Money flowing into the natural hair industry is a blessing and curse for those who built it up
October 2, 2017
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Money flowing into the natural hair industry is a blessing and curse for those who built it up

Miko Branch was deep asleep when her sister Titi woke her up to celebrate. After months of experimentation in the kitchen of their Brooklyn brownstone kitchen, she had finally perfected the concoction that would come to be known as Curly Pudding.

It was a major discovery — well worth the early morning wake-up call — because in 2003 there were very few hair products for black women with kinky, curly or wavy hair.

“There was nothing like [Curly Pudding] in the early 2000s,” Miko Branch said. “It was really transformative.”

The product line they would go on to develop, Miss Jessie’s, was one of the pioneering brands in the natural hair industry, a once-grass-roots segment of the beauty world that’s now a hotbed for investment.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, these companies catered to and were largely run by a small community of black women embracing their natural hair. But with 71% of black adults in the U.S. wearing their hair naturally at least once in 2016, according to research firm Mintel, natural hair has now hit the mainstream. And with black consumers spending an estimated $2.56 billion on hair care products in 2016, it’s no surprise others are eager to edge into the market.

Investment from beauty industry giants has helped natural hair products move from specialty stores to the shelves of major retailers such as Target, Wal-Mart, and CVS — making it easier for customers to get their hands on what were once niche products.

But it’s also forcing independent black-owned companies to compete with corporations that long ignored the natural hair market, resulting in sometimes uncomfortable changes for customers and business owners alike.

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Makeda Easter

Follow her on Twitter: MakedaEaster