It has been said for centuries that a woman’s hair is her glory – and Black women believe it wholeheartedly. That’s why we pile up in the salon each week to get our hair ‘fried, dyed and laid to the side.’ It’s a tradition in our community and one that we don’t take lightly.
Case and point – Madame CJ Walker became the first female who became a millionaire because women of color bought her beauty and hair products. The truth is black hair care is big business all around the country.
According to the movie ‘Good Hair,’ black hair care is a $9 billion industry, and black women account for 80 percent of the country’s total hair-product sales, statistics that could not be confirmed independently.
A recent report on the black hair-care market by Mintel International Group in Chicago stated that products like shampoos and relaxers account for $165 million in annual sales, but that figure doesn’t include sales at small beauty-supply stores or Wal-Mart. Nor does it include weaves.
According to a study by the General Merchandise Distributors Council in Colorado, African-Americans, who make up 13 percent of the population, account for 30 percent of hair care sales in the United States.
It seems the Dominicans have been paying attention to this and have gotten in on the business.
The Wall Street Journal reports that many African American women are fleeing the traditional African American salon for Dominican salons that promise healthier hair and shorter wait times.
And African American salon owners are feeling the impact of the Dominican takeover.
According to the Journal, the defections have infuriated African-American stylists who insist that their methods are safe and that they are more highly trained than the Dominicans are. “It’s hard enough in these times, but they are undercutting our prices, even passing out fliers to our own clients,” complains Atlanta hairdresser Jannifer Jackson, whose cancellations and no-shows began piling up once a Dominican salon opened about a mile away last summer.
Many traditional black stylists accuse Dominicans of misrepresenting their services as “natural” because nearly all Dominican salons perform relaxer touch-ups. Traditionalists say the “Dominican blowout” technique can cause severe hair breakage. Both sorts of stylists wash, set hair in rollers and seat customers under big dryers.
African-American stylists typically use a curling iron to unfurl the hair, while Dominicans use a two-handed method of unraveling the strands with a round brush, followed by a blow dryer in the other hand to smooth the curl to a straight finish. Dominicans do so by pulling from the hair root, often forcefully. That, along with applying the second round of intense heat, leads to breakage, say black stylists and some customers.
“Bad Boy” Romeo Crews, a prominent and outspoken black stylist in Atlanta, has no fear of the blowout. “Let me tell you,” he says, “they are helping my business because people are coming to me after the Dominicans make their hair fall out.”