If you had told Ana Nuñez that she would not only wear her hair curly, but own a beauty brand aimed at curly hair products, she would have laughed in your face. For 20 years she had straightened her hair for the smooth, silky look that society had deemed the beauty standard. But when her 14-year-old daughter wanted to start straightening her hair, Nuñez had a visceral reaction. “She had this gorgeous, curly hair,” Nuñez said. “My first thought was that she was going to ruin it.” If she was going to encourage her daughter to embrace her natural locks, Nuñez needed to learn the ins and outs of curly hair care — and apply it to herself.
In the following months, Nuñez learned about the “curly girl method,” found which ingredients to avoid, such as silicone and sulfates, and joined online hair communities. As she began to embrace her curls, other people took notice. “I started an Instagram account and became a micro-influencer,” she said. “Soon I had brands reaching out for me to try their products.”
At this time Nuñez still had no idea that starting her own business would be in her future. She was working full-time in HR and getting her master’s degree in the same field, while a single mom of two. But then two things happened: She first went on a trip to Indonesia and witnessed its massive amounts of pollution. Second, while watching Trevor Noah on “The Daily Show,” she learned about the American recycling system and how broken it is. “Only 9-11% of plastics in the world ever get recycled. The U.S. sends a lot of these recycling products overseas, because they require manual labor to process, and it ends up contributing to their landfills. It exploits their people and their land,” she said.
Nuñez realized how many plastic product bottles she had accumulated since her curly hair journey began and knew there had to be a solution. There were a few shampoo and conditioner bars already on the market, which are used like a bar of soap to your scalp. After not finding one she liked, Nuñez decided to make her own, formulated for curly hair. And so, Vida Bars was born. Nuñez began at her kitchen stove, perfecting her formulas and creating the product using all plant-based ingredients. Since she already had a platform, it wasn’t long before other curly girls wanted to try it. Within six months of launching in 2020, Vida Bars had orders in all 50 states. Vida Bars has since saved 200,000 plastic bottles from ending up in a landfill.
As a brand, Vida Bars is impact-driven, and Nuñez is always thinking about ways to give back to her community. She said, “I partner with non-profits that are working with the unhoused population in OKC. I do in-kind donations for mobile showers and the YWCA. Our products are sold in muslin bags, handmade by the Rarámuri, an indigenous community in Chihuahua, Mexico, where I am originally from. Vida Bars also offers a scholarship for survivors of domestic violence.”
Since launching Vida Bars, Nuñez has worked consistently to create a better company. She has been a part of several accelerator programs, both locally and nationally. At the time of our interview, she was participating in Ulta Beauty’s accelerator program, which includes grant money as well as education and mentorship.
“The legitimacy of small business is so important,” Nuñez said. “I didn’t know what direction I was going, but I knew the impact I wanted to create. I wanted to make good hair care products that work well, that make an environmental difference. I’ve strived to keep that vision clear.”
To purchase Vida Bars, which are all handmade in Guthrie, visit thevidabars.com or shop locally at The Refillery in the Plaza District.