via Sophistishe

Fresh off of being accused of co-opting the natural hair movement to market their products to a white market, Shea Moisture is facing fresh accusations of plagiarism and intellectual theft. The brand’s marketing seems to be degrading fast and I’ll be honest – I saw this coming from a mile away.

When Shea Moisture sold a large stake of their company to Bain Capital in 2015, it left many naturals concerned, and with good reason. Over the years, the company had developed a strong cult following due to their ability to assess the needs of natural hair and represent all types of black women in their marketing, something that no brand sold at the drugstore at a reasonable price was doing at the time.

I started using the brand in 2009 (they were founded in 1991), before they were sold in Walgreens and Target and I was ecstatic at how the brand grew into a household name. Their following became SO loyal that I recall doing a review of their first Curling Souffle (gel), and when I didn’t like it, some accused me of bashing a black-owned brand and being catty, even though in the video I blatantly expressed my love for the brand and recommended my favorite products instead.

Their Purification Masque and Coconut Curl & Style Milk were two of the best products I tried for my natural hair, and then they changed the ingredients to the milk and discontinued the masque in stores in 2015. My skepticism started then because I didn’t understand why they would remove such a beloved product.

We’ve been here before. While I encourage indie black-owned brands to grow, too many times we see them alienate their core audience in lieu of “expanding their demographic.” Predictably the quality of the products suffer, and the cringe-inducing ‘black-lite’ or ‘not black at all’ marketing campaigns begin. Once Bain came into the picture, I started seeing subtle changes at Shea Moisture, like an increase in products released with very little change to the ingredients when previously, their lines seemed well thought out and catered to different hair textures (fine, coarse, etc.)

I wasn’t impressed by their “Break the Walls” campaign released in 2016. Regardless of how many of us felt about using the products we used growing up, I dislike it when beauty brands evoke strong emotions of insecurity in us to sell products. To me, it was nothing more than an attempt for them to get in the larger haircare aisle and attract more (read, white) customers.

My thoughts were reaffirmed earlier this year when they released their new campaign with a “hair hate” video featuring a biracial woman with loose curls, a blonde woman, and a woman with red hair. You can view my thoughts about that debacle below. Diversity is one thing, but the blatant alienation of their original core audience was a slap in the face. After this, many women vowed to stop buying the brand.

And now, they have turned to pandering to win back their core audience with their new men’s line, which features several attractive men flaunting full beards courtesy of Shea Moisture’s products.

I’m not falling for it. It’s nothing more than a feeble attempt to convince black women to buy their new line for our men during the holidays. After all, I’m sure there are a lot of us who put our significant others onto the brand in the first place. I know I did. And as it turns out, part of the creative vision behind the series of ads seems to have been stolen from another creative, Barry Gordy, who started a photo series called “Beards In Color” with Nyasia Sylvester.

So this is where we are now. Not only are they on the “dismiss, then pander” parade, but also taking ideas from indie black creatives. All of these instances are blatant evidence of “when going corporate goes wrong.” While I still wish them well, it’s not a ride that I want to be on. I hope that they can turn around their marketing and business practices, but they may be too far gone. RIP, Shea Moisture Shea Butter Leave-In in the white bottle at the beauty supply store.

What do you think of Shea Moisture’s latest ad series?


Elle is the editor and creative director of the YouTube channel and blog, Quest for the Perfect Curl at Her channel focuses on natural hair, beauty, and fitness. She loves products that smell like dessert, yoga, and glitter. Follow her @qftpc.

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19 Comments on "As Shea Moisture Battles Yet Another Scandal We Wonder, What Is Going On With The Brand?"

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They’ve been putting a lot of “quiet” ads in predominantly white, artsy magazines lately. I’ve come across several in magazines at the bookstore. I can’t blame a company for going after a larger market, but they don’t seem interested in this one any more. I’m moving on.

Kimmy J

I used SheaMoisture products once, it was nothing special, and I’m just not willing to shell out the cash for a tiny bit of good stuff and a whole lot of the usual commercial ingredients. I’m DIY all the way, and if I have to buy, I get the basic store stuff and add in my own ingredients.
By and large we’ve been sold a bill of goods by the ‘black hair’ industry.


I have no issue with their product. Whether they jave a “mixed” or “biracial” person in the ad or not. We are all black. No matter the mixture of ethnicities our hair is still unique qnd require different care than a Caucasian. Our communitu need to atop thw haye and coloriam. You aee only continuing 5o perpetuate the same divides which started dueing slavery when our ancestors qere raped and because they qere mixed the slave owner made thw other slaves feel leas than.


Y’all not tired!!????? another complaint jesus

Mylani\'s Mom

Now I’m at a loss because I don’t know what to use in my daughter’s 4 c hair!! I used this line before on her, I wasn’t entirely impressed but I like the fact that it had no artificial fragrance and no animal testing. All products I use are never moisturizing enough for her. My hair is 3 b hair so I have a much easier time finding products that work for me. Help!


Taliah wajeed or mielle organics sis


I use the Curls products, works just fine. I have 4c hair.


I was so excited to see natural hair evolve the black product hair care line, due to black hair care is a multi billion dollar industry dominated in the past by the Asians. I totally understand your grip. Most of the natural hair community have out grown Shea Moisture. The products for a lot of natural hair have really learned the versatility of African hair.


Figures they’d have some marketing flubs after the buyout. Still love their products though and they’re affordable/easy to get in stores compared to many other natural hair lines. It seems that they’ve learned from their mistakes…for now.

Give it a rest!
Everybody focuses on THAT commercial totally ignoring the one that previewed before with the 4 hair bloggers. Smh. A good journalist does research. A lot of these sort of articles seem to pick and pick at the biracial girl. It’s tough bring biracial. You’re tough one black to be white and too white to be black. Imagine how this girl feels in public when people brainwashed by articles like these sneer at her. Everybody wants a brand to remain indie. Goal for any business is to make more money. Heck they can make products for stringy straight hair why rain… Read more »

The smart thing to do would be to make a separate line for other hair textures. Instead, they tried to fit one message of ‘hair hate’ and change product formulas as though all hair types could possibly use the exact same product.


nowhere in the article did it mention biracial people or “sneer” at them. You, like many other biracial women on this site, are projecting your own issues.

Black Investors Do Exist
Black Investors Do Exist

I’ve noticed since that messy ad came out they have had no white people on their Instagram posts. maybe racially ambiguous but definitely not Caucasian. what happened to “everybody gets love”? desperate attempts to get their core market back. there are plenty of other black owned businesses to support and I hope black investors are looking into these small businesses!


They are doing ads with white women in magazines now. I’ve been seeing a few.

stawberry daiquiri

I just started using shea moisture a few weeks ago. I love the Jamaican black caster oil conditioners :/


then use it!

You\'re a hater

Oh please. Hater!