By Lurie Daniel-Favors

When Chris Rock’s film Good Hair was released there was a lot of noise made about the fact that most of the peo­ple prof­it­ing from the mas­sive Black hair indus­try are not actu­al­ly Black. It seems every­one is ben­e­fit­ting finan­cial­ly from our col­lec­tive addic­tion to hair that we don’t actu­al­ly grow.

A few weeks ago Mintel, the mar­ket research firm report­ed that over the past five years there was a 26% decline in the sale of hair relax­ers.  Nat­u­ral hair sites all over the place did the hal­lelu­jah dance and many in the nat­u­ral hair com­mu­ni­ty greet­ed the news with excite­ment.  The idea that more Black wom­en are begin­ning to embrace eth­ni­cal­ly Black hair (i.e. nat­u­ral hair) is one that makes many of us hap­py.

The num­bers were tru­ly astound­ing.

  • Relax­er sales are esti­mat­ed to drop from $206 mil­lion in 2008 to only $152 mil­lion this year 
  • In the past 12 months, near­ly 70% of Black wom­en “say they cur­rent­ly wear or have worn their hair nat­u­ral”

  • Now, grant­ed I haven’t seen 70% of Black wom­en in my area with nat­u­rals (and I sus­pect part of that decrease is due to the preva­lence of hair weaves…), but the num­bers are encour­ag­ing nonethe­less.

    But when I read the report, in addi­tion to get­ting hyped over the increase in nat­u­rals, I was instant­ly remind­ed of Civil Rights era bus boy­cotts. Specif­i­cal­ly the Mont­gomery, Alaba­ma bus boy­cott.

    Why? Because just like the Mont­gomery boy­cott, for the savvy Black owned hair com­pa­ny, the num­bers in that report can mean the dif­fer­ence between finan­cial independence—or not.

    And our deci­sions as Black con­sumers may make all the dif­fer­ence.

    His­to­ry in Con­text
    For those who don’t remem­ber the details of the bus boy­cotts, here’s the quick ver­sion.

    After slav­ery, Black pas­sen­gers were treat­ed like scum third class cit­i­zens under legal seg­re­ga­tion.  This was espe­cial­ly true when it came to pub­lic trans­porta­tion.  After count­less inci­dents where Black pas­sen­gers were forced to either give up their seats for White pas­sen­gers, kicked off of bus­es all togeth­er or sub­ject­ed to racial vio­lence ter­ror­ism, the Black com­mu­ni­ty began to boy­cott the trans­porta­tion sys­tem and demand­ed equal treat­ment.

    The Mont­gomery Boy­cott is one of the more famous protests. It last­ed over a year and was a tremen­dous dis­play of Black peo­ple real­ly own­ing their mon­e­tary pow­er. Despite the fact that Whites in Mont­gomery were com­plete­ly unwill­ing to provide non-racist equal ser­vice to Black bus patrons, they very much want­ed the mon­ey that Black patrons spent on bus tick­ets.

    Dur­ing the boy­cott, Black taxi dri­vers stepped up to provide increased ser­vices. Black church­es across the nation raised mon­ey and col­lect­ed shoes to sup­port the folks who chose to walk to work rather than sub­mit to racist Jim Crow poli­cies. The Black com­mu­ni­ty ral­lied to keep Black folks mobile—and finan­cial­ly independent—during the boy­cott.

    However…in the piv­otal moments after the boycott’s suc­cess­ful end, the Black com­mu­ni­ty returned to rid­ing bus­es oper­at­ed by racist bus com­pa­ny own­ers.

    But what if instead of giv­ing racist bus own­ers their trans­porta­tion dol­lars going back to busi­ness as usu­al, Black patrons decid­ed to keep their mon­ey cir­cu­lat­ing in their own com­mu­ni­ty? What if dur­ing the boy­cott, the Black com­mu­ni­ty cre­at­ed and main­tained its own bus com­pa­nies, met its own trans­porta­tion needs and cir­cu­lat­ed those dol­lars with­in its own bor­ders?

    What if instead of cel­e­brat­ing the fact that racists bus own­ers could no longer open­ly dis­crim­i­nate, the Black com­mu­ni­ty rejoiced—and then decid­ed it nei­ther need­ed nor want­ed to spend its mon­ey with those com­pa­nies? What if instead, those boy­cotters chose to take their hard earned mon­ey and give it to Black owned bus com­pa­nies that respect­ed them and their human­i­ty?

    Nat­u­ral Hair Dol­lars and The Pow­er of Choice
    Now, what this have to do with the decrease in relax­ers and increase in Black wom­en who are choos­ing nat­u­ral hair alter­na­tives?

    It all comes down to choic­es.

