Perusing the Ethnic Hair Aisle… I mean corner: A Stressful Experience

07 Jun

After walking down an entire aisle of hair products not for me, I find a corner labeled “Ethnic Hair.” This makes perfect sense since everybody with ethnic hair can use the same ten products. Why does the corner need to be labeled ethnic? Why does this section need its own label in the first place? If one looks on the Walgreens website, it has a total of 321 ethnic hair care products.

The corner is a disservice to all ethnic hair. We have all types of hair and textures. As I search for black hair products I wonder how can one small section fulfill the needs of all black women. There is no variety or choices. Buying hair products can be the most dissatisfying shopping experience ever. Since I can’t find the products I need, I buy products online or wait it out until the end of the term.

A Google image of my usual shopping experience.

Now here in Northfield, I find myself frustrated for a multitude of reasons. It is difficult to find someone to trim my hair or to style my hair in town. The products available at Target and Walgreens are minimal. Lanita Jacobs-Huey’s book, From the Kitchen to the Parlor, mentions the discourse between African-American and White hair stylists on a “White cosmetology student’s professed ignorance of Black hair” (109). Perhaps this is the challenge about attending a college in a smaller town. Should I have gone to school in a larger city in order to find the necessary products? This makes me wonder how many people on campus actually have to think about how they are going to get their hair products during the term. How many people have to stock up on products from home in order to make it through the entire term?

Lanita Jacobs-Huey’s book also discusses the implications of hair for black women, such as mate desires, mainstream standards of beauty, workplace standards of presentation, and ethnic/cultural pride (3). Through my own hair experience, I have also come to notice the effects of stress on my hair. The link below is an article that discusses health implications with hair. The lack of products available for my hair causes stress, which only makes my hair look even worse.

Taking care of one’s hair should not be a difficult experience. I know many black women on campus who have gone natural because they knew they could not find the proper tools for their hair in town, but I should be able to wear my hair how I choose. Maybe the companies don’t know that some black women are natural and some black women have a perm, which need completely different products. Also they might not be aware that different textures of ethnic hair need different products. Considering the impact stress has on one’s body. It is important to take care of one’s self on the outside and inside. However, I do not have the opportunity to do that with my hair in a small town, which is disheartening.


Posted by on June 7, 2013 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “Perusing the Ethnic Hair Aisle… I mean corner: A Stressful Experience

  1. blueebird

    June 7, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    I have always found it so interesting stores found it necessary to label their ‘ethnic hair’ care with such a label. As you say in your post, Eden, we all have different hair types and textures. While most white women can use similar products, they’re not necessarily going to have the same effect on everyone. Maybe we should add curly, straight, dyed, etc key words to the displays as well. I mean they also require specialized products. Is it because these companies recognize they are of little help, with their ten different brands for ‘ethnic hair’ (by the way, what is that supposed to mean? Is ethnic supposed to be synonymous for not-white? For black/Latina/Asian hair? Do all non-white categories get clumped together?) Do they find it necessary to call even more attention to the fact that ‘ethnic’ people already have to struggle because white, ‘normal’ (non-ethnic?) products don’t work on their hair? I really wonder about their motives.


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