January Cover Babba Rivera of clean hair brand Ceremonia
Ever since I spoke with Babba Rivera (@Babba), Ceremonia founder and mother of two, I couldn’t stop thinking about something she said. When I asked Babba about self-care, she said: “It’s not a destination, it’s a way of living.” When I asked her about sustainability, once again, she said: “It’s not a destination, it’s a way of living.” In our modern day of TikTok wellness influencers who take us through their daily skin-care vlogs, to fashion-forward Gen-Zers showing off their vintage wear on Instagram, we’re entering a new era. This era, one where self-care, sustainability, among other things, are seen as everyday practices to be the best version of ourselves, is one that Babba is already familiar with. In fact, she’s leading it in the beauty industry.
Babba is challenging the status quo in these spaces to encourage a new way of thinking– one that requires intentionality and flexibility to grow. Ultra-mini uggs are trending. So what? Glass bottles are a sustainability practice precedent. So what? I learned from Babba that just because something is popular now or was the standard before, doesn’t mean it’s the future, and it definitely doesn’t mean that it’s you. The new era that Babba invites us into is one where we can be our authentic selves, where we are encouraged to tap into our inner creativity and create our world accordingly. Read on to hear how Babba’s brand Ceremonia (@myceremonia) is innovating a lot more than hair care.
Let’s first discuss your Latinx heritage. How has your family and culture influenced your hair care brand?
I am from Sweden and grew up very closely connected to my culture thanks to my parents, both from Chile. I was raised in a Spanish speaking household where Tia’s and Tio’s would come and go as they pleased and salsa played on repeat. Rituals were deeply rooted in my upbringing. I have many fond memories with my family pertaining to rituals – beauty in particular. My father was a hairdresser back in Chile and would spend hours braiding my long hair, and my mom and aunties would invite me to their beauty practices using natural ingredients they knew and loved from passed down customs. My mother also taught me self-worth by practicing it herself, carving out the space for two hour baths and showers unapologetically as a mom of two. She also led by example in how she treated her skin and hair with nourishing products focusing on moisture and care versus styling and masking. 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. Through Ceremonia, I pay tribute to my Latin culture because there is so much to be celebrated. From the powerful ingredients that are native to the region, to the rich rituals around beauty as a form of self-care and self-love, not to mention the attention to care that goes into beauty as a whole.
We also know that self-care is top of mind with your brand. Can you tell us a little more about how you envision wellness and self-care in Ceremonia?
Self-care and wellness, for me, it’s not an end destination. It’s almost a way of living. It’s easy to deprioritize when you’re busy, but that’s when you need it the most. So with Ceremonia, we try to create every day rituals that are attainable, that can be those little pockets of joy throughout your day. One of our best selling Duos, the Sunday Reset Duo, is a papaya scalp scrub and a hair mask with babassu. These two products have become my sacred Sunday reset. Every Sunday, I take a bath and I give myself this deep exfoliating cleanse with the scalp scrub, which is basically a shampoo but more of a treatment shampoo that I use once a week. Then I put on the hair mask, and I let it sit in my hair for 15 minutes. I need to wash my hair that day anyway, but through this ritual, it’s become a more joyful experience. That’s really what we try to do with the brand: making it possible for people to find every day joy in things that they need to do anyway. Let’s upgrade that experience.
In terms of wellness for me, a lot of it is about taking care of myself and connecting mind and body. I really believe that it’s all so connected, from what we eat to what we consume– both visually, like what content we consume, and also the products we put on our
skin. When we think about hair, what most people don’t always realize is that good hair truly begins at the scalp. The scalp is one of the most absorbent parts of the body, so if you’re going to go clean somewhere in your beauty routine, it should be the scalp, if you ask me. That’s where you’ll see the greatest impact on your hair health.
I love how you frame self-care as a way of living.
Yes, it’s not about getting a massage once a year. It’s giving yourself a mini 2-minute face massage when you put on your face oil. I’ve been without coffee now for 2 years, and I started doing a matcha routine in the morning. That has also brought me so much joy– this moment of pausing and seeing the little green herbs dissolve. It’s really finding joy in those small moments.
Sustainability is also top of mind for your brand. What does sustainability mean to you, and how do you see it shaping the beauty industry?
Sustainability is such a big topic. For me, it’s similar to self-care: it’s not a destination, it’s a way of living. It’s a way of constantly learning and iterating. There is so much innovation happening within sustainability, which obviously is super cool, but sometimes I feel like the solutions become very gimmick-y and actually not really impactful at scale. It’s more like a thing that consumers can feel good about, and the brands can get a lot of PR around, versus actually having a sustainable impact.
A great example is one of the most common questions we get is: “Why don’t you use glass bottles? That would be more sustainable.” The reality is, it actually is not. We use post-consumer-recycled (PCR) materials. The reason we do that is because when we look at the entire carbon footprint and the recyclability of PCR, it’s much more sustainable than glass. Glass is great if you refill. If you keep the glass bottle in its original shape and you use it over and over again, then it’s more sustainable. But if you’re recycling glass, it’s actually very energy intensive. Not to mention the shipping implications of glass versus something much lighter like PCR. There’s this idea that it’s better if it’s glass because that feels more sustainable, but actually when you look at the bigger picture, is it really? For Ceremonia, it’s a lot about having that balance between perception versus reality, and we try to stick to the reality part. Even though sometimes we spend 5 times more on a solution that is not perceived, necessarily, as super sustainable and we don’t get any “green points”, we know that we’re doing the right thing. We see sustainability more so as our responsibility towards the Earth, not a marketing tool.
