Shea Moisture: They’re Not Tone Deaf, They’re Assholes, Pt 2

Shea Moisture put out an ad this week called Hair Hate and then sat back and enjoyed their own Pepsi moment. ¬†Here’s the ad below:

For a company that is built by, for and literally¬†on black women, expanding their¬†customer base by equating the hair challenges of naturals with the bad hair days of gingers and blondes wasn’t an overreach, it was a betrayal. ¬† Shortly after Shea Moisture’s dragging began, so did the comparisons¬†to the Pepsi ad. ¬†Both seemed tone deaf, trivializing important aspect of black culture to sell product. ¬†But I said it about Pepsi and now I’ll say it about Shea Moisture–they’re not tone deaf, they’re assholes; they’re not silly, they’re sell outs.

Shea Moisture’s built its brand on black women and their¬†hard earned cash. ¬†Even the label tells the homey story of the brand’s founder’s grandmother Sofi Tucker selling product in Sierra Leon. ¬†Last year the brand shouted its allegiance¬†to ethnic hair by proudly proclaiming it was going to desegregate the beauty isle–the implication being that Shea Moisture’s move to shelf space in the non-ethinc hair care section (called the regular hair section by most people) was about making hair care inclusive of black beauty, not leaving it behind. This ad clearly positions Shea Moisture as here for black women.¬†Turns outs they were just getting ready to sell out in the rush to gentrify haircare¬†and expand their own customer base and bottom line.

This is not a tone deaf company. ¬†This is a company that has carefully–and with great success–made it big by catering to black women. ¬†Looking back,¬†it seems the brand, like an NBA player, wasn’t trying to rock with the sisters once it started making it big time (please don’t¬†write me letters, my woke NBA brothers). ¬†The move to the regular hair isle is now followed up with an ad that is shifting the brand to one that serves “regular hair” ¬†The new ad is the shampoo equivalent of all hair matters, compete with¬†Becky with the good hair. (Did they not listen to Lemonade?!)

Hair is an important marker of identity, especially for women, and especially for black women. ¬†The natural hair movement has grown along with the movement for black lives. ¬†Like the rallying cry,¬†‘Black is Beautiful’ in the 70’s, the natural hair movement cannot be separated from the politics and social change of our time.

Shea Moisture seeks to equate the hate of different kinds of hair without acknowledging that some hair hate comes with real consequences. ¬†The hate towards natural hair in schools, business, and social situations is about more than hair, it is reinforcing white supremacy. ¬†To act like hair hate is about hair and not hate¬†means that Shea Moisture just¬†doesn’t understand us anymore. ¬†Maybe they never really loved us, they just loved our hair style. ¬†Something tells me they’re about to find out if Becky with the good hair can¬†love them like we did.

Gentrifying Shampoo

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.

As_I_Am_Coconut_Cleansing_Conditioner_-_16_oz___TargetOther 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.