November 17, 2018

Krazy for Kosher Kurls

Davida Lampkin Tydings knows hair. She likes to boast, “Hair has been a passion of mine since I was born. I tell people I cut my own umbilical cord because that’s the art that God gave me.” 

A licensed hairdresser in New York and Los Angeles who worked in film and television for years, she channeled that love five years ago into a business venture: Kosher Kurls, a company based in Vernon that sells sulfate-free shampoo, everyday deep conditioner and leave-in conditioner (“schmear”). Lampkin Tydings said she got the idea after a friend started a hair-care-products company for biracial people. 

Despite the name and the Hebrew-style lettering on the packaging, Kosher Kurls is good for all hairstyles — curly and straight, according to Lampkin Tydings, 63. She said it can be used on payot and sheitels, too.

The bottles go a step further, claiming the products are for “Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Chassidic, Reconstructionist, Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Black or White Jews,” and that it “leaves your hair looking and feeling like a Mensch!” 

Lampkin Tydings of Encino said she uses the product on her own locks. “This takes my waves, and the more you smush it, the more it curls,” she said.

But she stressed the product is not only for her people. 

“I say you don’t have to be Jewish to love Kosher Kurls. People who are Italian, Catholic, etc., say they use it,” said Lampkin Tydings, who tells a joke a minute, throwing in Yiddish words and Jewish puns whenever possible.

Some don’t even care how the products work on their hair; they buy it for the kitsch value. “Some people read the bottle, and they go, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so funny. I have to have it, and I don’t even care if it works.’ I say to them that I hope it does work,” Lampkin Tydings said.

The hair products can be found in several grocery stores, including Ralphs, Cambridge Farms and Western Kosher, as well as the Karen Michelle boutique in Pico-Robertson. 

Lampkin Tydings said that, unlike hairspray or certain kinds of mousse, Kosher Kurls doesn’t give hair a crunchy feel. “What makes our product different from the others is it’s soft to the touch. It controls the frizz and defines the curls. When you touch your hair after using Kosher Kurls, it’s nice and soft. Mousse and hairspray make it stiff.”

“I like my latkes crispy, but I like my hair soft,” she added.

Maxine Berger, a hairdresser of 38 years who works at the Butterfly Loft in Encino, said she uses Kosher Kurls on her clients. “It’s good for styling and blowdrying, and it makes the curls curl nicer. It smoothes the hair, too,” she said.

Kosher Kurls is not Lampkin Tydings’ first entrepreneurial venture. She’s also the brain behind the Matzahman doll, a Passover toy that sings and dances. Thirty-five years ago, she established Davida Aprons, which sells the doll, along with other Judaism-centric housewares, apparel and religious items. There are kippot covered in bagels, hats that say, “Chai is good” and a baby bib with the phrase, “Future Mah Jongg Player.” Matzahmania, the collection of matzah-emblazoned merchandise that she sells, includes everything from yarmulkes to boxer shorts.

“People have labeled me the queen of Judaica,” Lampkin Tydings said. 

She ran Davida Aprons for many years with her mother, Pauline S. Lampkin, before she died, as well as her sister, Sybil Lampkin Rubin. Her mother is forever immortalized in the Matzahman — it plays a recording of her 93-year-old voice singing an original Craig Taubman song to the melody of “Dayenu.”