For sisters Ione Rucker-Jamison and Dr. Ellen Rucker Sellers, hair care has always been a family affair. The two used to get their hair done every week by their mother who used ingredients pulled straight from their South Carolina farm.
“Our mother really didn’t like chemicals,” said Ione. “So she would always use natural ingredients to put in our hair — like olive oil, mayonnaise, avocado and eggs — just different concoctions out of our dad’s garden…out of the kitchen to moisturize and help our hair to grow and to stay healthy.”
As adults, their own daughters helped reignite their passion for healthy hair. Ione said they wanted to be able to style their daughters’ natural hair in the same loving way their mother did for them.
That meant leaving their professional lives — Ellen had her own private chiropractor business and Ione has a master’s in elementary education — to launch their own natural hair care line, Rucker Roots.
“Neither one of us are beauticians, but we’ve always been into natural, healthy hair,” explained Ione about the line, which incorporates ideas and formulas from their mother’s concoctions. “So we were like, let’s find a chemist to help us find a good formula and let’s bottle this up. Here we are now, four years later, and it’s finally started to take off.”
Of course, with such straight-from-the-garden haircare roots, we anticipated the two would have a hair story to share, and they did not disappoint. See an excerpt of our conversation below.
MSR: Hair care has always been a family affair for you two. Can you tell us about your hair story?
Ione: Ellen and I come from a huge family. Our mother was always into the natural hair craze before, I guess, it was even a trend. There are four sisters in our family and she wouldn’t allow us to get relaxers back then, which was kind of unheard of because we had really thick hair. And, we were cheerleaders and were very active. Our mom was like, “You’re not getting any relaxers in your hair.”
Ellen: So, we have both been natural for 20 years. Meaning no relaxers, no texturizers. None of that.
MSR: Wait, 20 years? So, you did have relaxers when you were younger?
Ellen: Well, we snuck and got relaxers when we were in high school and our mother punished us.
Ione: Ellen was a senior in high school and I was a freshman.
Ellen: I was driving [at the time] and thought I was grown and snuck and got box relaxers. We put relaxers in our hair, came home, and our mom flipped out. She was like, “What in the world!” We took [the box relaxers] to a local beauty salon so we didn’t do them ourselves. But, we told the woman, “Oh, our momma said we could have them.” She was like, “Are you sure?” ’cause she knew how our momma was.
MSR: What happened?
Ellen: We were so excited and we called our brother who was in college and told him. By the time we got home, she already knew.
Ione: He already had called our mom and told on us!
Ellen: It was a big thing in our house. My mom used to mix up stuff for our hair on Sundays and we would do deep conditioners. She would make all of these concoctions. So, our brothers knew this was a huge deal.
MSR: What did your mom do?
We came home with those relaxers and we were punished for the rest of the school year. No TV, no nothing.
MSR: Did you have any hair horror stories afterward?
Ellen: No, our hair was looking good! [laughs] It wasn’t frizzing up or anything which was big because we were cheerleaders. And, back then there weren’t as many great products that are available now for our hair.
MSR: What was the biggest lesson you learned after getting your hair relaxed?
Ione: You don’t need one.
Ellen: Yes, you can be natural and still put heat on your hair, still want a little color every once in a while, and still wear weaves.
For more information on the Rucker sisters’ natural hair care line, visit https://ruckerroots.com.
Stephenetta Harmon is a Black beauty editor, curator, and digital media and communications expert who builds platforms to celebrate the power, impact, and business of Black beauty. She is the former EIC for Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder (2018-19) and current host of MSR Forefront, a digital roundtable series. She is the founder of Sadiaa Black Beauty Guide, the premier directory dedicated to Black-owned hair and beauty businesses. Find her at stephenetta.com.