Why Are Natural Hair Care Products So Expensive?

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By: Jackie Williams

Our natural mane is something that’s passed down to us by our family and can be an extension of our cultural identity. Going natural carries a certain weight and can be an empowering decision for Black women. For me, I felt beautiful and confident when I first made the transition from relaxed to natural hair four years ago.

But there’s a cost to maintaining natural hair.

Black women spend nine times more on beauty and grooming products than the average consumer. And many of us are spending thousands of dollars on natural hair care products in a single year.

With the time and effort it takes to upkeep natural hair, it makes you wonder, what gives? Why are natural hair care products so expensive?

I broke down the main factors involved with natural hair product costs, tips on how to save money on our hair care, and some products that are worth the splurge.

High-quality Ingredients = $$$

Almond milk. Manuka honey. Avocado oil. All of these amazing oils, milks, and butters we look for in our natural hair care products cost more. And it makes sense that the higher the quality, the more suppliers charge the business, and the more the business charges you — unfortunately.

Natural hair products also don’t contain parabens, a preservative that helps extend the shelf life of products for an extended amount of time. If you ever wondered why that Pink Oil Moisturizer in your local beauty supply store could sit on that same shelf for a bajillion years — well, that’s why.

Without the preservatives, harsh chemicals, and hormones, natural hair products have a shorter shelf life. So, natural hair product companies not only have to compensate for their high-quality ingredients, but also the manufacturing and logistical costs of continually replenishing their product on the shelves.

Marketing and the (High) Cost of Running A Business

You’d be surprised by how much marketing can play a role in hair products’ cost. From social media influencers to Facebook ads, getting a brand’s name out there — especially in a crowded beauty market — can be tough, and businesses usually have to pay a lot of money to gain more brand and consumer awareness. This marketing cost factors into the price of the product.

On top of marketing and higher manufacturing costs, there are legal and trademark fees, warehouse and storage rent, and expenses involved with growing and scaling the business, all leading to a higher product price.

The Demand is Real

Hair relaxer sales have gone down by 38% between 2012 – 2017; meaning natural hair is trending and business is booming. Demand for natural hair products is increasing, giving businesses more opportunities to leverage the market i.e., increasing the price of their products.

We aren’t necessarily forcing hair care businesses to change either. The Black hair care industry is valued at $2.5 billion, and that statistic doesn’t include products such as hair accessories, wigs, or electric-styling products, so the industry is worth a lot more. Right now, there isn’t a need to lower the price, because we keep buying expensive products. Maybe, if there is a shift in how much our community is willing to pay, they would lower the price; but given how much it costs to make natural hair care products, it doesn’t seem likely.

So, what are the best ways to save some money on my natural hair products?

Great question. Here are a few tips for when you want to keep your natural hair healthy on a budget:

Make your own natural hair products

DIYing is your best friend. The vast majority of natural hair care products are plant-based, and the individual ingredients can be bought separately and are generally more affordable than the actual product. You can restore your hair with an apple cider vinegar rinse, or, create your own coconut oil hair mask. Try out the best DIY hot oil treatments, deep conditioners, or detanglers to suit your hair needs. Here are a few videos to get you started:

Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse Tutorial:

DIY Hot Oil Treatment:

DIY Hair Mask for Healthy Scalp and Hair:

Subscription Services

We’ve all been there, you splurge on an expensive hair care product only for it to not work with your texture or styling routine after a week. If you like trying out different hair care products or if you’re in an experimental phase, figuring out what hair products work best for your hair, subscription boxes are a great option.

A beauty and hair subscription service like CURLBOX and COCOTIQUE sends you 4 – 8 travel-size products in each box. By providing you sample sizes at around $20 a box, you can save money while getting the variety you need to try out some of the more expensive hair care products. You can also cancel these subscriptions at any time, so as soon as you find your go-to products, you can start buying their full-sizes on their site or elsewhere.

Sales and Promotions

Brands like Carol’s Daughter and SheaMoisture frequently have deals on their products, and that’s the best time to buy and stock up. If you love a particular product, you can also ask the company via social media or email if they’re going on sale anytime soon. Most companies are more than happy to tell you about their upcoming promotions. A lot of brands love hearing from engaged customers, AND you get the benefit of being a financially-savvy shopper.

My #WorthIt Products

While you need to keep your budget in mind, some products are worth the splurge. I’ve rounded up a few of our favorite natural hair products that I think are worth it:

Moisturizer: Carol’s Daughter Coco Creme Coil Enhancing Moisture Butter – $9
Styling Product: Shea-Coco Natural Hair Style Cream 8oz For 3C-4C hair – $10
Shampoo: Not Your Mother’s Naturals Tahitian Gardenia Flower & Mango Butter Curl Defining Shampoo – $10
Detangler: Aunt Jackie’s Knot On My Watch Instant Detangling Therapy – $11
Detangler: Kinky-Curly Knot Today Leave In Detangler  – $11
Styling Product: Miss Jessie’s MultiCultural Curls Styling Lotion – $16
Styling Product: Camille Rose Almond Jai Twisting Butter – $17
Shampoo: Devacurl No Poo Conditioning Cleanser – $25
Conditioner: CurlSmithPost-Biotic Calming Conditioner – $28
Conditioner: Mizani 25 Miracle Milk Leave-In Treatment – $34

With higher-quality ingredients and business costs, natural hair care products can be expensive. But there are still ways to keep your hair care costs down while maintaining your healthy, natural curls.

Photo: Charisse Kenion on Unsplash
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