When I first stopped relaxing my hair in 2009, Etsy was one of my favorite places to shop for natural hair products. On hair forums, we frequently discussed these products, sharing everything from shipping time and packaging to actual product performance. The the natural hair movement was still fairly new, we relied heavily on these brands because natural hair products were difficult to find locally and at mainstream stores. I recall Kinky Curly being one of the only brands that I didn’t have to order, and at the time it was only at select Whole Foods.
As natural hair grew in popularity, chains like CVS, Walgreens, Target, and Walmart began to take notice. The market was rapidly growing and they realized that natural hair is worth a lot of money. Now, natural hair products are everywhere — some stores even have their own natural hair sections. But what does that mean for indie brands? Curly Kinks, ReVe Essentials, Spiral Solutions, Jasmine’s Bath and Beauty Products, Nunu Love Naturals, and more have closed up shop. Meanwhile bigger brands, like Shea Moisture and Camille Rose Naturals, are expanding into more chain stores.
This shift doesn’t really come as a surprise. People are searching for products that are easily accessible and consistent. Often, indie hair products vary in texture or even performance across batches, an issue that keeps customers from coming back. Also, ordering products online can be a hassle, with high shipping costs, potentially long shipping times, and not being able to see the product before it’s purchased. And surprisingly, a lot of the products in the stores have great, natural ingredients — something that we often turned to indie haircare for.
For indie and handmade natural hair brands to survive long term, it’s more important than ever for them to think about mass distribution and product consistency. But the sad reality is that, for many, this will simply not be possible.