Saturday, June 19, 2010

"It's Not For Me!"

A few weeks ago, SP and I were at Duane Reade. We of course wondered into the hair aisle and browsed hair conditioners, pointing out our favorite drugstore brands like Herbal Essence. I confessed to her that even though I was natural my whole life, I was under the assumption that the only products I could use for my hair were ones that had the happy, smiling faces of black people. And it didn't help that all the "black people" products were always lumped together as "ethnic" hair. We laughed at the notion and made jokes about what we used to think (there's a black girl on that conditioner, must be for me!).

But all jokes aside, it's pretty sad. First of all, most of the "black" products I grew up on like hair grease and the shampoos didn't do much for my hair. My family, and then later myself, probably thought that this was what we were supposed to use and didn't bother using other hair products. I remember in my freshman year of high school I wanted to dye my hair red, so I bought a box of red dye from L'Oreal or something (you know, one of those products with smiling white women on the cover) and my mom frowned. It's not gonna work for your hair, she said. But I didn't see any red colors with brown women on it and I desparately wanted my hair red. Low and behold, the color barely showed up, because I had so much hair and we didn't have enough (in retrospect, I should've bought two boxes). From that experience I realized that there perhaps weren't much hair products out there for me. But I went back to my comfort zone of picking up products with brown faces...

And I'm thinking, is this what I am going to be limited to? Basically, the marketing folks aren't thinking of people like me. They contribute to the standards society sets for who is supposed to use what products. Before I experimented and figured this out for myself, I would've continued to only shop in the "ethnic" section of the drugstores (which usually do not have products that are even owned by people of color) and completely ignore other products. What would have happened if L'Oreal would've shown a brown woman on their products? If we're supposed to be all post-racial, why are we still segragated when it comes to beauty products?

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