Step aside hair care, there’s a new approach to hair health sure to transform tresses.
As a child, salsa music could be heard on repeat flowing out of Babba Rivera’s Spanish-speaking household and into the surrounding streets in her Swedish hometown.
Upbeat and lively, the rhythms echoed the pace of
It was a time of connection with both her family and her culture. Babba recalls her father, a trained hairdresser back in Chile, who would spend hours braiding her long hair, while her mother and aunties would invite her to share in practices using natural ingredients they knew and loved.
“I grew up with a front-row seat to Latin American beauty rituals,” Babba says.
“What I loved most was the strong sense of community I learned from home as well as the healthy relationship to beauty I learned from my family as a form of self-care,” she says, adding her mother taught her self-worth by practising it herself — as a mother of two unapologetically carving out time for two-hour baths and showers.
These cherished memories from her upbringing formed the basis of Ceremonia, a hair wellness brand rooted in Latinx culture that burst on to the beauty scene three years ago.
Born out of her desire to introduce these rituals and culture to the world, Babba says her aim was to fill the void of the Latinx representation in the beauty space.
Despite the brand remaining true to its roots, Babba says she grappled with her Chilean heritage in her younger years and hopes that her brand helps those who might also be struggling to assimilate.
“I wasn’t always proud of [my culture]. I realise today that because of the lack of representation I experienced growing up, I wasn’t always able to fully appreciate the richness of my culture,” she says. “I felt awkward and weird.”
The Swedish Latina, who now lives in New York City, has a long history of starting — and succeeding. She launched the ride-share company Uber in Stockholm, took over the helm as director of brand marketing at luggage company Away, was an adviser for Bumble Nordics, before launching her own marketing agency, By.Babba, in 2017.
It’s hardly surprising, then, that Ceremonia experienced a stratospheric rise following its launch in 2020.
Rather than add to the already-saturated haircare market, which serves up a styling-first approach to product development, Babba sought to establish a new concept in the space — hair wellness — one which zeroes in on sustained hair health over quick fixes and short-term solutions.
“Hair care has, for the longest time, been strongly rooted in a styling-first approach, with its inspiration stemming from celebrities and their red-carpet looks,” Babba says. “Ceremonia is flipping that narrative through rituals that are more interested in enhancing your natural hair versus taming it.”
Each nutrient-dense product is powered by high-performance, natural Latin American ingredients, designed to care for hair from root to tip without the need for what Babba refers to as “shortcut ingredients” like silicones and sulphates.
Instead, it highlights a blend of babassu oil and cupuacu butter from Peru, pataua oil from Brazil, and maracuja oil from Ecuador (and many more, all of which are listed by origin on the Ceremonia website).
Hand-picked by Babba for their hair health benefits, like moisturising the scalp, repairing split ends or promoting hair growth and shine, the range is designed to be end game, with results visible over time.
“Think of hair wellness as the skincare for your hair, whereas traditional hair care is like concealer on a pimple,” she says.
Ceremonia, which launched into Mecca in Aotearoa last month with an edit of 19 products, is geared towards all hair types, from ultra-fine 1As to tightly coiled 4Cs. “Ceremonia is for everyone looking to do better for their hair and embrace their natural hair,” she says.
Babba says local beauty lovers will quickly learn which products work best for their unique hair type.
“Our Weightless Hydration Shampoo and Conditioner is not moisturising enough for my thick and dry strands, but my Scandinavian friends and fellow fine hair community members love it. Our Guava Leave-In Conditioner is great for my dry ends but might feel too heavy for someone with fine hair, they usually prefer the lightweight formula of the Guava Rescue Spray instead,” she says.
She recommends one do-it-all product which underpins the brand’s ethos — the Aceite de Moska. The hair mask was the first product the brand launched with, and cemented its standpoint that hair health starts at the scalp.
“We felt that the most powerful product we could possibly bring to market as our first launch was an accessible scalp routine that anyone could add to their existing hair routine to see real results,” she says.
“Aceite de Moska is a silicone-free heritage scalp remedy oil that nourishes and balances to address the most common scalp concerns such as itchiness, dryness, flakes and greasy roots, while promoting healthy hair growth — it encompasses powerful ingredients and amazing results.”
Not to mention, it draws its inspiration from the long-admired Aceite de Moska oil ritual hailing from the Dominican Republic, which points back to Ceremonia’s Latinx roots.
In a bid to be kinder to hair and planet, every formula is cruelty-free, vegan and comes housed in post-consumer recycled plastic, while the brand itself is certified Plastic Negative — meaning for every product it sells, Ceremonia pledges to remove twice as much plastic waste from landfill to be given new life.
“Given today’s plastic crisis, we believe it’s imperative for brands to eliminate the use of virgin plastic, and to the extent possible, try to work towards removing the plastic that’s already polluting our landfills by giving it a new life,” Babba says.
