Over the past decade, natural hair, defined as hair that has not been processed with chemicals to become straighter, has made an impressive comeback within the Black community. What was once a symbol of the rebellious sixties, is now a fashion-forward expression of self-identity. With this shift has come an influx of products exclusively aimed at the care of natural hair. While some of these lines are distributed by well-known hair care companies, many others have been the brainchildren of Black entrepreneurs.
The need for products that specifically address the concerns of naturals as opposed to other Black hair care lines comes from the differences in texture, porosity and maintenence between natural and relaxed hair. Carol's Daughter is one company owned by a Black woman that aims to address these needs. It was founded by Lisa Price , a resident of Brooklyn, NY. According to an interview that Price had with Little Pink Book, a website that offers business advice, Carol's Daughter grossed over 35 million dollars in 2010. Since its inception in 1993, Carol's Daughter has been picked up by retailers Sephora and Macy's. In addition, it has become a staple product for many women who are transitioning and those who are already natural.
More and more natural hair care lines are emerging and many are owned by Black people. Some of the people in this very specific market feel that they are more comfortable using products that were engineered by someone who has first-hand experience maintaining Black hair. Others, however, feel that anyone can make a good product for non-processed Black hair as long as they study the hair's behaviors appropriately.
Gabrielle Oglesby, a recent graduate of Central Connecticut State University decided that she would rather use hair care products from a Black-owned company.
"For me, it's very important that my natural hair care products come from black-owned businesses because for one, they know the complexities of caring for natural hair. Contrary to popular belief, natural hair care requires a lot of maintenance to ensure healthy hair and a healthy scalp. I don't think white-owned hair care lines could ever fully address the difference in upkeep that is required for Black hair," said Oglesby.
From a business aspect, Oglesby felt that patronizing black businesses was a way to support her own.
"As a people, I feel it's important that we support black-owned businesses. We need this kind of unity to uplift our own in a White and male driven society. When one of our businesses fails, we as a people fail which is why it is imperative that we make supporting Black-owned businesses a priority," she says.
Cytney Gueory, a receptionist and resident of Sandy Springs, GA who has been natural for about 8 years felt that the ethnic background of whoever creates her product of choice does not matter. To Gueory, it is all about the results that the product produces.
"When it comes to black or other ethnicities owning the companies that I buy products from, it does not matter to me in the least. To me it's more about what is in the products that I am using. Overall, as long as they know what they are doing and as long as they are educated in some form or fashion on African American hair, then they have earned their right to experiment on my hair. After all, even in a worse-case scenario, it is just hair," said Gueory.
Cosmotologist and owner of Salon Femi in Bloomfield, NJ, Kenya Cephas, has been doing natural hair for twenty years. Cephas said that her clients use the products that she suggests based on their individual textures and the hair porosity.
"They use Jane Carter Solutions, Design Essentials Naturals and there is a newer product called Entwine. They are Black-owned companies," said Cephas.
Poka Kimble is a stylist for the salon Natural Xpressions in Atlanta, Georgia. The salon caters exclusively to clients with natural hair of all types. Kimble said that all of the products that the stylists use on their clients are owned and operated by Black business people. He went on to name Design Essentials which is owned by Cornell McBride, Ms. Jessie's- owned by Miko and Titi Branch and Jane Carter's Jane Carter Solutions.
Although Natural Xpressions opts to use products from Black companies, Kimble recognizes that natural hair care is not by any means a Black-owned industry. "No. I don't think that the majority [of these companies] are Black-owned. But they direct their products toward Black people," says Kimble.
Kimble's assertion is quite accurate. One example of a natural hair care line that is not Black-owned but does cater to the demographic is Cantu. When looking at the packaging of a Cantu product- who's founder is Chris McClain- one could judge from its signature kente cloth-like band that it is specifically made for people with African hair textures. Beautiful Textures- a line for naturals- is owned by Mario J. De La Guardia who is of Cuban descent. La Guardia is also credited with inventing the first no-lye hair relaxer for Dark and Lovely in 1978.
Cantu can be found in Walgreens and Walmart while Beautiful Textures is sold at Sally's Beauty Supply stores. In addition, Jane Carter Solutions and Ms. Jessies products are now being sold at Target.
The business of natural hair is growing rapidly. With the number of new hair care lines emerging to accommodate the resurgence of "The Natural" many Black entrepreneurs are finding their niche. More and more big businesses recognize that there is a market for these products and, much like the consumers that they target, they are checking for new growth.