    Because believe it or not, the nat­u­ral hair com­mu­ni­ty is also at a piv­otal moment.  We are lit­er­al­ly shift­ing the com­merce of the Black hair econ­o­my to one that rejects the idea that one must have straight hair in order to be deemed social­ly accept­able. And since Black wom­en spend a hell of a lot of mon­ey on hair care, that shift is under some intense indus­try scruti­ny.

    You see, nat­u­ral hair web­sites were not the only ones review­ing that report.

    You can bet your lace front wig that large com­mer­cial hair pro­duct com­pa­nies are keen­ly aware that they are los­ing mon­ey in the hair relax­er mar­ket. Any­one who has watched 5 min­utes of BET late­ly knows that com­pa­nies like Pan­tene and L’Oreal are hit­ting the air­waves hard to pro­mote their new prod­ucts for “nat­u­rals.” They’ve even adopt­ed sim­i­lar lan­guage, using terms like “co-wash,” “curl defin­ing,” and “clar­i­fy­ing” to describe their prod­ucts.

    It’s not because all of a sud­den they changed their mind and decid­ed that nappy/kinky/coily hair is beau­ti­ful. It’s because they are los­ing mon­ey to nat­u­ral hair com­pa­nies owned and oper­at­ed by Black wom­en. Com­pa­nies like Going Nat­u­ral, Karen’s Body Beau­ti­ful, Doris New York and Shea Mois­ture. And they aren’t going down with­out a fight.

    So now the nat­u­ral com­mu­ni­ty must choose how to spend our mon­ey and whom we will sup­port with our eco­nom­ic pow­er.

    Will we reward com­pa­nies that played on our inse­cu­ri­ties for decades? Will we sup­port com­pa­nies who prof­it­ed by rein­forc­ing a stan­dard of beau­ty that was designed to exclude Black wom­en and our hair?

    Or will we instead choose to sup­port com­pa­nies start­ed by Black wom­en for Black wom­en? Will we reward those com­pa­nies found­ed by sis­tas work­ing in their kitchens who took the time to blend safe, nat­u­ral ingre­di­ents in ways designed to pro­mote the beau­ty and health of Black hair?

    Or will we…not?

    Just like those involved in the bus boy­cotts we have demon­strat­ed our mon­e­tary poten­tial.  We’ve shown that “going nat­u­ral” isn’t just a trend and it is here to stay. Now we have to decide if we will throw our eco­nom­ic might behind those busi­ness­es in our own com­mu­ni­ty who believe in the beau­ty inher­ent in who we are—or if we will con­tin­ue in a (bad) tra­di­tion of sup­port­ing those out­side our com­mu­ni­ty who have shown lit­tle loy­al­ty to our needs.

    Lurie is an attor­ney and the author of “Afro State of Mind: Mem­o­ries of a Nap­py Head­ed Black Girl. You can find her on Twit­ter,Face­book and YouTube.

    Black Girl With Long Hair

    Leila Noel­lis­te, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…

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    117 Comments on "[Opinion] Why Naturals Should Buy Exclusively from Black-Owned Hair Companies"

    Notify of
    I used to be a diehard PJ and tried just about every nat­u­ral hair gel, pud­ding, and cream I could get my hands on. Lit­er­al­ly. As long as it had a nice fra­grance and didn’t hit my wal­let too hard, I was all in. But after googling the ingre­di­ents of my total stash, I had to pitch it all, except for just two — Shea Mois­ture and Kinky-Curly Cus­tard. I recent­ly added two new ones to my stash, Nat­u­ral­ly Silk Ele­ments’ pud­ding and curling cream gel, and said good-bye to Kinky-Curly, but only because of the cost.  That said, as long… Read more »
    I too can’t bring myself to buy any of the “nat­u­ral” prod­ucts made by what I call the relax­er com­pa­nies. I just don’t believe their sto­ry. They don’t actu­al­ly care about hair health (you can tell this by the like qual­i­ty ingre­di­ents), their only goal is the bot­tom line & I would rather not con­tribute to it. Motions? No thanks. Dark n Love­ly? I’ll pass. Elas­ta QP? Yeah right. I don’t want any of that junk near my head now that I under­stand ingre­di­ents & have made health my focus. I know every­body won’t feel the same, but to each… Read more »

    Low qual­i­ty, I meant. :-)


    My all time favorite black-owned com­pa­nies are Qhemet Bio­log­ics and Shea Mois­ture. Their prod­ucts absolute­ly deliv­er the goods! Thanks for remind­ing us the pow­er of choice. We can choose who we patron­ize with our hard earned mon­ey.


    Not one of the points here includ­ed qual­i­ty of the pro­duct, which peo­ple go for, peo­ple buy prod­ucts because they work well for their hair.