Its commitment to the environment extends into business practices, too, with Ceremonia operating a 100 per cent carbon neutral business and working with environmental not-for-profit 1% For The Planet.
“In practising a holistic perspective, every decision we make is guided by our high standards of doing good while creating magic — from our approach to packaging, ingredients and people,” Babba says.
“I believe that being sustainable is necessary and I hope more brands would tap into the power of nature as a way to achieve better results for customers and the planet.”
While Ceremonia has and continues to put Latinx beauty rituals front and centre, Babba says there’s still a long way to go as far as representation is concerned.
“There are more conversations about representation in the beauty industry, however, there is still a lot to be done when it comes to actually translating this into shelf space,” she says. “I hope that the beauty space continues to diversify and see that customers value seeing themselves in brands and that this is not just a phase, this is a new normal.”
It’s these small daily actions that have Babba feeling hopeful about the future. Her dream is to “strive every day for a place in the beauty industry to create representation for communities that have been overlooked for far too long”.
This sentiment, coupled with a handful of imminent product launches developed in partnership with the brand’s insider community, proves Ceremonia is continuing to gain momentum.
A trip to visit new retail partners is also on the cards, and Babba says she hopes to make it Downunder at some stage in the near future.
Business savvy and future plans aside, Babba has made a name for herself in the fashion world with her flamboyant approach to dressing — it’s not uncommon for her to don a frou-frou pink tulle crop and matching skirt as it is a black dress covered in sequined butterflies.
It’s this come-as-you-are approach to fashion that has seen the social media darling amass close to 180,000 followers on Instagram and be dressed by some of the biggest names in the industry. Most recently, in a frothy red Carolina Herrera confection for the Latin American Fashion Awards last month.
Her penchant for colour acts as an extension of self, Babba explains, but adds that most outfits are underpinned by comfort even if they are ultra colourful.
“For the most part, I like to focus on what feels good. When I am comfortable, I look better and I show up better, too. There is nothing worse than walking around being overly self-aware of your outfit, I like for things to just flow,” she says.
The jet-setting beauty boss says she maps outfits in advance of her trips, meaning she can quite literally hit the ground running when she touches down.
“I always try on outfits before packing to ensure I feel comfortable in them. A big no-go for me is uncomfortable shoes — life is too precious to walk around with pain,” she says.
Babba’s Beauty Rituals
“I love coming home and caring for my hair as a form of self-care! Once a week, at night, I apply our Ceremonia Aceite de Moska Pre-Wash Scalp Oil, together with our Scalp Massager — this ritual nourishes my scalp while promoting hair growth.
Additionally, when I want to give my scalp and hair a good detox, the Ceremonia Sunday Reset Duo is another favourite. This combo leaves me with silky smooth hair — it’s like a facial for scalp and hair and has made my hair so much healthier.
I also find that I don’t have to wash my hair as often anymore because of how deeply the Papaya Scalp Scrub cleanses my roots, and the fact that the hair mask provides silky smooth ends without weighing down my hair.”
“As far as skincare, I love layering serums, starting with lightweight serums and building up from there. Some of my favourite serums include the Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops, Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Vitamin C Serum and Tata Harper Resurfacing Serum.
I then apply a moisturiser, usually switching between Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream, Ole Henriksen Strength Trainer Peptide Boost Moisturiser — and Joanna Vargas Twilight Cream for nighttime.
As a cleanser, I love the Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser.”
“For makeup, I love skincare-infused makeup brands that give me a glow from within. I adore products like my SAIE Slip Tint Tinted Moisturiser for a light, glowy base, and then go in with a foundation and concealer stick, like Merit’s The Minimalist, to brighten under my eyes.
Another makeup hack for me is the Westman Atelier Vital Skincare Complexion Glow Drops, it’s like a bronzer/highlighter that just gives my face such a beautiful glow!
I enhance my brows with the SAIE Brow Butter Styling and Volumising Brow Gel and then finish with some cheek colour using SAIE’s Glow Sculpt Multi-Use Cream Highlighting Blush.
Ami Cole Lash-Amplifying Volumising and Lengthening Mascara is my go-to for lengthening my lashes and their Hydrating Lip Treatment Oil is also amazing for moisturised and glossy lips.”
From go-to gadgets to treatments to try.
Is This New Facial The Secret To Glossy, Healthy Hair? There’s a new treatment in town that’s geared towards your scalp. We tried it.
Salon Etiquette: 5 Things Your Hairdresser Wants You To Stop Doing. The must-dos and please-don’ts, plus how to ask for a silent appointment.
What Hair Tool Should You Buy? A Guide To The Latest, Greatest Gadgets. Straighteners, curlers, dryers, and our thoughts on the Dyson Airwrap.
How Do You Care For Your Curls? 6 People With Luscious, Curly Locks Share Their Game-Changing Tips. We asked for detailed descriptions. The result: concise curl CliffsNotes.