Are We Naturals Sabotaging The Beauty Of Our Hair Movement?

Can we handle the success of our natural hair movement?

The natural hair revolution wasn’t televisied, but it was blogged, websited, facebooked, youtubed, tumbled, stumbledupon, fotki’d, vimeo’d and twittered!  Yes, we sisters sent the word out about our movement and it was a phenomenal success!  Hallelujah!  It’s a healthy and strong movement, and we can see the ripple effects of this strength throughout the world!  Nappy, Kinky, Curly sisters ALL OVER THE GLOBE are embracing their beautiful God given hair, and their black beauty!

But with great success comes responsibility.  It may be time for some of us to learn more about our success and how to maintain it, grow it, and keep control of it.  We are now in the position of letting this phenomenal success take care of us financially.  This natural hair revolution has lifted us out of self hatred, and can lift some of us out of poverty and into self reliance if we do it right.

I have noticed numerous sisters who have decided to move upward into entrepreneurship and I applaud them.  Sisterpreneurs are popping up all over the web and at conferences and in malls and shops.  They are sharing the knowledge that they have acquired through the hundreds of hours of meticulous research they have done.  That is as it should be.  They also are selling their own natural hair products.

We have seen our favorite hair blogs and websites hosting sisterpreneurs.  When you visit your favorite beauty blog, you’ll see a long list of your favorite hair personalities in the sidebar, with cute advertisements for their products and services.  The sisterpreneur website owner showcases the sisterpreneur product developer.  And  sisters purchase these products after seeing these advertisements.  It’s a beautiful thing!

But is there a fly in the coco-shea butter cream?  Many of our go-getter sisterpreneurs are in the beginning stages of their businesses.  They don’t have staff putting together their products yet; they have done all the production, packaging and labelling themselves.  So it’s not going to compare to the BIG conglomerates in terms of that sleek, polished trickery look that we’ve been conditioned to look for.  And this is not the only issue for sisterpreneurs.

I have gone on hair blogs and have read sisters crabbin about simple issues they see with our black women entrepreneurs’ products that could be given the benefit of the doubt.  I’ve read complaints about the cost of natural products, the distribution of these products, the lack of sophistication of these products, the lack of visibility of the products, the ingredients contents of these products. I’ve read that the kitchen table sisterpreneurs needs to get it together and lower their prices to match the conglomerates.  Thankfully, not ALL of us are being so unfair, but enough of us are, and I feel the  need to call us out.

Ylang Ylang flowers - cananga odorata

Shouldn’t we take into consideration that these sisters have put in work without the benefit of huge financial backing of the hair care conglomerates?  Yes we should. We also should consider that just because a product is packaged in a highly stylistic way, doesn’t mean that the contents in that package is worthy of our hair.  Another thing to think about is that sisterpreneurs are not able to get the deep discounts on raw materials that the huge conglomerates can get.  So she can’t afford  to drop her prices to their level without taking a loss!  Also, the conglomerates fill their products full of cheap, nothing chemicals and preservatives.  You won’t find essence of true Ylang Ylang  or rose, or jasmine in the conglomerate products,  becaue these natural products have a short shelf life!  They can’t sit on the shelf of a warehouse for years.  The life force will start to dissipate in a matter of weeks.  Our sisterpreneurs have done their homework and have learned that true essential oils are precious and valuable, and have medicinal properties as well as aromatherapy properties!

Ylang Ylang oil properties: Ylang Ylang (flower of flowers)  has powerful antidepressant, euphoric and aphrodisiac properties. What is more, it is antiseptic, anti-infectious, tonic, hypotensive and can stimulate the circulatory system and calm the nervous system. It is considered as a great regulator of the human body.

Sadly, I have also read straight up hateration in some blog comments.  More than once or twice, I have read following comment:  “I aint supporting her, I can make that product myself at home!”    HWHAAAT?!?!?   *Holding up cardboard sign saying*  C’mon, daughters!

(I also can make burritos at home if I go online pull up a good recipe, but I don’t wont to!  Instead I can gather together a whopping six dollars, and get myself an AUTHENTIC steak burrito from Los Arcos restaurant here in the O!  Plus, I’m supporting my latina sister, who always calls me “lady”!)   😀

Anyway, are we letting a lack of understanding of business issues, like supply and demand, bulk purchasing, shelf life, distribution costs, advertising costs,  and other such processes of entrepreneurship cause us to say unfair things against our sisterpreneurs?  I know that we sisters are too smart to let a lack of business savvy  negatively tinge our hair movement.  I don’t claim to know anything about these things either, but at least I know that I DONT know!  I can easily google it and learn, or one better, I can hire a business oriented sisterpreneur to teach me!

