Call me what you wanna for being critical but I find it unnerving to be one of many consumers of color at a crossroads between commerce and conservation. There’s a sincere disconnect that is expanding within the Black beauty market that very few are speaking out against. Le sigh. I suppose I’ll take on the task.
Though I’m not sleeping on the reality that this industry has been a key driving force for many black and female entrepreneurs to grow their wealth in an area that was once closed to them, I can’t help but feel my pride being pierced each time a publicist grants me access accompanied by samples and hi-res images of the next breakthrough brand for kinky, coily hair.
I get it. We’re natural. We’re proud. We’re stylish. Well, sort of. Despite enjoying a cocktail or two at natural hair meetups and chumming along with relevant bloggers who’ve built their brands showing the rest of the world how to be themselves, I kindly refuse to support many of these brands that are creating health hazards and environmental damage within our communities through the disguise of well-designed packaging and high-fashion Instagram pictures. Nah son. It’s not going down like that.
Did anyone get the memo that synthetic ingredients and estrogen mimicking products are major chemicals in ethnic hair products, are absorbed into the bloodstream and contributing to many of the environmental pollutants scientists and researchers are finding in black babies’ cord blood?
Let’s say we could also care less about the not-so-natural natural hair products being shoved down our throat (which we purchase out of perhaps guilt or excitement upon discovering the brand’s owner looks like you, talks like you and is just as fly). I have a few questions and a bone to pick about these brands’ business practices. Let’s begin:
- Where do many of these ethnic hair brands stand on their corporate responsibility policies?
- How many are supporting communities and causes and/or being of service to advance the welfare of the people that support their businesses outside of giving them great hair?
- Who’s leading the conversation for building black beauty social businesses that combine people, passion and profit?
I’m curious to discover why many of these questions have yet to be raised within the natural hair community. Perhaps these particular brands haven’t evolved beyond hair meetups and photoshoots simply due to no one grooming these entrepreneurs and brands to think about sustainability management. Or perhaps, and I sincerely hope not, these brands are simply in the business of making money while leaving the social causes up to the rest.
We are being left out of the green and sustainable conversation once again. Let’s educate beyond natural hair. It’s time to catch up and really serve customers and communities.
Love and Beauty,
In case you’re interested here are a few of my favorite ethnic natural brands, black owned and proudly tote a triple bottom line business:
B Condoms – A unique condom company with a sleek look, a social mission, and two dedicated safer-sex advocates running the show. While Jason Panda and Reggie Thornton sell b condoms to keep the lights on, they also partner with businesses and nonprofits to distribute b condoms for free in certain venues. As the only black-owned condom company, they also specifically target and spread prevention messages to communities of color. These “condoms with a conscience” rival the notorious Magnum in quality — and they’re vegan friendly to boot!
Shea Radiance - Shea Radiance re-directs 10% of net profit to women shea producers and currently supports eight co-ops in Nigeria. Shea Radiance has also grown from one main line, Shea Radiance Body, and added Shea Radiance Hair and Shea Radiance Spa in November 2011. Shea Radiance has received numerous accolades for its all natural, fairly traded and high quality products, Innovative Green Packaging Award – winning sustainable packaging and overall social responsibility.