This post was sponsored by SheaMoisture.
I’ll never forget the first time I had to buy my own hair products in America.
It was late August, 1998. I had just become a freshman at the University of Miami. I had grown up in Trinidad, surrounded by women with similar hair issues to my own. We went to the hairdresser as a family. I realize now, I barely had my own hair care fundamentals down. I was pretty much using whatever shampoo and conditioner happened to be in the shower. And now for the first time I’m in a foreign country where I have to learn to take care of my own hair. OK. I crossed the highway and headed to the drugstore across from college to get the essentials of dorm life.
I entered the gleaming aisle of the drugstore, brimming with expectations. And then I got a really quick education on mainstream beauty standards – the products that were most prominently displayed, the ones that took up the most shelf space, were for “normal” hair. And that “normal” didn’t mean my normal, it meant naturally straight.
I browsed the aisle a few times before I fully realized that my hair needs were relegated to the bottom shelves at the end of the aisle, in the meager “ethnic” hair care section, three paltry shelves of products that managed to be too much and not enough all at the same time. I don’t even remember what brands I bought. Probably a shampoo and conditioner intended for wavy — not kinky, coily or curly — hair. A box of relaxer was most likely in the mix, back in those days I started buying relaxer for kids in the belief it would somehow be gentler. Oh boy.
My first drugstore trip was an immersive experience in the kinds of microaggressions we so often become accustomed to and overlook – like the fact that in most drugstores or supermarkets, ethnic hair products can often be found at the end of the aisle or the bottom shelves. Like the fact that makeup intended for women of color can generally be found towards the back of a drugstore, nearer to the nail care section. Little indicators that someone with a different standard of beauty made these structural decisions a long time ago, and little had changed since.
There has been quite a bit of evolution since 1998. Now I know so much more about caring for my own hair. The product market has exploded and it’s so much easier to find what my hair needs online and in store. The ethnic section of the beauty aisle still exists, but things have grown, shifted and expanded. Multicultural brands have prominent shelf space not just in drugstores, but in major retail stores like Target, Walmart, Sephora and Ulta. Now, instead of settling for less in our in-store experiences, products for all textures of hair are now more widely available and more prominently displayed. And I love what one of my favorite haircare brands – SheaMoisture – is doing to spark a long overdue, necessary conversation about inclusive beauty with consumers, retailers and beauty manufacturers.
Their first campaign #BreakTheWalls spoke volumes, and demonstrated the physical power of breaking down the existing structure of the mainstream retail beauty aisle.
I love the message. I never let it get me down but that depicted drugstore experience really did feel familiar to me. And now SheaMoisture is back with a new campaign that challenges those mainstream structures with a simple question: What’s Normal? Who gets to define that, and who gets excluded in their definition? Normal by whose standard?
ALL hair is normal. We just have different definitions of it. Why not create a beauty aisle that speaks to a diverse range of needs, instead of casting one hair type as normal and others as…not? That’s SheaMoisture’s point. They’re offering more than 150 hair care products to meet individual needs, based on type, texture, condition and style. So why not create a haircare aisle that speaks to those specific hair needs? I’m intrigued by the concept.
Richelieu Dennis, founder and CEO of Sundial Brands, shed a bit more light. “With our first iteration, we showed the physical walls coming down. With ‘What’s Normal?’ we are confronting the mental walls that encourage us to force-fit ourselves and others into falsely constructed beauty and ‘good hair’ ideals. By questioning the very concept of a normal standard, especially as it applies to beauty and to hair type or texture, we can begin to see how arbitrary, narrow and potentially destructive it is and course-correct ourselves on a path to where everybody gets love. Our forward track must focus on including everyone, embracing everyone, and celebrating the beauty – and normalcy – of everyone’s differences.”
I respect the vision. And I love what they did with this new commercial.
I loved seeing familiar natural hair personalities like Naptural85 and StyledByAle featured in this ad. What I didn’t at first realize, is that those YouTubers are being featured alongside everyday women who have made headlines for defending their hair in the workplace; women like Jasmine Jacobs, who petitioned the U.S. military to change its policy banning natural hairstyles, and Rhonda Lee, the ABC meteorologist who was fired for responding to a comment about her natural hair. Levels.
Step 1 — you upload a photo or a selfie, like this.
Step 2 — You add a little more info about your hair, and your specific needs, like so…
Step 3 — Lo and behold,
The tool then gives you a personalized hair care regimen tailored to your specific needs in terms of maintenance, treatment and styling. It totally recommended my favorite SheaMoisture shampoo and conditioner combo. That African Black Soap line makes my scalp feel amazing!
If you have questions about finding the right SheaMoisture product for you, then you should totally check out #AMillionWaysToShea (www.amillionwaystoshea.com). For more information, visit www.sheamoisture.com, and you can find them on Facebook at SheaMoisture , Instagram @sheamoisture4u and Twitter @SheaMoisture.
This post was sponsored by SheaMoisture, but the opinions are 100% my own!