Lets be aware of the fact that we sisters have done HUGE amounts of PhD worthy research.  Yes, I said it!  There are thousands of sisters who should have PhDs in the sciences: microbiology, biology, dermatology, chemistry; and the Healing Arts: aromatherapy, etc. Right this minute!  In other words we have put in work, and must properly value all of the knowledge that we have acquired.  We must hold in high esteem that sister who has reached this level, because she deserves that from us.  If we don’t honor her, who will?

I remember when I was younger, the level of awe and respect we sisters had for those pioneering african american women of the natural hair care movement, like Diane Carole Bailey, Pamela Ferrell, Diane De Costa, Tulani Kinard and Lonnice Brittenaum Bower.  These sisters were beautiful goddesses in my mind.  I devoured every one of their books 20 years ago–many of which are still on my book shelf today!  I keep these sisters in the highest esteem to this very day, because today’s natural hair care movement stands on their shoulders.

Without all the hard work that these black women and many others have put in our natural hair care movement, it wouldn’t be in the fabulous position it’s in today.  These sisters battled for black women’s right to consider ourselves beautiful, most of the time with no support:  Fighting the beauty licensing industry, fighting in court for the right to professionally braid hair, fighting for respect for our natural hair’s beauty, fighting for exposure (getting into Essence magazine was the catalyst to greatness back then) fighting to build their salons, fighting their own fears and creating gorgeous hairstyles, and most of all,  fighting to teach black women to love and accept our naturalbeauty.  We gave those pioneering sisters the respect they were due.

And now we have a new group of entrepreneurially minded african women who are moving forward in our new hair movement.  This time, we have the benefit of the World Wide Web and it has allowed us to spread our beauty movement worldwide!   In a way, we are learning the basics of hair care over again, but at the same time we are the new pioneers with the internet being available to us.  Let bless the Lord that things are open to us again, and let’s not make it hard for ourselves in any way.  We must always support each other and continue to help and educate each other in this natural hair revolution, which is fully our own!  We were not the baby-making extras in this show.  Once we get the proper perspective of the true value of our movement, our spirits will shift and we won’t desire to complain about the small stuff.

We must learn to be fair to ourselves and each other at the very mininum.  We have created this movement and we need to grow in knowledge to maintain it.  We need to learn more about entrepreneurship, branding and marketing on a grassroots level or a national level.  We have to make our decisions on how we choose to do it.  I’ve already seen Miss Jessie’s at Target.  She’s made the decision to distribute her product there.  The downside IMO is that her curly pudding cost $38 and her baby buttercream cost a whopping  $58.  I read the ingredients list and saw a number of preservatives that I dont think she had in the beginning.  Carole’s Daughter is now a $30 million dollar company and is featured on HSN.  These are the types of decisions that entrepreneurs have to make, and we need to be savvy in order to make them.  We can’t waste our time bitchin’ over the small stuff.   IMHO of course.   🙂

Also, we have to know that there is an anti-movement underfoot to undermine the natural haircare movement.  We have to know that the conglomerates won’t let us go without a fight.  They don’t want you natural and in control.  It takes money out their pockets.  Will we be able to come together swiftly to protect our movement in the same way we came together against Kanazawa?  Already there are saboteurs out there circling.  And the saboteur may look just like you.  Don’t allow yourself to be that saboteur.

23 Comments Add yours

  1. Reggie says:

    I absolutely love to run my fingers through a woman of colors hair. There is something particularly stimulating about natural hair though……I just love it.

  2. Ankhesen says:

    The answer to your question is, yes. In some ways, we are.

    The natural hair revolution wasn’t televisied, but it was blogged, websited, facebooked, youtubed, tumbled, stumbledupon, fotki’d, vimeo’d and twittered! Yes, we sisters sent the word out about our movement and it was a phenomenal success! Hallelujah! It’s a healthy and strong movement, and we can see the ripple effects of this strength throughout the world! Nappy, Kinky, Curly sisters ALL OVER THE GLOBE are embracing their beautiful God given hair, and their black beauty!

    I’m really glad you pointed this out, because that is a very powerful statement. We did this successfully on our own and we have supported one another – millions of women we never even met – fabulously.

