Brazil-Based Hairstylist Josué de Castro is Using Banana Leaves to Make Color Services More Eco-Friendly


Much has already been said about the salon industry’s huge waste problem. According to data from Green Circle Salons, the salon industry in the U.S. and Canada sends a whopping 877 pounds of waste to landfills every single minute. All of this waste, which is majorly harming the environment, includes everything from hair color tubes and product packaging to foils and even your client’s hair clippings on the floor.

The good news is that the industry is starting to shift towards more environmentally-friendly practices with many brands beginning to prioritize clean ingredients, ethical and sustainable sourcing, responsible packaging, and environmental giving. But, it’s not just brands that are trying to do some good for the Earth. There are a number of individuals in our industry who are doing their part by searching for and, in some cases, creating products and tools that can help make the hairdressing industry a bit more greener. Take, for example, Brazil-based hairstylist Josué de Castro who’s been using an eco-friendly alternative, instead of traditional foils, to set his clients’ highlights: banana leaves. 

Image Courtesy of Josué de Castro 

Believe it or not, but banana leaves are not just a by-product of the popular fruit. In some parts of the world such as Asia, Africa, and Latin America, banana leaves have a multitude of uses, particularly when it comes to packaging and storage as well as cooking. To better understand how banana leaves can be used in the salon industry, The Tease connected with de Castro via email to learn all about his method of using the plant material in his color services.

Keep scrolling for insight into the preparation needed to use banana leaves as foils, additional eco-friendly methods he uses in his work as a hairstylist, and how he uses his platform to drive more awareness around sustainability.

On what inspired him to start using banana leaves as hair foils instead of aluminum: “What inspired me is God. It was he who showed me the way to develop my own foils for highlights from the banana leaf. I’ve been working with leaves for two years. The leaves are not purchased. I make them myself because in my region there are banana trees almost everywhere.” 

On how he preps the banana leaves to use as hair foils: “I have developed a sustainable method so that I can obtain leaves for my use as well as distribute them to professional colleagues. After collecting them, I cut them to a standard size of 40 centimeters long and 15 centimeters wide. The leaves I use on a daily basis are fresh, but the ones I send to professional colleagues are prepared with natural products and packaged to last longer—for at least 30 days.”

On why banana leaves make such a great alternative to aluminum for hair foils: “The banana leaf is rich in an antioxidant called polyphenol. It decomposes in nature in up to two months, whereas aluminum foil takes between 200 and 500 years. Aluminum foil releases heavy metals into the hair during the lightening process, while the banana leaf releases its natural properties. The polyphenol found in the leaf stabilizes the hair’s elasticity, strength, and shine.”

On how his clients have responded to the use of banana leaves during his color services: “My clients prefer the banana leaf because, in addition to being good for the environment, the quality of the service is much better and the hair is even very shiny.”

On where he suggests hairstylists should start if they also want to start using banana leaves during their color services: “If a hairdresser wants to use [banana leaves], they need to cut it in standard size, clean it with a damp cloth, pack it in a plastic bag, and refrigerate it at a temperature of up to 16 degrees Celsius (60.8 degrees Fahrenheit).” 

On the other sustainable methods he utilizes in his work as a hairstylist: “In addition to not using aluminum anymore, I also don’t use plastic anymore. I make my own coloring bowls from coconut and spatulas from bamboo.” 

On what sustainability really means to him: “For me, sustainability is the present because without it, we will not have a future. Nature offers a series of alternatives to improve the world. But man’s greed is still very big and then those of us who are trying to improve in some way even suffer some retaliation from the industry.” 

On whether he’s always been interested in taking a more sustainable and eco-friendly approach with his hairstyling work: “I’ve always been very curious and see opportunities to be a better human being in many areas of my life. Using these two sentiments of being curious and trying to improve as a person, I have been using what I have to leave my collaboration with the planet, so today I am leaving my idea to serve as inspiration for others to see that there are possibilities to deliver work that’s high quality with natural and simple things.” 

On how he’s been using his platform to drive more awareness around sustainability: “On my social media, I try to pass my message. I feel like [I am] someone who is paving the way for others to pass. Several other professionals in my country are already adopting the practice and I am making an effort to pass my knowledge to an even greater number.”

On his advice for stylists who want to make sustainability more a priority in their work: “The advice I give to professionals is that they run away from the herd, think for themselves, and let the artist who lives inside [themself] speak louder because in addition to being hairdressers, we are artists and we can deliver above average results using simple things that we find in nature. The future is present and without the present there is no future — ‘look, feel, and act.’”

To see more of how de Castro prioritizes sustainability in his career as a hairstylist, be sure to follow @josuedcastroo on Instagram. 

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Camille Nzengung

Camille Nzengung is a Features Editor at The Tease, where she covers all things hair. You can find her writing about the best hair products, the coolest hair trends, and all the exciting new hair launches. Send her a pitch:

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