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Desegregating Hair Products

September 16, 2010

A few weeks ago, I made a product suggestion to an African-American woman, encouraging her to try out Tresemme Naturals Conditioner.  “But isn’t that for white people???” she responded.  I found myself unsure of how to respond “… well, I’m black and it works for me, but technically speaking I suppose it is typically found in the ‘white section’ of the store”

Recently a couple of white friends with highly textured hair have asked me for product recommendations to help them with dryness and frizz.  One said “I think I should try, you know, some products that are for black people because they always have a lot of moisture.”  And so I made some recommendations of “black products”.

But why do we have this black and white view of the product world and why does it seem so unnatural to break out of it?In a recent post on the Natural Haven, JC, the renowned natural hair scientist, studied white, black, and asian hair and concluded that all three types of hair are more alike than they are different.  Why?  Because we are all part of the human species.  If that is the case, then how do these “white products” and “black products” truly differ?  In a word: marketing.

Just as many of these “white products” typically use Caucasian or Asian models, “black products” similarly employ black models so that when you are shopping for a product, you naturally gravitate towards the ones that have models who most resemble you on the packaging because you assume that those are the ones that will work best for your hair.

If we were to take ALL hair products from their shelves and throw them into a massive bin and resort them by various texture properties and styling desires (i.e. fine, super conditioning, coarse, dry, needs volume, oily, curl enhancing, curl straightening), I think that this new organization and layout of products would be much more efficient and appropriate for our own individual needs.

Historically speaking, whenever I would go into a Target, Walgreens or other large store to check out their hair goods, I used to always bypass the aisles of “white products” and head straight to the significantly smaller section called where one could find Pink Oil Moisturizer, relaxers, spray sheen, and shea butter/olive oil/coconut infused products catered to black folks.

Now that I am natural, I find my desired products about half in the “black aisles” and half in the “white aisles” as I search for conditioners, stylers, and moisturizers.  I use the ingredient list, rather than a hanging sign denoting the aisle name, to guide my product purchasing decisions.

The bottom line is hair is hair is hair is hair.  If something works for you (or looks like it could work for you), no matter what is on the packaging, then by all means USE IT!  I encourage you to take a walk over to the “other aisle” and check out what they have to offer.  I’m confident that you’ll be pleased with what you try out!

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. Michelle permalink
    September 16, 2010 8:29 am

    Hair Cholesterol by Queen Helene does a GREAT job of moisterizing thick, dry, coarse hair! (I am Chilean/Caucasian) =)

    • September 16, 2010 4:22 pm

      Never used it, but I remember my Nana loving the stuff 🙂

  2. September 16, 2010 8:38 am

    I agree with you. I think its been ingrained in us for so long that we must use only ethnic products because we ourselves are ethnic. In some ways Im glad Miss Jessies and Jane Carter are in Target. Its opening huge doors even if I wouldnt be caught dead buying Miss Jessies lol.

    • September 16, 2010 4:24 pm

      Me too! Even if its purely for the fact that I can get quality products on the ground, but also because people are just more aware of “natural” options (and im talking about the ingredients mostly here…not the style)

  3. September 16, 2010 10:08 am

    I find that my hair products tend to be half in the white section and half in the all-natural/organic section. The ethnic sections have been slow to offer quality.

    • September 16, 2010 4:25 pm

      Great point! Quality is a huge factor in the difference in what is offered in the two sections!

  4. September 16, 2010 10:35 am

    Before my Sisterlocks I used to always use the Tree Tea shampoo by Paul Mitchell. It was great!

  5. September 16, 2010 1:43 pm

    Growing up my mother hardly used products from the ethnic section besides hair grease so I never thought twice about using VO5, Finesse, L’Oreal, etc. When I started doing my own hair I started to buy more in the ethnic section. Eventually from trial and error I’ve found the section doesn’t matter its really about what works for your hair. I would say I buy evenly in both areas.

  6. sarah permalink
    September 16, 2010 2:59 pm

    my mother is a licensed beautician, so, growing up, i was used to using “salon” products. didn’t matter if they were marketed for white or black people, it was all about the quality. generally speaking, when i go to Target, i head to the general hair section and give the ethnic products the least of glances.

    • September 16, 2010 4:41 pm

      Raised on quality! And its true, the better the quality the better the product will work. Regardless of marketing.

  7. Dani permalink
    September 16, 2010 3:48 pm

    love this post cass.

  8. Efuru permalink
    September 16, 2010 5:47 pm

    This post is so true! It reminds me of the side-eye I got from a cashier when I was buying conditioner typically associated with ‘white’ hair, she was like ‘You know thats for white people, right?’ 0_o

  9. Diane permalink
    September 17, 2010 5:58 am

    I was thinking about this the other day because I went to Target last week with the intention of picking up a few Shea Moisture products (or checking them out, at the very least), but they were no where to be found! It surprised me until I realized, oh, I guess it’s because I’m in the “white” Target. A less sensational explanation might be that they just aren’t even aware of the product line’s existence. Anyway, I glanced at the clearly labeled ethnic hair section, but there wasn’t anything I was looking for. I always, always walk by all the other products. I’ve never thought about *why* I do it until now. This post was servicey.

  10. ~Back to Curly~ permalink
    September 17, 2010 6:28 am

    agreed 110%!!!

    I always thought this vid was cute when hit with these types of questions:

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