    But you’re right. We need to bite the bullet and started supporting our black female entrepreneurs because we don’t want the natural movement to simply be a hiccup which the big companies overcome. We need to redirect our financial resources and invest in ourselves, and no, that will not be easy. We can think of it as phase two of the natural movement. While getting more and more women to do the big chop was not initically easy, it was a success. With enough times and patience, this will be too.

  3. Victoria says:

    I love the topic and your post. I was just thinking about this issue earlier on the week….the business side of natural hair care.

    I wish or want to challenge you to think further about it from another perspective though. The natural hair movement is growing and the “Sisterpreneurs” have a very limited opportunity here. The conglomerates are already taking notice and no longer just fighting back or disregarding us. With the success of sisterpreneurs and the growing number of natural they are in the early stages of looking to capitalize on the emerging market.

    I feel this is important to recognize because we talk sometimes of how it is that black people have virtually no control or financial stake in the enormous black hair industry….why is everything owned by white-run corporations or Koreans who won’t even employ us in their stores filled with products that we are the 100% consumer for.

    With the natural hair movement, revolution, whatever one wants to call it we’ve had the opportunity to finally take stake again to financially benefit from our own communities consumption….but I fear that unless we are deliberate, weary, and conscious it will slip through our hands like the rest of the black hair care industry.

    So I applaud you for saying that we must rally around our sisterpreneurs, but not only that is imperative we quickly acquire the business know how, partnerships, and investment so that natural hair care industry stays black owned and authentic to it roots, such as natural or quality ingredients.

    You’re correct, because this is certainly no time to be sweating the small stuff.

    1. Anna Renee says:

      I would hate that we allow this aspect of OUR movement to slip through our fingers! That visual is going to haunt me.

      I think that where the critical juncture lies is in partnering with these conglomerates. IMHO it’s a mistake from front to back. I remember reading somewhere how we allowed the Koreans a strong foothold in the haircare products side, pressing combs, pressing comb heaters and stuff like that was produced by a black company in LA if Im correct.
      The Koreans asked for and received permission to tour their production facilities under the guise of checking out black entrepreneurship. BIG MISTAKE!
      They saw how the pressing combs and heaters were produced and quickly got to work producing them in Korea for much less than the folks in Watts. They brought them back to America and viciously undercut the black folks prices. The black folks didnt have proper distribution—theirs was more like an Amway type of distribution. They couldn’t compete with a much more powerful distribution method of the Koreans, and were effectively washed away.

      1. Anna Renee says:

        We consumers prefer cheaper and easier, even to our own detriment.
        But the black company fell for the whole PRIDE thing. We always trying to prove our worth, and was bamboozled out of control of our hot combs and hot comb heaters, tripping over our own feet to show somebody that we smart and know how to do stuff.

        What that company should have done was never allow those Koreans into their facilities, under any circumstances. Not knowing the value of what they had, not seeing that someone may want to take it from them, not upgrading their means of distribution, not paying attention to the industry growth, but being myopic and only focused inward, being self assured, but of nothing, having that fatal mentality of always trying to prove our worth, they opened up the doors to what should have been trade secrets, and gave it away to the Koreans.

        If we even dare to deal with the conglomerates and want to remain in control, we had better go and sit at the knees of P. Diddy and Russell Simmons first. Because most of us don’t know anything about dealing with them. They are cut throat is all I need to know.

        1. Ankhesen says:


      2. Ankhesen says:

        The things I learn on your blog. I never knew that about the biz.

        1. Anna Renee says:

          Here it is in video. Start watching at about 6:00, and learn a bit about how we allowed them to come in “as friends”. We opened ourselves up to them
          Just because they were “friendly” still didn’t mean we had to open up our secrets to them. How very foolish! We always then are on the side of begging for fairness, and never receiving it. Like I said, it way past time for us to learn about true business. I bet Betty Crocker aint letting nobody know how she makes her cakes, no matter how “friendly” they approach her!

          Sisters, the best thing is to keep control of the manufacturing of your product and grow it by yourself. Stop looking for a big fast come-up, and build yourself a nice slow come up instead. Brand your product, keep your product, learning distribution methods, learn some chemistry to mix your products, learn marketing, learn, learn learn, but most of all KEEP YOUR PRODUCTS!!!

          Don’t let what happened to Kizuri happen to you.

        2. Princesssookeh says:

          Such a pleasant surprise seeing you here! ^_^

      3. Leo the Yardie Chick says:

        “The Koreans asked for and received permission to tour their production facilities under the guise of checking out black entrepreneurship. BIG MISTAKE!”

