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Why Women Aren't Here For Shea Moisture's New Ad

We were all rooting for you.

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1. Shea Moisture has marketed to Black women since its founding.

SheaMoisture / Via sheamoisture.com

The Shea Moisture brand is a holy grail for women of color with thick, wavy, or curly hair. First of all, Shea Moisture creates a new hair care line just about every week to solve yet another one of our hair woes, whether it be for dry, brittle hair or hair with low porosity (and I’m still figuring out what porosity means). From the Jamaican Black Castor Oil line to the Coconut Hibiscus, there’s a hair care line for all curly hair types. Up until now, Shea Moisture has not however, put out a line that is specifically designed for what we saw in the most recent commercial: thin, straight hair that has never gone out of style or unprofessional in its natural state. To be clear, it isn’t offensive that Shea Moisture has reached a point in business where they have chosen to expand their target audience. That’s fine Shea, get your coins. The issue with the most recent advertisement is the message that we interpreted as a slap in the face; women with socially accepted and easily manageable hair talking about how they overcame “hair hate.”

An earlier Shea Moisture campaign that was very successful featured black women with coils, kinks, and waves breaking down barriers in the beauty aisle, because what people may not know is, black women don’t have rows and rows of cosmetics to choose from that will match our unique complexions or hair textures. It was a groundbreaking ad that made women of color everywhere proud to have unruly and tangled hair. It made us feel good to be who we are. Finally, a hair care brand that did more than add a little coconut oil and slap the words “for natural hair” on the label. So when the latest ad featured two white women with straight hair and an ethnically ambiguous woman with loose curls, we weren’t sure if it was a joke or if Shea Moisture had been bought out by L’Oreal.

2. Hair hate is very real -- for women of color.

KlassyKinks / Via klassykinks.com

Hair hate is a very real issue in the Black community that starts at home and follows us when we step outside to school, work, or on a date. In the Black community, there are strict guidelines for what is called “good” and “bad” hair. You have “good” hair if your curls are loose and grow down your back. “Bad” hair, also known as “nappy” hair, must be straightened out with a hot comb or a perm. Despite the recent waves of black women going natural, we still face resistance and ridicule before we leave the house. Hair hate is the mother who advises you to straighten your hair before a job interview, the cousins who make fun of your nappy hair after a swim, and the aunt who wears a new curly (but tacky) wig every holiday when she has natural curls underneath.

3. We are still pushed to the side and to the bottom of hair care aisles.

H. Maxwell / Via thinklikemaxwell.blogspot.com

While shopping earlier this week for a new co-wash product, I looked all around me in the shampoo aisle and couldn’t find what I was looking for. As a Caucasian woman reached near me to grab a shampoo bottle off the shelf, it dawned me on that I was clearly in the wrong aisle. It also dawned on me that if I had asked a white employee where I could find a good co-wash product, she wouldn’t understand what I was talking about and would direct me to the shampoo aisle in hopes I find whatever the hell “co-wash” is myself.

At most stores that carry cosmetics, there are signs that say, “ethnic hair” above the products catered to us, because putting a “white only” sign above the rest of the shelves would probably seem too racist. I have a dream that black and white women and women of all colors will skip hand-in-hand down the cosmetic aisle and find what we all need in one spot, but the reality is that our cosmetics are still separate and not quite equal. I don’t advocate for a boycott on Shea Moisture products, because truthfully, now that I have some of the products in my life I can’t live without them, but the latest ad sheds light on the fact that black women’s struggle with hair hate continues to be undermined and misunderstood by mainstream culture. Do better Shea Moisture.

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