Over the past couple of weeks, Shea Moisture has been releasing ads featuring non-black women, and in response, people are accusing the company of “whitewashing” the hair and skincare brand.
The black-owned, family-held business established a name for itself by developing products to “address skin and hair care issues traditionally ignored by mass market companies,” the company’s website states.
Over the past two years, the brand has been developing more products for women with a variety of textures and concerns, spurring many to accuse the company of sidelining black women—their loyal customer base.
Here’s the ad that spurred the great Shea Moisture freakout of 2017.
SheaMoisture is CANCELLED pic.twitter.com/T4Dru1JgAq
— 𝕹𝖆𝖓𝖆 𝕵𝖎𝖇𝖗𝖎𝖑 (@girlswithtoys) April 24, 2017
Many were upset that the ad cut away from a black woman with curly hair to a white, red-headed woman who complained about dying her hair for seven years, before deciding to “go natural.” People on Twitter lost their minds over the notion that a red-headed woman embracing her natural hair color was being compared to a black woman’s decision to embrace her natural hair.
"More Shea Moisture products for me!" pic.twitter.com/arImFvJ7qo
— ᴅᴏʟʟᴀʀ (@callmedollar) April 24, 2017
When you run into White folks in the ethnic aisle buying Shea Moisture products. pic.twitter.com/QvZdglmnvy
— NUFF (@nuffsaidny) April 24, 2017
In response, SheaMoisture posted an apology to their Facebook page and announced they would yank one of the ads that caused all the ire.
It’s certainly true that curly hair—particularly 4c curls—is much more difficult to style and maintain than the redheaded woman’s straight locks. And a woman’s decision to embrace her natural curl can be met with its own challenges. But there’s nothing wrong with a company trying to broaden its customer base. As a hispanic woman with thick, curly hair and dry skin that’s also intermittently plagued with acne, I’ve used many of their products for years for a variety of issues. And it’s okay for me to do that!
Just because Shea Moisture has been releasing ads featuring women of different races of late doesn’t mean they’re going to abandon their longtime customers. Nor does it mean they’re encouraging cultural appropriation. Indeed, a higher demand for their products from a larger, more diverse customer base would probably help the brand’s mission to desegregate beauty aisles in stores.
Beauty products are for everyone. If a brand chooses to create products for more customers, that’s a win, not a loss.