One brand worth checking out, Tshiela said, is Black-owned Mielle Organics. “I remember using their products for the first time and thinking, ‘I didn’t know the hair coming out of my head could look like this,'” she said. there aren’t many products that work for me.”
But Tshiela and other black women have recently become concerned about an emerging beauty trend among white influencers promoting one of Mielle’s most popular products. In an industry where the supply of natural hair products is already scarce, black consumers are concerned that Mielle will follow other brands that they say have abandoned them to appeal to white women.
Many consumers with textured hair depend on oils such as Mielle to hydrate their curls. The products are not intended for all hair types: for people with straight hair, the oils may be too oily or too heavy.
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Yet hair specialist Taylor Rose touted Rosemary Mint Scalp and Mielle Fortifying Hair Oil last year in a video detailing her weekly routine, and other white influencers have since followed suit. . Recently, TikTok creator Alix Earle featured the oil to her more than 3 million followers as one of her favorite finds on Amazon. “I’ve only been using it for a little over a month and I’ve already seen tremendous hair growth,” Earle said in a video.
As more influencers shared videos testing the product, black social media users reported that it was sold out in some stores – or that growing demand had driven the price up.
In a statement shared on Tuesday, Mielle founder and CEO Monique Rodriguez addressed customer concerns and said the company has no plans to reformulate its products.
“My journey with Mielle started from a place where the product was created that I couldn’t find on the market,” Rodriguez wrote. “We always remain committed to developing quality and effective products that meet the needs of our customers’ hair types!”
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Some black consumers were not reassured. Uju Anya, an associate professor of applied linguistics at Carnegie Mellon University, has seen the same dark hair challenges play out since the 1990s, she said.
“I’ve been in this perpetual struggle since my teens to figure out how I’m going to take care of natural hair,” said Anya, 46. “Literally no one or very, very few people were serving us.”
Then, as YouTube and the natural hair revolution erupted in the 2000s, brands like Shea Moisture rose to prominence. Women like Anya were taught to make “lotions, potions and concoctions” to manage their natural hair, she said, but Shea Moisture also gave them a hair care product they could use right away. out of the bottle.
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But as the brand grew, many black women said the product stopped working for them, accusing Shea Moisture in 2015 to change the formula of one of its most popular products to adapt it to other types of hair. Two years later, a Shea Moisture ad focused on white women sparked further protests. (In a statement at the time, Shea Moisture said she would take down the ad and that “our intention was not — and never will be — to disrespect our community.”)
Anya called it a betrayal by a brand backed by black consumers. “Nobody knew who Shea Moisture was until black women, en masse, blogged about it, made YouTube videos about it, and made up entire routines…not just in the United States, but across the country. ‘international,’ she said.
Now, conversations around Mielle have sparked a sense of deja vu among some consumers. In a recent TikTok, Tshiela expressed her concerns about the social media trend and the future of the products. Within hours, she said, she had to disable comments on her post when the debate turned sour.
“I feel like a lot of people see this issue as something that started online as fake outrage,” she said. “But the accessibility of black hair care products has plagued the hair care industry for decades. And so that’s something that’s a very real problem for a lot of us.
Real enough that legislation protecting black hair and hairstyles was enacted, Tshiela noted. In 2019, California became the first state to pass the Crown Act, which expands protections for black hairstyles in the workplace. Since then, more than a dozen states have passed similar legislation.
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“I think the history of black hair in this country and the hair care industry refutes the claim that it’s just hair,” Tshiela said.
Other social media users countered that black consumers should drive the growth and expansion of black-owned businesses, which Tshiela said she fully supports. But when consumers buy products that aren’t intended for their hair, then complain when they don’t workit may do more harm than good, she suggested.
“I’ve seen people say it made their hair greasy,” Tshiela said. “And some people were saying it made their hair fall out and they lost their hair with it.”
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Anya speculated that hair oil, like many beauty trends, could be a phase for white women who have so many options.
“They don’t have to ride with a company as fierce as us because they could literally be with anyone,” she said. “Everyone is selling to them or trying to sell to them.”
Anya’s hope is simply that brands like Mielle don’t abandon black consumers in the process – again.
“We carried these businesses,” she said. “We built them. We gave them a base. And we weren’t enough.