Mixed Reactions to a Segregated Beauty Isle

January 31, 2017

A couple of nights ago, I went to a Walgreens in Malden, Massachusetts. Malden is a town right outside of Boston and is currently where I live. I share this with you because I think geography has a lot to do with this topic… but we’ll get there in a second. My shopping list was a little bit weird that night: Elmer’s glue stick, a small bottle of juice, some aluminum foil – – I was making a vision board, I was thirsty – WHATEVER that’s besides the point. Anyway, like a typical recovering spendaholic, after grabbing my essentials, I perused a bunch of isles with no real need for any of the items and no intention to buy.  As a hair vlogger and brand ambassador, I often wander over to the haircare isle to see if there’s anything new worth trying at the VERY least.

As I walk through the isle, I’m honestly getting a little confused. At the start of the isle I see styling creams, mousse, spritz and things of that sort by a few recognizable brands, and some not so recognizable. I look across the isle and see some styling tools, shower caps, hair pins, etc. I continue to walk slowly down the isle, looking mainly on the right side where I first saw the styling products and start seeing hair color followed by shampoos and conditioners. I begin to think “Damn, okay, I KNOW I’m not dumb or blind – where are the products I’M looking for???” I’m talking curl puddings, hair milk, twist butter – you know – hair products named after desserts! I even back tracked to make sure I hadn’t overlooked them; perhaps the selection was just that small. I’m midway down the isle at this point (these were long isles, ya’ll) and I look across to the other side again and see travel sized toiletries. Oooooookay.

Then, I finally spot them. The brands I that rely on and use daily – Shea Moisture, Eden Body Works, As I am, and others – all the way at the end on the opposite side from the other hair styling products. Their label: Multicultural Haircare. In effort to clear up my confusion, I walked back to the beginning of the isle, down to the other side where the other hair styling products were to see what they were called; and there I saw: Salon & Styling.

Why were my hair products so, so…… SO SEPARATE?

I mean you would have thought the hair products section was over by the time I found them.  I was immediately bothered by this, so I snapped a pic of both sections, with their labels in view, placed them side by side, and posted this picture on Instagram that night.

Outrage, I presumed would follow, after all, don’t people “follow” you because they share your thoughts and opinions? Nah. They don’t. In fact, I can’t even say the 50% of the comments were in agreement with my dissatisfaction. Well, THAT surprised me. But the more I thought about it – why was I surprised that women were glad to have their own hair section? I mean after all, we went SO long without having any products catered to our texture, I, of all people should understand (shameless plug – I did a TED talk about this). Well my friends, because in 2017, on a cold night in January, in the haircare isle at Walgreens – separate DID NOT mean equal.

via GIPHY

Damn.

I mean for real, ya’ll. I looked back and forth at these labels, spread so far apart, and the longer I looked at them, the more it feel like Salon + Styling said “Negroes, that-a-way ->“.  So I posted the pic on IG and got tons of comments, but what were people saying? Well, nothing too crazy. Just that they liked having their own separate section away from the other hair products so that they could easily find the ones that were meant for us. While I can understand those sentiments, I must respectfully call bullshit. Here’s why:

Look back up at the picture. “Multicultural Haircare” means “hair products that work best for people of mixed race”, right?  Isn’t that what multi-cultural means? Yeah!  Maybe, not exactly… eh, I don’t know? See my point. This leaves A LOT open to interpretation. Let’s keep going here. I look under “Salon + Styling” and see a collection of aerosol cans I assume to be some sort of volume adding mousse or firm hold spritz, I see something that says “beach spray” whatever that means, some shampoo and conditioners, and even some gels. Now, aside from the CHI products and maybe the BedHead – they ARE NOT using the majority of this shit in no damn salons. I shop in ULTA regularly, boo – I know what the salon brands are. Where’s the Paul Mitchell, the Redken, the Nexxus, or Aveda? I’ll tell you where: not in WALGREENS! So they can miss me with the “Salon” part. Now here we are at “Styling” , and well, correct me if I’m wrong but gosh darnit, isn’t curling cream, hair milk, and edge control for stylin’??? Let me speak to the Manager!

Welp as I stated above, everyone didn’t agree with my questioning of this set up. Here are some the comments that were left below:

Let’s be clear- I NEVER throw shade at differences of opinion as long as the foundation is sound (so no, that doesn’t include Trump supporters), but I did find it eye opening that so many women of color didn’t mind. I also mentioned geography at the top of the story because I have to remember that I live in New England and, you know, *cough white people *cough *cough. Then I think back to my neighborhood Walgreens on the low end of Chicago’s south side and remember that the “Multicultural Haircare” products are almost literally the first items you run into when you walk through the door. I’m also pretty sure they’re not labeled “Multicultural Haircare” in that store either because….black people.  So, my final thought? It’s clear that the distinction between the two was based around hair type. I could generalize and say curly/kinky vs. straight hair and be done with it. But at the end of the day, Walgreens chose to label one section “fancy and professional” and other section “not white”. That’s what it boils down to and I cannot agree with that.

What do you guys think? Share your comments below.

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