If you grew up watching ’90s sitcoms like Boy Meets World, you’ll instantly recognize Danielle Fishel—possibly from her hair alone. Her iconic character, Topanga, sported thick, dirty-blonde locks that were the definition of 1990’s #hairgoals, arguably second only to that of Rachel Green in Friends. While her fabulous ‘do may have sparked envy in the hearts of many teens back then, nowadays, Fishel is helping everyone else achieve their own ultra-luscious tresses through her vegan and cruelty-free hair care brand, Be Free by Danielle Fishel.
The Be Free by Danielle Fishel collection promotes safe, effective ingredients and total brand transparency. Each product is free of sulfates, sodium chloride, phosphates, gluten, parabens, phthalates, and fragrance, from the color-safe shampoo and conditioner ($36) to the Scalp Refresh ($30) to the detangler ($30) and nourishing hair mask ($32).
When we put this hair care line to the test, we found that not only did the products smell amazing and have a rich lather, but they actually gave an instant volume boost, unlike many other sulfate-free products on the market. We also appreciated the ethical, all-natural formula of each product, with ingredients ranging from argan oil and chamomile in the Be Free shampoo to coconut oil, eggplant, and maracuja oil in the Be Free Conditioner.
Curious about the brand’s story and how Fishel ended up in the hair care industry, we sat down with the actress to ask her how her line came to be, her inspirations, and her advice for starting a business. Keep reading to hear what she had to say.
R: Tell us a little bit about Be Free? What made you want to create it?
DF: I didn’t set out to get into the hair game. My husband and I found out we were pregnant at the end of 2018, and I was very excited. Before that, I had never been one of those people to care too much about the products that I used, other than wanting them to work well. But when I became pregnant, all of a sudden what I was putting into my body became very important. I realized pretty quickly that the products you use on your skin and in your hair are just as important as the stuff you’re consuming.
I needed to start thinking about everything that was going into my body, including what I use in the shower. I used EWG’s Skin Deep app to check the safety ratings of my shampoo and conditioner, and that’s when I knew I needed to find safer products. I asked my friends who had children if they had any recommendations, and also searched on Google for healthier products, but I wasn’t happy with anything I tried out. That’s when I decided to start the Be Free line.
R: How did you go about coming up with a formula? Were you super involved in the process?
DF: I have a lab that’s based in the U.S., as I wanted all my products to be U.S.A-made. I worked with the chemists to accomplish everything I wanted out of the line. I wanted it to lather well, smell nicely (without the use of artificial fragrance), and I wanted our ingredient label to be totally transparent. The chemists would send me batches to test, and I would research every ingredient, and give them feedback.
My goal was to find a happy medium where the product worked well, smelled good, and was natural enough for my standards. It was a long process. After the launch, I even had a customer who was gluten-free email me about a particular ingredient (wheat protein) that she wasn’t happy with, so we removed it. Hearing feedback from the people who use my products just made the line better. Above all else, I wanted to create products that fit people’s needs.
R: It sounds like you take on a very people-first mission. Does the brand have an active relationship with its customers?
DF: Our customer service is one of the things I’m most proud of with our company. We have a 30-day money-back guarantee, no questions asked. If something goes wrong with any of our products, we’ll work to make it right. I want people to use our products, and to continue to do so because they love them, they work for them, and they feel valued by our brand.
R: You just unveiled the new hair mask and detangler spray a few months ago. Can you reveal anything about your plans for future products?
DF: We’ve definitely heard a lot about a heat protectant—people want it, and it’s also something I was lacking in my own hair care routine. I’ve also heard from a lot of people: “I want a product that isn’t for someone who already has thick hair. What about something for those of us with thin, fine hair who want a little extra oomph?” So we went ahead and created a product to give people that volume. It may be my favorite product in the line. Let me tell you, this product is a total game-changer. It also helps me go longer between washes, so it’s oil-absorbing, too, and I think people are going to really like it.
Editor’s Note: The Be Free Voluminous Hair Thickening Cream launched privately to their VIPs earlier this week, and is now available to you for pre-order (at 20% off) through Friday, April 16.
R: What advice do you have for female entrepreneurs?
DF: My advice would be to look at your own life and figure out what you’re lacking, or a problem in your life that you want to solve. If you have a problem, chances are other people share it, too. One of the reasons I love this company is that it doesn’t feel like a job to me. It’s something that happened organically, so to me it’s a passion project. I wake up looking forward to talking about new products, coming up with what we’re going to do next, working with the lab, and hearing from our customers. I would say to look inward, and ask yourself, “What does my life need?” Owning your own business is time consuming, so you want to enjoy it. If it solves a problem for you, you’re already one step ahead.
R: Who are the women that have inspired you along the way?
DF: I always say my mom. My mom has the strongest moral compass I’ve ever encountered. She always knows what’s right. I now have another reason to admire her though, because after my parent’s divorce, she asked herself what she’s always wanted to do, and decided to become a makeup artist in her mid-fifties. She graduated from makeup school, and started her own bridal beauty business, Belle Amici Beauty. She’s built a very successful business for herself, and honestly, seeing her do that is one of the main reasons I thought it would be possible for me to start a business as well. I thought, “My mom did it, so I can do it, too.”
I also work as a director, and Ava DuVernay is someone I really look up to. Her work is incredible, and her activism is inspiring. She created Array Now, a film collective focused on amplifying the voices of people of color and women through movies. She’s always thinking outside of the box, and I love that she’s always looking to lift people up. That’s something that I also aspire to do through my company and just as a person, as well.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.