As Natural Hair Grows, the Beauty Industry Adjusts Accordingly

The natural hair movement has become increasingly popular among women in the black community. It’s more common to see women of African descent rocking their natural curls, whether they be tight or loose, or wearing protective hair styles like twists, braids or weaves.

As a result, more and more people are turning away from chemical relaxers, long used on the black community to straighten tightly coiled hair. Relaxer sales dropped to $152 million in 2013, compared to $206 million in 2008, according to the research group Mintel.

The owner of Beauty Supply in the North Bronx has seen the trend play out in his store first hand, and it’s changed the way he does business.The owner, who declined to give his name, said he has had to add more products for natural hair. But that has been a positive for him.

“The new natural hair products are actually more expensive so I’m actually getting more money,” he said.
It’s not only local beauty stores changing their inventory. Chain stores like Target have a whole section dedicated to natural hair care, selling products like Shea Moisture, Cantu, and other brands.
The change in the products sold in beauty supplies has pleased some women who are going through the transition to becoming natural. Najahta Wattara, 15, is one of them.

“I’ve always been natural, but to see all these new products for naturals being sold in local beauty supplies is exciting,” she said.

Another shop that has been affected by the natural hair movement is an African braiding shop located inside of a Dominican beauty salon, also in the North Bronx. One of the workers named Nafi, who did not give her last name, said: “We have gained a lot of customers since this movement because lots of the women want to get their hair braided.”

Black women who are moving from hair treated with chemicals to natural hair have used protective styles like box braids, crochet braids and Marley twists so their hair doesn’t suffer breakage as they transition.

Deitra Wythe is the owner of the Bohemian Soul beauty salon in Brooklyn, which specializes in natural hair care.  She said that she feels like the reason the natural hair movement is popular is because of the media.

“There has always been a community of natural hair women, it’s just that the media has took a turn and started showcasing more naturals, which has influenced many young teens,” she said.

Wythe feels like the representation of natural hair in the media has influenced teens and young adults to transition. Wythe has noticed an increase in customers demanding crochet braids since the movement has begun.

Another beautician, May Sey, said that she had to add more protective styles to her shop to attract more naturals since people were moving away from the relaxers.

“I still have a lot of customers that have relaxed hair but I have had more customers come who are transitioning,” she said. Since she started adding new products specifically for natural hair, she had an increase in customers with natural hair. But she continues to have the same amount of customers with relaxed hair.

One beauty salon that hasn’t had a change in customers since the natural hair movement is Q and R Design in Style Cuts in the Bronx. The owner, Sharmagne Tellis, was one of three people getting her hair done on a weekend morning.
“Lots of black women still get perms; nothing has changed here,” she said.

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