The gate of an unassuming residential property in Plumstead slides open and a forty-something blonde exits and pads across the road in her Todd’s, smiling briefly as she catches the reflection of her sunkissed highlights in her Range Rover window. She’s not alone. Increasing numbers of Cape Town’s social elite are flocking to this address. So what’s the attraction? An astute observer might notice the one thing they have in common: shiny, healthy-looking hair.

So why is a tiny hair studio in Plumstead the preferred choice for those who can easily afford big-brand, high-fashion hairdressing salons? The answer lies in Renee Short, an energetic and intuitive hairdresser and the sole importer of the Italian hair and skin product range, Naturalmente.

Renee is passionate about her chosen trade. She loves hair and what it does for women, often referring to hair as a woman’s “crowning glory”. In 2006, when Renee agreed to be part of a study one of her clients was undertaking on “cellular exploration”, she discovered she was had a “toxic overload” of chemical products from personal care products. As she uses very few beauty products herself, Renee determined it must be as a result of the products she was working with professionally. “I realised how many products I handled every single day, my hands constantly in contact with one chemical or another. I started thinking about the fact that the skin is permeable, it’s a sponge, whatever we put on our skin ends up inside our bodies. I also started to remember conversations with clients who said they had felt ill for two days after having their hair colour done. Obviously this was only the occasional client who is probably more sensitive, but I knew there had to be a link.”

Renee did some investigating and quickly discovered there were no products available for professionals to use on their clients’ hair that were free of petrochemicals and obtained from sustainable protected resources and did not contain ingredients of animal origin and were not tested on animals. Then, in 2008, while assisting a friend who sold chemical-free cleaning products for the home at a Natural and Organic Fair, Renee stumbled across Naturalmente.

Renee was immediately captivated by a small quantity of Naturalmente, a non-toxic professional hair product range had been brought into South Africa by an unlikely source: Francois – a farmer and entrepreneur from the Cradock. Despite being based in different provinces and having, at first glance, little in common, Renee and Francois soon began to work together to put Naturalmente on the South African map. Three years later their mutual desire to create an ethical and sustainable business has resulted in Naturalmente becoming a well-known brand which is as gentle on its users’ hair and skin as it is on the planet. Although Renee has now bought out Francois’ share, he remains a champion for Naturalmente and for Renee personally as they both realise this could not have happened without each other.

Renee’s passion for Naturalmente is contagious, as she waves her hands around like an Italian throwing in the odd Italian word (she’s learning the language). She is quick to point out that Naturalmente is “not just about a green range, it’s not about fulfilling a trend. It’s actually about an entire philosophy. Most products play on words to trick the consumer into believing a product is Earth and people-friendly.  They put in bold writing “paraben free” but the rest of the ingredients are not petro-chemical free. For example they’ve got rid of sodium laurel sulphate (SLS) but the product is full of other chemicals that are just as bad.”

SLS is a particular bugbear of Renee’s. She explains that it’s the stuff found in nearly all dishwashing liquids and household cleaning agents yet the same substance is also commonly found in most shampoos, body washes, bubble bath and toothpastes. Why? It’s a very effective degreaser and lathering agent. But as Renee explains, “It’s a no brainer that something I use to clean my roast chicken pan should NOT be used to clean my body. It’s the same with hair colour – ammonia is in all-purpose cleaners AND in hair colour. Somewhere the line between cleaning my home and my kitchen and cleaning me has merged. SLS pushes your scalp PH to over 10, the ideal PH level is 5.5. If the PH of your garden soil is out, your garden can die. What do you think it’s doing to your head?”

Renee has realised she doesn’t need to work that hard to convince people to switch to Naturalmente. “It’s pretty obvious that there are a lot of profound reasons to start using the Naturalmente range whether it’s concern about the fact you’re applying toxins daily to your body or concern about the damage we are doing to the planet by using petro-chemicals. Even if your only reason is the more superficial one – that you end up with fab hair – hey, that’s a pretty good reason too”. Renee knows she’s onto a good thing: it’s a matter of time before the world looks at ammonia-based beauty products full of parabens the same way we now view foods containing MSG and tartrazine.

A growing range of Naturalmente Products are available from our online store

Naturalmente Aloe & Sandalwood Shampoo

Naturalmente Aloe & Sandalwood Shampoo

This is what Michelle McLean former Miss Universe, TV personality and humanitarian had to say about the range:

“After being in the modeling, beauty and television industries for over 25 years I have never come across a hair product that has replenished the health, vitality and strength of my hair the way Naturalmente has.

Over the years my hair has had to endure constant bombardment every day for photo shoots, fashion shows and television programmes. After all the teasing, hot ironing, blow drying, colouring from blond to dark and back again, I thought that my hair would never recover. Tony of Yazo 4 Hair and I spent years and years trying to get my hair’s luster and strength back to where I was when I started modeling at the tender age of 13.

Last year in 2010 Tony introduced me to Renee and my love affair with Naturalmente began. My previously fine, brittle overstressed hair is now much stronger, thicker, grows quicker and has the most incredible natural colour and shine.

I love the fact that besides getting the perfect results esthetically, I am following my heart by using a purely natural product that is 100% Green.”