black women

The natural hair movement is slowly giving black women power in the haircare market

By  |  0 Comments

Reported by Liku Zelleke

One would think that the industry built around the black woman’s hair care and products would be owned and run by black women … or men. But out of 10,000 stores that deal in hair products like relaxers, curl creams, wigs and hair weaves – products made for and bought by black women – only a few hundred are actually owned by blacks. The rest are mainly owned by Korean-Americans.

The fact dates back to the 70s and has been a bone of discontent between black consumers and the Korean-American owners as blacks see it as one ethnic group profiting from, and yet shutting out, the other.

Now, the growing trend among African-Americans going “au naturelle” is slowly tipping the balance. Fashions like leaving hair as naturally textured curls and braids is becoming ever more popular and many black female entrepreneurs are taking a bigger bite of the market share.

“We’re aware of where our dollars are going. We’re aware of the power of our dollars, we’re aware of the cultural significance of the way that we choose to wear our hair. There’s been a lot of taking back the power, and a lot of that is from the Internet,” says Patrice Grell Yursik, founder of Afrobella, a popular natural-hair blog.

The internet has indeed become a great equalizer as bloggers attend shows to test new products in the hair industry, review them and then share their experience on social media sites. There are also thousands of women that follow natural hairstyle tutorials on YouTube.

Curls and Oyin Handmade are just two of the products that have made it to shelves in retails stores after Rochelle Graham-Campbell of Alikay Naturals initially marketed them in YouTube videos.

Korean immigrants managed to dominate the business after whites that used to control the market closed shop and moved out of the business. Finding a niche that they could move into, Koreans soon took it over. It helped a lot that during the 60s wigs were among South Korea’s top exports.

As Lori Tharps, a co-author of the book “Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America” says, “A lot of people think these people were taking it away from black owners, but that’s not the case. They were creating new businesses. And they were doing it in places where nobody else wanted to open a store.”