African American consumers are moving away from hair relaxers in an effort to embrace kinks, coils and curls.
By LaToyah Burke
Few things generate more anger and passion among African-American women than their hair. Some say that African-American women are in a frenzied search to shed the stigma of “nappy hair equals bad hair” by foregoing beauty standards that support straight hair. Others say that African-American women are hopeless captives of America’s standard of beauty, which often disregards the consumer of color.
While relaxer kits that are designed to remove curl are gaining popularity in the African-American community, some consumers are headed in the opposite direction, choosing to enhance their natural curl. For African-American consumers, wearing natural hair involves embracing the kinks, curls and tight texture of their hair. This means using products that detangle, moisturize and condition one of this fragile hair type.
“Natural hair is very textured—meaning that the curls or coils are springy and the hair strands take on a small ‘s’ or ‘z pattern when not stretched out. This hair may appear very thick and coarse to the naked eye, but in fact, many times natural hair is very fine and fragile,” explained Risi-Leanne Baranja, editor-in-chief, Palacinka.com.
“For many years, African-American women chose to alter the state of their natural hair and straighten it- some for ease, some to be more socially-acceptable to society and others just as a style preference,” said Ms. Baranja.
Due to a recent increase in popularity of natural styles, consumers are purchasing products from companies like Carol’s Daughter. The company makes hair and skin care products for the ethnic consumer that wears either natural or relaxed hair.
|Khoret Amen Shea Butter Hair Smoothie is a deep penetrating blend of essential oils.|
In addition to providing supreme moisture, Carol’s Daughter’s products are also known for their great smell. With ingredients such as ylang ylang, sweet almond oil, chamomile and cocoa butter, hair care has never smelled so good. “When it comes to hair care, I will combine the essential oils or herbs based on their properties as they relate to hair care, but they must smell good together—It’s important that it works on an aesthetic level as well as a practical level,” said Lisa Price, founder of Carol’s Daughter.
“More than ever ethnic consumers are focusing on moisturizing their hair. Many ethnic hair products have ingredients which help restore moisture,” according to Carrie Mellage, director, consumer products, Kline & Co.
Moisture is just what the creators of Miss Jessie’s products are providing for natural hair wearers. The line provides moisture and definition to the driest and tightly wound curl textures.
According to Titi Branch, owner of Miss Jessie’s products, “the line was created specifically to address the needs of curly, kinky and wavy hair. Specific to the ethnic market we’re talking natural hair or hair that has not been chemically relaxed so that it’s straight," according to Ms. Branch.
A revolution of sorts has been underway the last five years: people with naturally curly hair are embracing their curls and textures. They’ve had it with flat irons and more and more are wearing their hair naturally curly. People of color and of mutiracial ethnicities are moving away from what was a dominant service in that market—hair relaxers,” said Ms. Baranja.
As of 2006, Simmons data indicated that there are almost 10 million, Hispanic, African-American and Asian adults who use hair relaxers or home permanents. This represents a decline of about 700,000 users and African-Americans were responsible for the entire decline.
This change prompted the need for products to address hair that’s in its natural or naturally curly state. That’s where Miss Jessie’s comes in. The company offers solution-oriented products for the natural hair and naturally curly hair segment.
|Curly Pudding transforms shrunken kinks to super shiny stretched out curls with soft hold.|
Rapid Recovery is a weekly intense deep treatment that’s great for restoring moisture and elasticity to dry, brittle curls, kinks, waves and naturals. With the right products, natural hair can be very versatile and lend itself to braids, twists, dreadlocks and shorter cropped styles.
Nearly two decades after Spike Lee’s film “School Daze” brought African-American hair wars out of the dirty laundry basket by showing relaxed and natural women singing the song “Good and Bad Hair,” tensions still exist between women who choose one texture or the other. Luckily, the hair care industry has products that accommodate both, so African-American women can choose the right products for their texture and style.