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The Effects of the Natural Hair Movement on the Black Hair Industry

The shift from relaxers to natural hair, often referred to as the natural hair movement, is the source of many of the potentially major changes occurring in the Black hair market. The following are key changes:

  • A desire for authenticity as well as efficacy: More and more products that specifically cater to natural and/or transitioning hair have entered the market. Among those new products are products from several brands who previously sold relaxers, like Naturally Silk Elements and Dr. Miracles. However, the ingredients of products from brands who have or also sell relaxers have been met with critical reception. Black women with natural hair, colloquially known as naturalistas, are wary of brands merely seeking to exploit the huge business opportunities that exist in the Black hair market, especially the natural hair segment. They’re not just looking for efficacy but also authenticity. As can be seen in this round-up of Black-owned natural hair product lines.
  • Birth of “kitchen hair chemists”: There’s a growing demand for products with natural ingredients since one of the main drivers of going natural is keeping harsh chemicals out of your hair. Consequently, and in tandem with a growing DIY (do-it-yourself) Black hair culture, some women are choosing to create their own hair products using all natural ingredients. A small convenience sample of 20 YouTube videos regarding homemade hair products shows over 980,000 collective views. Women are replacing shampoos with Apple Cider Vinegar washes and deep conditioners with egg, mayo and honey mixes.
  • Forgetting their hair stylist: Speaking of DIY, YouTube and the Internet in general, has played an important role in the growth of the natural hair movement, allowing more women to gain access to natural hair care information and inspiration. As a result, more women have begun foregoing hair stylists for their own self-styling and care. Natural Hair site, Black Girl Long Hair, asked their readers: “When it comes to natural hair, are you DIY (do-it-yourself) or do you depend on natural stylists?” 47% responded DIY, 23% try DIY methods but are struggling, 25% go to a stylist on occasion, and only 5% said they still use stylists regularly.
  • Changing Purchase Patterns: Another consequent of the Internet and the still-evolving natural hair movement is changing purchasing patterns. Most Black women purchase hair products in Beauty Supply stores, which offer a wide range of Black hair products. But now with the wealth of information online about these products, as with products outside of the hair category, many consumers are researching and deciding about a product before they get to the store, whereas in the past a purchase decision was made in the store based on brand recognition and/or word-of-mouth. While word-of-mouth is still a major decision factor, (per Mintel, 42% of women are very or somewhat influenced by blogs/message boards/internet) many women are buying hair products online because often times the products they want, like Obia Natural Hair Care line, have limited retail distribution. Meanwhile, natural hair beauty subscription boxes like CurlBox, allow women, whether they be self-proclaimed product junkies or new naturals, to try new products on a monthly basis.
  • A changing aesthete: One of the most exciting changes in the Black hair market is the notable change the natural hair movement has had on the Black beauty aesthete. As naturalistas flood social media networks like YouTube, Tumblr and Facebook, documenting their natural hair journeys, experimenting with different hairstyles and scrounging for hair inspiration from natural hair icons and sites dedicated to black hair, the kinky curly haired beauty has become a woman other women aspire to be. So much so that women are buying curls and kinks and weaving them into their own hair. A new extension hair line, The Heat Free Hair Movement, specializes in kinky, curly and coily weaves. Their aim is to offer protective hair style options through their extensions for women with or without natural hair. Daris Mathis of For Harriet wrote about the brand saying, “If enough women have embraced the natural hair aesthetic to the extent that they have created a market for Afro-textured virgin hair, the war has been won. Remember when Chris Rock did Good Hair and said that nobody is buying African-American hair? Someone tell him, ‘Thank you.’”

 The Black hair industry is going through an exciting period. The changes that are occurring are leaving the market open to potentially big shifts—shifts in tastes and in market share. The market is in a state where it can potentially take a whole new direction and it’s also fertile ground for new entrants who have a genuine interest in meeting the unique beauty needs of Black women.

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