or collaborations at this time, rest assured that we have innovative plans in the works, all designed with our commitment to sustainability and inclusivity at their core. We look forward to sharing more when the time is right.

Explore NTRL by Sabs.

Check out our other Q&As HERE.

Gemma Lolos

Social Media Manager, City Pulse Editor + Staff Writer

Gemma Lolos is a fiercely proud native New Yorker who is devoted to the arts in all its many forms. She loves to sing and listen to music, read great literature, experience inspiring theatre and film, and stream addictive television. She works full-time as a Marketing professional in New York City and does freelance writing on the side. In her free time, Gemma tries to immerse herself in the New York arts scene as much as possible, eat great food, and travel whenever she is able.