        You know, there’s a story in the Bible that went much the same way. Pompous King of Israel (or was it Judah?) showed some foreign ambassadors all his vast treasury. Ambassadors went home and told their king what they saw. What happened after that? Invasion.

        Moral: do NOT show off your life-line!

        1. Anna Renee says:

          When we as black business folks start growing in true business savvy, this kind of thing won’t happen like this. This one is tragic IMO.

  4. Travis says:

    For anyone interested, I got newly designed shirt…

    “This design is intended to be an affirmation in support of so many black women who have made the bold choice to proudly wear their hair in its natural state (e.g. no weaves, relaxers, or other straightening chemicals or treatments). In the face of rejection, disdain and near universal disapproval, your assuredness, comfort and natural beauty gives general admirers the impression that your decision was effortless. You wear it well.”

  5. Pepp says:

    I definitely have to say something because those sistas sitting in the basement brewing that hair stuff for us won’t be allowed to distribute at your local beauty supply store. Asian owned beauty supply stores lock black folks out And if we bitch and moan about a label not being fancy enough we’re going to miss out on a big opportunity here.

    1. Anna Renee says:

      We must grab ahold of some business savvy—quick fast and in a hurry, because our natural hair movement has exploded BIG TIME! So many opportunities are arising for us…

    2. The irony is, with time and patience and proper planning, these businesses could flourish to the point that they not only open jobs for us, but the prices themselves could go a bit lower.

      1. Leo the Yardie Chick says:

        Unfortunately, Ankh, too much of us have fallen hook, line, and sinker for the ‘instant gratification’ mentality. They’re not (or refusing to) consider that people starting up any business from their basement, so to speak, is not going to have the money available to get the precious fancy labels designed and printed. Then again, most of those nitpickers aren’t considering that they’re helping a fellow black/POC business grow, which c/would benefit us tremendously in the long-term.

      2. Anna Renee says:

        That’s part of the learning curve that we MUST become acquainted with! When sisters go to Prada, they expect that it’s gonna COST something and they are more than willing to pay that cost.

        The reason is because Prada has branded itself and their brand is VALUE!! If someone saw Prada for cheap, they’d become suspicious of it being FAKE!!! That’s a strong branding, and sisters can learn how to do the same thing with their products.

        I implore you sisters NOT to fall into the okey doke of being bamboozled out of your products, just because the Conglomerates say they LIKE you! I don’t give a ish if you like me MF, but am I still in control of my ish? Am I making you pay for my product that I slaved over for my own benefit?

        We can learn how it’s done from the hip hop entrepreneurs, and start studying marketing and branding, using that same social media and reading any beauty product marketers, and learning from folks like Afrobella and Awesomely Luvvie!

        It’s time for class, and it won’t be at Mills College here in Oakland, or Berkeley, or Spelman!

  6. Anna Renee says:

    Once we overcome the “instant gratification mentality” (and I believe we can pull the hook out our mouths) then even more of us will come up to speed in terms of translating this success into business success, and more of us will learn to properly support it.

  7. Anna Renee says:

    Here’s an interesting story about the difficulties of Black beauty supply owners

  8. Bel says:

    One of the negative aspects of the natural hair movement seems to be the rampant product junkieism that is taking place. There comes a point where is is ridiculous how many pricey products Black women are using to maintain their ‘natural hair’. For me, one of the best things about going natural has been the freedom that comes with it; not being bound to so many products & chemical is so liberating. Many of these products are loaded with cheap fillers that actually do damage to our tresses But now, naturals are being bombarded by the message that we need to buy 5 different products & spend hundreds of dollars a month to make our hair look beautiful. That idea is such a shame, because our hair is ALREADY beautiful.

    1. Anna Renee says:

      It seems to be a process of discovery. We slowly learn that we don’t need all the products, and we choose the one is best and stick to it. Learning about ourselves after being socialized to believe we are worthless is a long process for some of us.
      I agree with you that our hair is already beautiful!!

  9. DN says:

    Anna Renee is right. I am a natural girl living and working in South Korea. I could get the stuff and make those products for my hair but I rather not…mainly because I am lazy and after dealing with 107 kids everyday for a week, not happening. I go to Oyin and Nyraju, order my stuff the make it and send it. I am set for a while. I remember Oyin’s labels where simple in the beginning and now that they have grown it has changed and become fancier. The label doesn’t change the quality of the product. It still works wonderfully.

    1. Anna Renee says:

      You know what you like and you use it!

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