In the United States, the hair care industry generates billions — yes, that’s a B — of dollars. Mintel, a global provider of Market Research, revealed that women of color with curly hair spent on hair products an estimated $2.51 billion in 2018. This being an astronomical figure, it is inevitable not to ask why still exist segregation of products in the hair-care aisles of supermarkets, drugstores and beauty supplies.
Why does ethnic hair only have three or four shelves with products? Although the ideal of beauty for many people is blond and straight hair, the Afro-Latina woman, especially the Dominicans, Brazilians, and Panamanians, have embedded the habit of not only attending weekly to beauty parlors but also buying the best shampoos and deep treatment conditioners. These women spend hundreds in keratins, leave-ins and a lot of magic potions intending to maintain a beautiful and healthy mane, actions that make them together with the African-American woman as the largest consumers in the industry.
While diversity and inclusion continue to improve in society, by walking through the aisles is noticeable how a lot of personal care companies like Rizos Curls, Mielle, SheaMoisture, Carol’s Daughter, The Mane Choice, Cantu, and even ORS, are constantly being shadowed by an overwhelming amount of mainstream brands that offer basic products for straight hair. Retailers should know that just because curly, coily, or kinky hair is a common characteristic of a minority in the United States it doesn’t mean that Afro-Latinas and African-American women deserve a minor space in the beauty aisle, especially if that section has a high demand by the consumers.
In 2016, SheaMoisture tried to eliminate hair segregation by launching a campaign to show how secluded textured hair is. “There is a section called ‘ethnic.’ And there is an aisle called ‘beauty.’ Do I feel like I’m beautiful? Is ‘ethnic’ not beautiful?” asked a woman during the commercial. “We just have been conditioned to go to the corner and find our spot where we’ve been placed,” another says. “We’ve never understood why great products weren’t easily accessible to everyone, and why every beauty that we saw at home, at work or in the streets was not represented in the product solutions in the aisles,” said Richelieu Dennis, the company’s CEO, to Today.com.
Julissa Prado, also couldn’t understand why it was so hard to find a product for her hair type, since she was 15 years old, she dreamt of creating her own line of hair care products, after five years of saving money, now this young entrepreneur and Latina powerhouse is the founder of Rizos Curls. Her success as a businesswoman has been transcendental, but Prado still knows that there is still a lot to do, which is why she created a series of community events intending to create awareness, empowering the Latinas to wear her curls without shame and also to eliminate the dividing lines in the beauty isles.
Once and for all, mass retailers need to understand and accept the fact that skin color and hair texture has no relation. We need to stop pretending it is okay to name the aisle “natural” or “beauty” and segregate the colored woman by tagging some shelves as “ethnic.”
Although, at this point, it’s uncertain if afro-textured hair will one day occupy the same amount of space as products dedicated just for straight hair, with social media the level of inequality is relatively less compared to how curly hair is being represented in popular culture or even in the TV ads. Natural hair gurus and connoisseurs, hairstylists and salon owners, created their own movement by teaming up with textured hair product developers and sharing over social media tips and tricks giving black and Hispanic women access to a wide range of possibilities. We encourage all these companies to rethink their strategy and realize that social media is the new isle for women with textured hair, so if in a few years from now the stores keep the same non-inclusive energy, textured-hair woman will take their coins to the fabulous World Wide Web.