Madam C.J. Walker, Johnson Products, Pro-line and SoftSheen are all companies that have benefited greatly by providing products for black hair. These entities lead the way for other firms to profit from the industry as well. Corporations such as L'Oreal and Pantene seized the opportunity to expand their business into the market by leveraging their financial strength and distribution network. Many of the smaller black-owned companies were acquired by the major corporations and positioned as divisions.
In last week's column detailing HINO (Hair Industry Night Out), state Rep. Antonio Parkinson pointed observed that there is a natural movement going on outside of hair care; more and more people want to be closer to nature and anything that has to do with lifestyle or healthcare. As women increasingly move toward embracing their natural hair and leave behind damaging processing and/or chemicals, styles are ranging from natural curls to locks and pressing/flat iron to afros.
Feeling liberated, many women now wonder why they waited so long to embrace their natural hair. Along with this movement come myriad business opportunities.
Natural Hair Care products
A part of the natural hair care industry includes the sale of products. Traditionally the black hair care industry has been driven by sales of relaxers, shampoos, conditioners, moisturizers, etc. With the growth of the industry, sales of relaxers have experienced decreases since 2008.
Transitioning products is one of the greatest areas of growth in the natural hair care market. These products are used for that time in between the use of relaxers and the growth of the natural hair. Instead of cutting the chemically straightened hair completely off, the transitioning products assist in moving from one stage to the other. Businesses such as Carol's Daughter manufacture and distribute transitioning products. Websites such as www.TransitioningMovement.com help women move from relaxed to natural hair.
Wigs & weaves
Although wigs and weaves are not natural, they are being used during the transitional period. The result is increased demand for these products. African-American women like to have versatile looks with their hair. Thus during the transitional phase, wigs and weaves have become a huge part of the transition because their use prevents manipulation of the hair and prevents hair breakage. Sales of wigs and weaves are up despite the increase in the natural hair care industry.
With the assistance of social media, natural hair care products have experienced accelerated growth. Websites, blogs, YouTube, online forums and showcases all provide platforms for consumers as well as hair care professionals to share their experiences, stories and products. These forums helped start ups and professionals develop their products with immediate feedback.
As the large corporations enter the industry, the originators and pioneers of the trend have to be creative in remaining relevant and competitive. With the majors Pantene and L'Oreal targeting the natural hair market, the small companies have to lean on social media and grass roots to compete. However, the smaller companies do have one thing working in their favor...authenticity. Consumers are educated and well informed about their hair products and what works for their hair. The major corporations lack authenticity and credibility as it pertains to natural hair care.
Major companies enter the African-American hair care market in one of three ways: adding ingredients that are readily identifiable to African Americans, starting new divisions with product lines that have an emphasis on the African-American market, and/or purchasing existing smaller companies that have excelled in the African-American hair care market.
Companies such as Bonner Brothers that traditionally have had a strong hold on the relaxer market are now developing their own natural hair care lines. While the purists or naturalistas of the natural hair care market raise an eyebrow to these companies, it has not prevented companies that currently sell relaxers from entering into the natural hair care market.
Do It Yourself or DIY is popular in the home repair business. But DIY also has a growing popularity in the natural hair care business. Specially made-at-home recipes of shampoo and conditioners have made the natural hair care market more than a quick fix. Participation means a total life style change as it relates to hair care. Many of the smaller companies were birthed from a home recipe of a natural hair care product or remedy that grew from the kitchen to the store shelves.