    Shea Mois­ture prod­ucts are too heavy for my hair, Carol’s Daugh­ter- expen­sive, so I’ll stick to what is cheap, and works best for my I bet the­se black owned com­pa­nies hire non-black employ­ees, and non black owned com­pa­nies Lore­al etc hire black employ­ees.

    I am all for sup­port­ing Black owned hair com­pa­nies, IF their cus­tomer ser­vice is up to par. If not, I will not sup­port them sim­ply because they are Black. I recent­ly dealt with a Black ven­dor whose prod­ucts were rat­ed on this site. When I even­tu­al­ly received their pro­duct, I refused to order from them again, due to the very poor cus­tomer. I emailed them at least 3 times regard­ing my pro­duct which I had not received even though I had the track­ing num­ber. I didn’t received 1 reply to my emails. There is sim­ply no excuse for this type… Read more »
    I agree with you Awan­da and I hate when peo­ple dimin­ish bad expe­ri­ences with black owned com­pa­nies as if to say you should care less about your mon­ey when the ven­dor shares your skin colour and be equal­ly hard or hard­er on non black owned com­pa­nies because they don’t share your skin colour. This mind­set that some black wom­en have has led to more than a few being ripped off due to wear­ing blink­ers that say black vendor=must sup­port. Any­one care to recall Mop­top Maven or the wom­an who was sell­ing some hair growth thing? Both dis­ap­peared into thin air… Read more »
    Cee Cee

    This is cool, but I hope your prac­tice is the same when it comes to oth­er com­pa­nies owned by oth­er races. I say this because I see a lot of us just cut­ting off black com­pa­nies for one inci­dent of poor cus­tomer ser­vice, but they take it (and go back for more) from com­pa­nies that are not black owned.

    I am not say­ing accept poor cus­tomer ser­vice — no. I am say­ing be as hard on every­one else as you are Black peo­ple and yes that may mean you stop shop­ping at Forever 21 0_o


    CeeCee, why would you assume I would only be this way with Black ven­dors? I will let any ven­dor or store I deal with if I’m not hap­py with their ser­vice. I don’t make excus­es for any type of bad/poor cus­tomer ser­vice!


    THANK YOU CEE CEE!!! It’s sooo fun­ny how we are quick to cut down a black owned busi­ness for what­ev­er we don’t like and get on the bull horn and try to turn every­one again­st them but I nev­er see them doing that with non-black owned busi­ness! It’s like we look for a rea­son to put down black owned busi­ness­es

    First of all

    Thank you. I’m gonna try the Shea Mois­ture. I buy my hair prod­ucts from Wal-Mart. I will not give my busi­ness to beau­ty sup­ply stores owned by non-blacks. I use Lore­al sul­fate free sham­poo and Aussie moist con­di­tion­er and I have been both­ered by the fact that Aussie moist doesn’t adver­tise in black pub­li­ca­tions because I’m sure they are aware that they are pop­u­lar in the nat­u­ral com­mu­ni­ty. I also use IC hair pol­ish­er styling gel. I hadn’t given much thought to who owns the com­pa­nies.

    First of all

    I’m real­ly going to have to edu­cate myself about this and make some deci­sions on the hair prod­ucts I use and where to pur­chase them. I just feel bet­ter buy­ing from a place that sells hair prod­ucts for every race and not a straight haired per­son mak­ing mon­ey from my hair type.

    Ummm.…no offense, but the own­ers of Wal­Mart are worse than the own­ers of the beau­ty sup­ply stores. Wal­Mart sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly makes busi­ness choic­es that increase their prof­its while restrict­ing the ben­e­fits & salaries of their employ­ees. You may not like that the BSS is owned by a non-black per­son, but in many cas­es they are oper­at­ing in strip malls and plazas that provide local access to the prod­ucts that styl­ists and local con­sumers need. Not all are rep­utable of course, but nei­ther is Wal­Mart. If you won’t give your mon­ey to a BSS owned by non-blacks why give it to a… Read more »
    Not to men­tion that Wal-Mart, like McDon­alds (two of the biggest employ­ers in Amer­i­ca I might add), reg­u­lar­ly depend on tax-pay­er sup­port­ed SNAP ben­e­fits (food stamps) and oth­er social safe­ty net liv­ing assis­tance pro­grams to fac­tor in how much they should pay their employ­ees. It’s absurd and mad­den­ing, espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing the bil­lions of dol­lars of prof­it and the mil­lions of dol­lars of tax sub­si­dies com­pa­nies like Wal-Mart get PER YEAR.  That being said, if Wal-Mart is the only option (as it is in a lot of Amer­i­ca) do what you need to do. But if you have an option to shop… Read more »