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Beyonce all night haircare brand
Beyoncé "All Night"(2016). Video still

Can the natural hair community trust celebrity brands like Beyoncé’s?

Black celebrity haircare brands have been criticised for being underperforming and overpriced. But where is this scepticism coming from and why don’t hair brands owned by white celebrities receive the same backlash?

Beyoncé is currently on a world tour promoting her latest album, Renaissance – and yet she’s still managed to find time to tease a potential haircare line, posting a half-cryptic gallery on Instagram. Unsurprisingly, social media was instantly abuzz with comments from the Beehive. One person posted a sequence of photos and videos on Twitter that showcased Queen B’s natural hair in different styles, along with the words: “Beyoncé’s natural hair the past several years. Hair Care line bout to eat. She is the wig snatcher.” In light of the news that broke earlier this year that her collaborative clothing line with Adidas is coming to an end due to poor sales, several commented that a haircare line feels more on-brand for the star.

But others aren’t as convinced. Camille Janae is a self-described “Curly Hair and Loc Educator” from California; she’s a licensed cosmetologist and owns a hair salon. She was quickly branded a “hater” on the platform for her thoughts on Beyoncé’s supposed new venture. “I hope collectively we aren’t quick to buy products from an entertainer with no expertise on hair, but hesitant to pay for advice from licensed professionals. But that’s likely wishful thinking,” she tweeted. The hair specialist went on to highlight how other celebrity haircare lines, in her opinion, overpromise and underperform. “Folks are still using P*ttern and it’s not great for hair health,” she wrote in reference to actress Tracee Ellis Ross’ haircare range for people with 3B-4C curl types. “Product efficacy is not a priority. It’s more about what’s marketable,” was her resounding thought about the worthiness of celebrity-owned Black haircare brands.

Over the years, a number of Black celebrity women have launched haircare lines, often citing personal experience as a reason to push for greater inclusivity within the hair industry. Actress Issa Rae said she’d often turn up on set only for white stylists to simply spray her hair with water or run their fingers through it, making her hair look worse than when she arrived. She launched the vegan haircare line Sienna Naturals in conjunction with Hannah Diop in 2021 with hopes of “empowering anyone with textured hair to express and embrace their beauty with a new kind of haircare regimen”. Tracee Ellis Ross has said that she often heard “I know your hair’s difficult” on jobs, so wanted to create a range that inspired women to feel proud and comfortable with their natural hair. Like their peers, TPH by Taraji P Henson and Gabrielle Union’s Flawless haircare lines also offer scalp and hair products designed to uplift the natural hair community.

Despite their hands-on experience with their own hair and likely exposure to top-level hair experts given their celebrity status, some argue that these women aren’t qualified to release haircare brands. Although many popular YouTubers often leave rave reviews for these lines, a number have posted scathing product-testing videos claiming that they just don’t live up to the hype. SheRea DelSol tried a selection of Pattern products and was left disappointed, saying that her hair felt “coated” rather than moisturised. “The medium conditioner was trash, although I would never tell you not to support a Black-owned business,” she said. The blogger also declined to purchase any oils from the range to trial due to the price point: “It’s like $25 for three ounces of oil and I’ve been natural for too long to buy into that.”

This sort of criticism is often leveraged at Black women celebrities in a way that white women celebrities rarely, if ever, experience. From LolaVie by Jennifer Aniston to Hayley Williams’ Good Dye Young, many have launched haircare brands that have quickly become highly coveted. “I can’t speak for people as a whole, but it seems we’re a lot harsher on ourselves than other groups are,” says award-winning hair artist Charlotte Mensah. “Sometimes, we question peoples’ confidence to do things, which is not a healthy position to take. Maybe it begs the question: are we focused on the right things?”

Bleach London hair specialist Alisha Dobson agrees, believing the criticism Black celebrities experience is extreme. “I think celebrity-made or endorsed products give people someone to hold accountable, so we see this backlash more visibly,” she says. Dobson explains that it’s difficult to cater to a community with diverse requirements. “The Black hair market is complex; there are a multitude of different wants and needs. Anyone creating products [for this demographic] will really need to do the work.”

Mensah sees the influx of celebrity brands as an opportunity to better the haircare industry. “I think celebrities should be collaborating with Black hair stylists to create the products, that way the products will be expert-led and they’re creating jobs for disadvantaged people in their communities,” she says. “Beyoncé’s building massive empires, that’s why I hope she's [working] with other Black creatives. Success is achieved when we lift each other up.”

But do Black-owned haircare labels that don’t have the marketing benefits of superstardom on their side feel the same way? “An industry that failed to cater to us for years meant that Black women relied on creating our own solutions,” says Ibi Meier-Oruitemeka, founder of The Afro Hair & Skin Co. “When celebrity brands launch off the back of pre-existing communities, the existence of smaller brands becomes even more precarious.” Meier-Oruitemeka thinks it would be “impossible” for a small-scale independent brand such as hers to compete with a celebrity brand – but she also doesn’t feel the need to.

“This industry is hard, even more so for Black-owned brands that typically experience less access to external funding,” she explains. As it stands, Black entrepreneurs have always encountered disparity when it comes to venture capital spending: typically, they receive less than two per cent of overall dollars each year in the US. Black businesses saw a 45 per cent drop in funding in 2022. Despite the state of affairs across the pond, Meier-Oruitemeka is optimistic: “The last few years have taught me that when you create something authentic, people will come.”

With great cultural power comes great responsibility, so it’s no surprise that Beyoncé’s subtle announcement has incited a fevered debate. While some argue that having a licensed cosmetician as a mother makes her well-equipped to launch her own haircare line, others will continue to question the singer’s credibility. Remember, Beyoncé was once subject to criticism over the condition of her daughter Blue Ivy’s hair, proving that the naysayers have always been unduly vocal. Although the haircare products produced by Black celebrities have been met with mixed opinions, the overarching sentiment shared within and outside the hair industry remains the same: it’s important to support Black-owned brands. Given that the global Black haircare industry is projected to be worth $6.9 billion by 2026, there’s seemingly enough room for everyone. In that case, if and when Queen B’s line drops, we’ll likely all be hair-flipping and singing “It should cost a billion to look this good.

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