I am on my way home from church when I realize that I need some leave-in conditioner for the week. Without any beauty supply stores, or even a Walmart around, I have no choice but to go to the Harris Teeter next to East Campus. I expected to come out of the grocery store with an expensive buy, but to my surprise, I walked out of Harris Teeter with a $7.99 SheaMoisture Strengthen and Grow Leave-In Conditioner. SheaMoisture products usually sell for $10-$12 in a haircare store, so to purchase one of their bonus size products in a grocery store, I knew I had gotten a great deal!
The next day, I used the conditioner and I was ready to share with any and every person that complimented my hairstyle. After hearing so many great things about SheaMoisture products in the past, I couldn’t wait to tell others that I had finally caught up with the trend and tried it for myself! Little did I know that the first person to ask about my haircare techniques would be the first person to inform me about the recent SheaMoisture boycott and guilt me for my purchase.
Two weeks ago, SheaMoisture released a new ad that has stirred up a lot of controversy. The ad features three women, two of which are white women with straight hair. In trying to expand their market base, SheaMoisture tried to create a new formula –one that would appeal to the hair texture of white women. The haircare brand encouraged its users to love their hair in any form, leaving every form of “hair hate” behind. However, the only forms of hair shown in the video were straight, and very loose curls on a girl of mixed descent—nothing close to the forms of hair of their main customers: black women. “Hair hate” for the women in the video was wishing their hair was blonde rather than red—nothing close to the years of criticism and discrimination black women have faced for their thick, kinky, nappy hair. The SheaMoisture commercial undermines all of the hair struggles that black women have endured from the use of relaxer to conform to the socially appropriate “straight” hair styles (from which women are still in the process of transitioning) to the cultural appropriation of cornrows. It has taken decades, even generations, for black women to start appreciating and loving their hair and not all have even gotten to this point.
SheaMoisture was the brand that targeted black women with natural hair. They were part of the movement for black beauty and black appreciation. So their business decision to expand their customer base and mainly use white women in the process came off to the black community as a decision to leave us in the dust and move on to bigger and better things because as the New York Times put it, “black women could never be enough.” Maybe it’s their way of saying “all hair matters” in response to “black hair matters?”
SheaMoisture’s market expansion came at the expense and marginalization of black women.
From a business standpoint as well, I do not understand why SheaMoisture would intentionally choose to exclude their base customers from the commercial. That is a choice that only hurts themselves. While black women stood loyal to SheaMoisture as one of the very few haircare products that worked well, white women have an abundance of products to choose from. Without loyal black customers, let’s just hope that SheaMoisture can stay alive next to products from companies like Garnier and Dove.