Featured Photo: Malaika Firth by Jean-Baptiste Mondino for Elle France March 2015
Blair Cadet is a Natural Hair Researcher and founder of Natural Hair Capital who’s spent years looking at the global natural hair community, and during that time has formed a well-researched opinion on natural hair around the world and the future of the Black Hair Industry. Based in Thailand, we recently featured her in our “How to Be” column and are talking to her again for more insights on the industry.
The Global Natural Hair Movement Depends Largely on Connectivity and Doesn’t Only Include Black Women
My research is answering two questions: 1. How big is the Natural Hair Community and Market and 2. Why is the global movement so important.
My thoughts in short about the global natural hair movement: not all Naturals are the same or have the same struggles. However, there are many similarities in regards to knowledge of maintaining healthy Natural Hair, self-confidence, and lack of resources and representation. The integral factor is the Internet and social media, without them this movement would be largely American, and not spread to many countries around the world. In regards to where the Natural Hair movement has not reached, it all depends on how much access a people and country has to the Internet. So, countries that have large Black populations (like Brazil) have a (very political) Natural Hair movement, but many Afro-Brazilians are economically oppressed and socially isolated, so the majority are not embracing their Natural Hair. In Germany… those with mixed-heritage, are like “ambassadors” educating women with mixed children. So, the Natural Hair community does not necessarily only Black women, but parents with mixed raced children who are seeking knowledge to educate themselves and build confidence in their children.
Some Big Players See This as More Than a Trend
Many corporate giants still see the Natural Hair movement as a “trend,” which it’s not. Other large cosmetic companies like L’Oreal and retail stores like Walmart, Target, and Walgreens, see this differently. As of now the “ethnic shelves” in many places have more Natural Hair care lines than chemical hair straighteners.
More Big Players Will Jump on the Bandwagon While Existing Players See a Profit Decline
The natural hair movement is more of an economic movement than a political one. So the future of the Black hair industry (weaves, relaxers, and other toxic stuff sold to us) can go one of two ways.
First, more big companies will stop ignoring this movement, which many have. L’oreal-owned Soft Sheen-Carson (who owns Dark & Lovely) has desperately gotten on the bandwagon with getting Natural Hair bloggers, vloggers, to be the faces of their brand. And just recently Ultra/Standard acquiring Naturallycurly.com demonstrates that people are paying attention to the power and potential of the Natural and Curly Hair market (both are different). So these brands that have more money, capital, and [brand equity] can eventually be seen as the “leaders” and benefit from the hard work of the Natural Hair movement. While the Black Hair industry (distributors and enterprises that sell weaves, hair extensions, hair relaxers, and other products specifically to Black women; not largely owned by Black people) will see a steady decline in their profits.
What will never happen is that the Natural Hair Movement will go out of the hands of the original or current players
Not Everyone Will go Natural & Weaves Will Stick Around
The future of the Black Hair industry also depends on what country you look at. I don’t believe everyone will go Natural, women will still wear weaves and perm their hair. The difference is that Naturals are creating businesses that create weaves– HeatFreeMovement, CurlSistas, etc, so smaller Natural Hair businesses will benefit tremendously from the opportunity that these big businesses continue to ignore, and at some point it will be too late. The Natural Hair consumer is very loyal, knowledge savvy, and wants to invest money in businesses that reflect her.
Many Might Go Out of Business
The other way it can go, is that businesses will entirely ignore this movement, some will not be affected, but many will, i.e. Black Hair salons, stylists that don’t educate themselves or update their skills for styling Natural Hair. So many will be left behind, and in some places I would say go out of business within 10 years. While this is bad, the Natural Hair Movement will retain its integrity, invest in Natural Hair friendly businesses, and there will be more products and information available to women who want to return back to their Natural Hair. What will never happen, I say, is that the Natural Hair Movement will go out of the hands of the original or current players, because no one controls the Internet or social media, which is good. We will always have other platforms where we are loved, represented, and supported. I hope that NHC will be a global leader and representative for the Natural Hair Movement.