The natural hair movement is a beautiful thing, having risen in response to a standard of beauty many black women feel is unattainable. At first glance, it seems as though the movement itself is flawless; there are ads for natural hair products appearing left and right, and some brands that have traditionally geared their products to straight hair are coming out with lines devoted specifically to naturalistas. Everything’s fine, right?
Unfortunately, no. Even within the natural hair movement, advertisers tend to play on our insecurities. Notice, for instance, that almost every natural hair ad features the exotic light-skinned mixed chick with perfectly curled hair. That’s great, and there is nothing wrong with women like that are also being empowered by the natural hair movement, but what about the rest of us? Women with other textures, like the thicker, denser mass of kinky hair or hair with finer curls that aren’t as obvious tend to be represented in ads only when their hair is cut very short, or they aren’t represented at all.
Then there is the problem of natural hair ads that feature women with wigs on in order to advertise their product. This is quite literally the opposite of what the natural hair movement is trying to accomplish. Instead of a woman who actually has used the product, they pick a black woman and give her a lacefronted head of shiny, perfectly plastic looking curls and expect us to believe that no matter what your hair type or the journey it has gone through, that product will make your hair look like the woman in the ad.
Of course, we have all been there. There were some many times when I’ve picked up a product with one of those women on the front expecting my hair to look somewhat like hers after I use it. Once it failed to produce that result, I concluded that it wasn’t a quality product and that I should try one of its competitors.
The problem is the ad. And it’s not just natural hair products that advertise like this, it’s everybody. The advertisement industry is constantly going to play on our insecurities and our fears to make us feel like we need their products. The media always picks a beauty standard and makes us feel like we have to live up to it using a certain product.
Yes, we all need good hair products to keep our hair healthy, but that doesn’t mean the woman on the ad is an example of the results you’ll get. She’s just there to catch your eye.
Bottom line: don’t focus on the hair pictured on the package. Focus on the ingredients. Build a knowledge of which ingredients are good for your hair, and which ones aren’t. Bypass the woman on the product or in the ad and head to the label. Google the ingredients. See what other women are saying about the affects a product has had on their hair. And remember, a good product is going bring out the beauty of your natural hair texture, not change it.