Shea Moisture Isn’t The Problem

Shea Moisture is a company that has specialized in products catering to black women, and more specifically black women with natural hair. Everyone knows that there are a wide variety of hair textures across all races, but stereotypical black hair (kinky, thick) and stereotypical white hair (straight, silky) are very different and require different care and ingredients to be properly maintained.

Different products work for everyone, but a lot of the L’Oreal and Pantene products that work for Beth and Sarah Mae could do serious damage to Kiana or Aliyah’s hair. While Sarah Mae and Beth would probably look homeless if they went a week without washing their hair, Kiana and Aliyah can’t wash their hair every day because they run the risk of completely drying it out and breaking it off.

As a black woman that has worn her hair in its natural state for years now, I understand how important natural brands are. But Shea Moisture trying to broaden its market is not a slight to black women, to natural women, or to anyone.

There has been talk of Shea Moisture “changing its recipes” to suit their growing demographic, and at this point I don’t have enough evidence to either support or deny those claims. While there is no shortage of hair products for white women, I don’t think its fair to bring out the pitchforks for a company trying to make their case to other groups of people and showcase the versatility of their products. That being said, if it is indeed true that Shea Moisture has changed product ingredients to suit their new customers while forsaking the loyal customers that built their company, they’ve likely dug their own grave.

What I can speak to with certainty, though, is the commercial that they released and pulled. It featured a racially ambiguous woman with what might be described as 2c or 3b hair and two white women with straight hair. The advertisement focused on “hair hate” and people becoming more comfortable with their natural hair.

The Internet is livid with Shea Moisture’s choice of models. They feel like the company is abandoning the people that made the brand what it is today.


As a result of the emphasis that most cultures put on women’s looks, you’d be hard pressed to find a woman that’s never struggled with self esteem issues stemming from their appearance. Insecurity doesn’t discriminate, and no one is safe from it. But I have to acknowledge that in a majority white country where beauty standards are inherently Eurocentric, the struggle that women of color face- and more specifically, black women at the opposite end of the spectrum from the women that set the standard- is different than that of white women.

I am sympathetic to anyone that has struggled with their sense of self worth, but looking in the mirror and not being happy because you’re chubby or your eyes are a little too close together is not the same thing as looking in the mirror and feeling like all of the features associated with your background make you ugly. And no, having freckles or being pale are not in the same ball park at all.

Am I saying that white people are to blame for this or that black women above accountability? No. I’m just trying to provide context to an internal battle that’s hard to understand if you’ve never experienced it.

But the good news is that despite what liberals might say, I’m black, and I wear my hair naturally, and I love myself! Not because the media taught me how to or because of a commercial I saw on the internet and not because of a fake deep feminist on Twitter, but because I took responsibility for the way I felt about myself. And it’s time for black women as a whole to follow suit and shut down our collective pity party.

We’re so quick to point the finger at black men or Eurocentric beauty standards or white supremacy for any and all of our problems, when more often than not the greatest enforcers of these standards are black women. We were the ones criticizing Olympian Gabby Douglas while she was winning gold for the country and toddler, Blue Ivy because her hair was in an afro. We are the ones that insist on weaves and wigs as “protective styles” while the hair that we’re “protecting” never sees the light of day. And to be frank, the vast majority of the times I’ve been called out of my name with a racialized slur on social media, it’s been by someone the same color as me that spends all day complaining about how they’re being oppressed.

We get so offended and bent out of shape about a company “trying to appeal to white people” but spend so much of our own time trying to do the exact same thing. Everyone can pretend to be carefree and unbothered, but I know the truth and y’all do too.

I don’t think that every black woman that opts for weaves or wigs necessarily suffers from self esteem issues. But I think there are elements of our history in this country that can’t be ignored, and that no problem can be solved if the people affected by it refuse to address it.

Shea Moisture isn’t the problem, mixed women aren’t the problem and neither are white women. We are our biggest problem, and our solution. The sooner we can admit it, the sooner we can solve it.



