Growing up, when my mother needed new hair products for us girls, she would always take me down one specific aisle of the store. The aisle was full of hair products, but for some reason we only stayed within a small section. I later learned this to be the 'ethnic hair care aisle.'
It was during this time I began to realize the divide among hair textures and marketing.
It was where we bought shampoos, conditioners, stylers, heavy gels and mostly hair relaxers. Over the years I became familiar with the brand names that only graced the shelves in that section, but once I did the big chop in 2011 and began to embrace my natural hair texture, I discovered a whole new world.
Products in the ethnic hair care aisle, that took up only 10 percent of the entire aisle, were mostly targeted toward black women and displayed them on their labels and marketing materials. But I began to wonder, 'What about the other 90 percent of the aisle? What else is out there that I’m missing out on?'
I will be the first to say women of color can now find a wide array of amazing products outside of their targeted section.
I found this to be true when I discovered TRESemme Naturals Conditioner. It made me hair feel silky, soft and added much needed moisture to my dry strands; I don’t remember any product in the ethnic hair case aisle to do the same.
From there I began trying brands like Aussie Moist, Herbal Essences, and OGX. Many times I found them to work better or just as good as products found in the ethnic hair care aisle.
I also discovered a pleasant surprise: the price tag. Most of the new products I found were less expensive than those I was accustomed to buying.
While I would never want to discourage anyone from buying local and in their communities -- because after all, that is where my heart lies -- I have learned to branch out from the ethnic hair care aisle.
By taking the leap I have grown longer, stronger, softer curls than ever before.
And guess what? My hair didn’t fall out or I didn’t go bald from using products outside of my targeted space (in case you’ve heard that myth). I still do enjoy brands from the ethnic hair care aisle like Creme of Nature, Eden Bodyworks, Shea Moisture and Jane Carter Solution - but the great news is, corporations are learning their customers, and are completely shifting the way their products are organized.
The ethnic hair care aisle has disappeared from many stores and new hair care sections like “natural hair” and “curly hair” are being created.
This shift gives us the freedom to move and explore what new brands have to offer. What I love most - it breaks down barriers and shows inclusion and acceptance for all hair textures.
Next time you find yourself down the hair care aisle, take a look at everything it has to offer - maybe you’ll discover something new that truly works for your hair type.
Do you stick to the "ethnic" hair care aisle?
Have you ventured outside of those 2 shelves?
Update: During the Global Beauty Alliance (GBA) meeting at the 2018 Cosmoprof beauty show in Las Vegas, members voted unanimously to support changing the name of the “Ethnic” hair care category to the “Textured Hair” section. You can read more about what this change means here.