Haircare is still failing Black consumers. Meet the luxury hair stylist changing that

Demi Colleen, a 28-year-old, mixed-race London-based creator, with over 24,800 followers on Instagram, recalls growing up with limited choices for her textured hair. “There was a teeny tiny section in drug stores like Boots and Superdrug and it was always the same old products I grew up using but as I got older I realised that they weren’t necessarily the best quality.”

All hair is good hair

For a long time, consumers have been dictated by the beauty industry ideals for what constitutes “normal” or “good hair”, which rarely embraces Afro or texture-rich hair’s curls and coils. Back in 2009, American comedian Chris Rock made a seminal documentary on the subject when his three-year-old daughter asked him why she didn’t have “good hair”.

Brands are starting to align with more progressive attitudes. Last March, Unilever said it would eliminate the word “normal” from all of its beauty and personal care brands’ packaging and advertising (up until 2021, the term had been used across at least 200 products). Laws are catching up too: in February 2019, New York City’s City Commission on Human Rights released new guidelines to protect people with natural hair, treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots and Afros, allowing them the “right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state” while at work, school or in public spaces.

But, there’s still work to do. An apparent lack of separation remains, from the salons that Black and white stylists go through to the curriculum taught in beauty schools that often exclude Afro and textured hair, says Harvey. Only recently, the UK’s National Occupational Standards (NOS) for Hairdressing set new standards, requiring all trained hairdressers to be able to cut and style Afro-textured hair. In a retail setting, when customers walk into a store, there is often a divide in the haircare aisle, with products intended for Black women’s hair segregated (or locked away with additional security measures), adds Colleen. “We want to change the face of what a haircare brand could be and remove the prefix of being Black before you’re anything else,” explains Harvey.

Many consumers with textured hair tend to shop at a general beauty supply store, but often these places lack staff or experts who can provide reliable information about a product and how it works for different hair types, says Harvey. “There’s a lot of misinformation and not enough care, so people end up disappointed because they’re bouncing between trying different low-performance products and brands they can’t trust.” It’s why T.H.O.M. is taking a direct-to-consumer approach at launch. “We want to build direct trust and communication with the consumer.”

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