  • Kels
    7 years ago

    How is it, according to you, Black women are Black women’s biggest problem? How do you suppose it got like that?
    As far as the Shea Moisture commercial goes, by deciding not to represent those women who got them off the ground and fought for them to be carried in major stores and, even more so, who face such serious hair hate laws have been passed to discriminate against their hair, is a big problem Shea Moisture caused all by themselves. It’s definitely not a problem Black women caused but as per usual those on the bottom of the totem pole/the victims of a White supremacist society are to blame once again when they express their anger for being thrown under the bus just because Shea Moisture wants to make a few extra bucks.

    • The Pretty Patriot
      7 years ago

      I’m well aware of the history of black women and beauty in this country but my point is that at this point in time at 2017 we’re the ones holding ourselves back and self imposing the standards that we claim oppress us. More black women have something negative to say about my nappy, natural hair than white people yet I’m supposed to believe that this is all the fault of others? That’s not logical, and I can’t support it. If you’d rather be a victim suit yourself.

      • Kels
        7 years ago

        What a cop out and what does all of what you said have to do with the Shea Moisture commercial again? Rubbing Black women out who have supported them the most in their parody of a commercial is fine because Black women have said mean things to you?
        You sure sound like a victim and obviously still have bitterness towards your own. I notice you didn’t answer my question so let me answer it, due to centuries of programming to hate the look of one’s self, Black women are still ridding themselves of these false beliefs, a number have and a number have not but the former is occurring more and more. Unfortunately, we still have to deal with those who have self hatred and if, as you said, you have confidence within yourself then these people are just annoyances at best.
        Now, when you have a company who has the opportunity to promote dark skinned women with kinky, curly, coily hair but instead do what has been going on for hundreds of years and promote mixed, white women do you truly believe that will help those Black women who hate their looks heal. Of course not, it only further validates their self hatred. Please note, those same White women who like your hair are part of the same group behind passing laws to discriminate against it, knowing our history, as you claim, should tell you why things haven’t changed.

        • The Pretty Patriot
          7 years ago

          If “take responsibility for the way you feel about yourself and stop blaming corporations/the media” sounds like a victim to you, you can’t be reasoned with lol. I’m bitter but you’re mad at a company for having one commercial where black women aren’t the focal point? Sounds legit

          • Kels
            7 years ago

            I’m not mad at the company for not showcasing Black women, I wasn’t surprised after knowing that 49% of Shea Moisture is owned by Bain Capital and seeing the formulas change and become too watered down for Black natural hair.
            If you don’t see how this is problematic to the Black community business wise and just think of it in simple minded terms as it only being about a commercial, then clearly you’re delusional. Enjoy living in your “White Supremacy doesn’t effect me because I’m confident” bubble.

  • Grace C Walker
    7 years ago

    the irony… as Ive grown up in a family with hair combinations, skin colors, and a history of multi ethnic, multi racial ancestors, is that most black women have been doing the psychological, i must have straight curly long 24 inch weave, in blonde, and pink, purple and blue to demonstrate their fashion statement.

    but in the economics of commerce, which is to expand and grow your demographic, your global appeal, because their is white or light colored black women portrayed using product, the Shea commercial is offensive to black women
    is there a point, to when we as world people are less concerned about being so insular, by color or race, and can truly be international.
    Do Chinese really care if you buy their weave every week.. no!!! because they know that their bank accounts and their children’s children will have been provided for.

    • Kels
      7 years ago

      I hope you know there are Black women out there who love their natural hair and are not into 24 in” weaves and colored hair. Don’t act like those Black women who are into the light skinned (all by design), weaves and such represent the collective. White women as well as other racial groups of women are also into weaves and colored hair but you may not know that because if they walk by with weave and colored hair it’s fine because they’re supposed to have long colored hair anyway.
      The outrage of the Shea Moisture commercial was not due to having White women and a mixed woman in the commercial but it was a result of not having Black women who have kinky, coily hair in the mix, you know the ones who buy Shea Moisture products the most.

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