I’m sure I’m not the first person to have the race conversation. You know, the one where a family member or close friend asks what you’ve been using on your hair because it’s looking great! Once you start mentioning Herbal Essence or Aussie Moist, the conversation comes to a grinding halt. “You use those white folks products on your hair?!” I’ve had to stifle an eye roll and politely respond that hair is hair. Period.
I know as well as anyone that race truly matters and is not, by any means, a dead issue. One place it does not play a legitimate role, however, is in the hair care aisle. Apart from Oriental Black and Heather Gray rinses, “black hair products” and “white hair products ” are simply marketing constructs.
As we know, all hair is comprised of the same basic parts: the cortex, medulla and cuticle. All hair needs moisture, proper conditioning and cleansing. This is not to say that every hair type will use the same products but purchasing a product based on your skin color as opposed to your hair’s needs is a sure-fire way to stunt progress.
Ladies with tighter curl patterns often battle drier hair because sebum can’t make it all the way down the hair strand. This translates into frizziness or even brittle strand for curlies of all races. It’s no wonder then that when we see “black” products that claim to impart moisture, it’s understandable that we leap at the chance. So, why is it that “our” moisturizers are lanolin and petrolatum laden without a stitch of moisturizing agents to them? It’s almost as if these products that are marketed towards us were created to do the extreme opposite of what they claim!
For instance, Blue Magic Coconut Oil Hair Conditioner seems to be a staple at beauty supply stores across the nation. I’m sure many a hair care newbie has been lured into the product’s claim that it’s “made with all natural coconut oil” and, thusly, is perfect for our hair. A review of the label, however, reveals that coconut oil is second to petrolatum. In and of itself, petrolatum isn’t horrible and actually makes an excellent sealant. The issue is that this product claims to condition and prevent dryness, but doesn’t have a stitch of moisture!
One of my favorite conditioners is Herbal Essence Hello Hydration. While you may not see this product in your local BSS or women of color all over their ads, it contains quality ingredients. It provides slip, imparts moisture and doesn’t weigh my hair down. I can’t remember the last black woman I saw in an Herbal Essence commercial but that doesn’t discourage me from using their products because my hair benefits from it.
This article isn’t to imply that companies aren’t creating amazing products that cater to our specific needs because Shea Moisture, Shea Radiance and Giovanni definitely measure up. Treat this as more of a cautionary tale not to be fooled into buying sub-par products simply because a face like yours is shown on the packaging.