What kind of research do you use to determine what is sustainable?
I think one of the most important factors is considering what the customer will do with this product. There’s a lot of companies that do biodegradable materials, but to actually get the product to degrade, you need very unique, special facilities. They’re not usually accessible for the average consumer, so they end up in the trash. And then it defeats the purpose. So for us, it’s asking ourselves: what is the most accessible way for a customer to do the right thing?
A great example is people asked us for mini products for the longest time. In the beauty industry, single-use products are the most unsustainable thing. Instead, we created travel sizes that are made out of 100% PCR, and they’re also refillable. You can buy a travel set from Ceremonia and the plastic is post-recycled, so it’s using plastics from the landfills and creating something new with it, and then you can refill it from our full-sized products, so it has a longer shelf-life. We try to meet consumer needs with solutions like these. We understand this is what the customer wants, how can we do it in a way that lives up to our sustainability mandates? It’s sometimes very simple. A lot of beauty brands think that in order to create an iconic brand, they have to create these weird shapes for the packaging. All of that is custom-made and oftentimes you have to use virgin plastic to do those kinds of things. We use a lot of default packaging, which means that we’re able to use things that are already produced a lot, making it really easy to recycle.
Shifting gears a bit, what about your (amazing!) personal style…We see it on IG, but how would you describe it? What tips do you have for finding your own style?
I just love fashion. For me, it’s a tool for self-expression. I don’t dress to impress. It’s more so a creative expression for me and my mood. My best advice is really to dress for a certain feeling instead of over-indexing on whether it’s on trend or what people will think. Just focus on: How does this garment make you feel? Do you feel like you can be truly you? Do you feel free? Do you feel sexy? Do you feel powerful? I try to really hone into the feeling. This is also why I couldn’t care less about size. People think they have to fit into a medium or a small or whatever. No one knows what size you’re wearing except for you. The only thing that matters is that the clothes fit you, you don’t need to fit the clothes. So really dressing for comfort and for feeling the best version of yourself.
Beyond being a founder, advocate for inclusivity and sustainability, and tech savvy influencer, you’re also a mom. How has motherhood influenced your day-to-day life?
It’s influenced me so much. It’s the greatest joy. I never thought those words would come out of my mouth, to be quite honest. I was so focused on my career and really terrified of motherhood. I was worried that becoming a mom would compromise my identity and career. What I found is that it’s only been additive. It’s been an addition to my life, versus a limitation. I feel more confident than ever in my own skin. There is this sense of confidence that settles when you have your own children, like nothing else matters. Worst case scenario, I still have my children. It doesn’t matter how this career goes, or I don’t even care if someone is mad at me. I have my children. It’s a very powerful and grounding experience. It’s also made me more productive than ever. I have many more boundaries, and I almost feel like nothing can get to me…except for something with my kids. If my kids are sick, then I’m so worried. So the downfall of motherhood is you’re always worried about your kids. But the plus side is you’re never worried about anything else.
Remind me, how old are your kids?
My oldest is 2 and my youngest is 6 months. It’s definitely a hustle to make it all work, but as I said, I feel more productive than ever. I’m giving myself permission to be unapologetically me, in every area of my life.
What advice do you have for womxn, particularly those of underrepresented backgrounds, who are thinking of starting their own businesses too?
Do it. The reality is, just like with kids, there’s never such a thing as good timing. I don’t think it’s wise to wait for the perfect time to present itself, because usually you just have to decide for yourself that this is the perfect timing. That’s how it goes with any decision. There are no decisions that are right or wrong. It’s just how you decide to perceive them.
About starting a business though, I will say that it’s liberating, but also very intense. Ask yourself why you want to run your own business. What’s the mission behind it? What’s the purpose? Then make sure you’re setting yourself up for success to live up to that purpose. There are people that start businesses because they want to work less. That’s fine, then you’re setting up the business according to that. Then there are people that start businesses because they want to make a lot of money. Okay, how will you do that? Just be honest with yourself about why you’re doing it, and that will help guide all of the decisions.
Must-have Ceremonia product?
100% our Aceite de Moska. It’s a scalp remedy oil. It’s the one single product that will have the greatest impact on your hair over time. It’s incredible, true miracle oil.
Favorite place to shop in NYC?
I’m really excited about one of my favorite Swedish brands, Toteme, that recently opened up a store in SoHo. They do the most effortlessly chic, elegant, minimal, work-woman fashion.
Favorite thing to do during the holidays in NYC?
I love ice skating and drinking hot chocolate. That’s a perfect holiday date for me.
Date-night spot in NYC?
The place that we always go to is ABC Kitchen. I think it’s a classic. You can’t go wrong– they have good veggie options and also non-alcoholic options.
Latinx role model who you look up to?
JLo. She just carries so much power. When my brand entered Sephora earlier this fall, they gave me a spotlight on the Sephora Times Square billboard. It was me, Selena Gomez, and J. Lo, and I literally dropped to the floor. That’s when I realized I have a girl crush on J. Lo.