This week Pantene rolled out a beautiful ode to black women to artfully showcase what they present here as a line of products for natural hair.
So this is the part of the post where you think I’m going to praise Pantene for dope visuals, a rainbow of brown skinned lovelies, and a little finger-snapping slam-lite–wrong. Sure this video brings the love of natural hair to the mainstream, making visible the black women who have been so ignored by the hair care industry. Sure the video chants a little manifesto singing the praises of black beauty and power. But don’t sleep, Pantene didn’t wake up one day with visions of Angela Davis for the masses. Pantene is just gentrifying the natural hair product neighborhood and throwing some shade in the process.
If You Build It, They Will Come (And Take It From You)
Natural hair care products are a $946 million dollar industry, a sector of hair care that has seen explosive growth over the last few years. Long before Pantene Gold started growing dreads, hair care for natural hair was nowhere to be seen on the mainstream scene. Even the brands that did cater to unprocessed hair were few and far between. As the natural hair movement grew, there were attempts to grab a share of the market with products like an early attempt for women of color called Pantene Naturals. The problem was that these products were more about marketing, with formulations that were not markedly different from the rest of the brand’s lines. The product packaging targets women of color but sulfates and dyes destroy their hair if they use it. Now that the natural hair care market can’t be ignored, Pantene is back for another slice of the African (hair)pie.
Meanwhile natural brands like Miss Jessie’s, Shea Mountain, As I Am and others did the real work finding ways to truly care for black hair–working directly with the women who used their product, learning from the ancestors secret recipes, and redesigning the natural hair care regimen with modern formulations that actually work for a diverse group of often ignored customers. These companies, many owned by women of color, did the hard work to build a cottage industry into the natural hair juggernaut that it is today.
And then here comes Pantene. Like a Starbucks in Brooklyn. Sure, it seems nice at first until you can’t afford to live in your own apartment. Or until you can’t, as a small business owner, compete with a huge corporate entity like Pantene and you get knocked out of your own market. The natural hair movement is democratic with hundreds of bloggers, businesswomen and home product developers following in the steps of Madame CJ Walker, but it looks like this nation is about to be attacked by shamPutin Pantene.
By the Way, We Still Think Your Hair Sucks
I couldn’t help but notice when I looked at the actual product that is celebrating black women that nowhere on the product packaging does Pantene Gold say that is its designed for natural hair, or black hair beautiful in that many ways the commercial described it. The line is aimed at “dry, damaged hair”. That’s right, you snapping-your-fingers-as-you-snap-up-Pantene-queens–they just called your crown dry and damaged. All that lovely poetry isn’t on the package. Instead, just a reminder that the world still sees your hair as fundamentally flawed.
Other natural haircare lines use language that celebrates natural hair on the product line itself, not just pays lip service to it in ads. Without the ad above, you wouldn’t know that Pantene was even trying to connect with the black community–and frankly, that wouldn’t be anything new. I’m going to skip the hype on this one and keep supporting the business that cared about me and my hair, not just my wallet.