For many of us, our hair is an important part of our personal identity. Even as the world’s senior population grows — an expected jump from 12% to 22% of the population between 2015 and 2050 — many people continue to fight off the signs of aging by dyeing their tresses. And since hair salons played such an important part in economic reopening that protests were held, it’s clear that Americans care about the state of their hair.
But like so many other facets of society, the nation is woefully behind when it comes to Black hair. Despite the fact that Black consumers spent an estimated $2.56 billion on hair care products in 2016, revealing tremendous buying power, systemic inequality has had lasting effects on the prevalence of natural hair in mainstream media and business in general.
For decades, many Black Americans — women, in particular — had been told that “good” hair was akin to white hair. And while 71% of Black adults in the U.S. wore their hair naturally at least once during 2016, contemporary laws across the country continue to discriminate against Black individuals due to their choice in hairstyle. So far, only four states — New York, New Jersey, California, and Virginia — have officially banned hair discrimination.
But as Black Lives Matter rallies continue across the nation, businesses and even entire industries are feeling the pressure to finally create widespread change. Although Hollywood has committed to featuring more Black talent on screen, many artists and working professionals have posed the question of whether working hairstylists and makeup artists will have the skill needed to allow these performers to truly shine. For years, actors and industry professionals have shared nightmare scenarios involving trained stylists who have failed to do their jobs — even forcing Black talent to do their own hair and makeup for movies, TV shows, commercials, and other work — due to a lack of knowledge.
Even though “32% of people say they’re concerned by the look of their teeth, the appearance of hair is an even more personal fight for many Black Americans. And while hair salons owned by Black women may be eligible for a sizeable grant from Head and Shoulders and Pantene, the outcry from students at the Paul Mitchell hair school in Las Vegas makes it clear that”>natural hair isn’t getting its due in the curriculum.
Even though “naked hair” is now a major social media trend, the reality is that Black hair care seems to be a complete mystery to many outside communities of color.
Black hair is becoming more publicly visible — and that’s an important first step. Although the average person loses around 100 strands of hair each day, regardless of racial background, the coverage surrounding non-BIPOC hair makes it obvious we have a long way to go. As inequities continue to be revealed, it’s important to keep pushing and breaking down the beauty barriers that exist in both the workplace and in the media.
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