Why is my hair conditioner in the diaper aisle?

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Oh, February. The only month when I can openly complain about #blackgirlproblems on social media and gain followers. It’s also the only month when it feels appropriate for me to boldly address a long-standing injustice and drop the mic after shouting “African Heritage Month, niggaaas!” which is exactly how I felt when I submitted a long-repressed rant to The Coast for their Love the Way We Bitch column.

“African Hair, Don’t Care” was the culmination of several years of walking into drug stores and being turned away from the “whites only” section, otherwise known as the Beauty section, otherwise known as the Hair Care section (even though it’s not where all the hair products are).

Rather than going to the Hair Care aisle for hair needs, women with thicker, curlier locks look for landmark signs to figure out where they’re supposed to go. Is it in the First-Aid aisle with the Band-Aids? Is it next to the L’Oréal hair colouring kits? Sassy Smiling Black Woman can show the way — her face is plastered on shelf displays next to the diapers at the Shoppers Drug Mart on Quinpool.

I have a message for women with thick, curly or coarse hair: your hair is not unnatural. So when you boldly go where apparently no “ethnic” woman has gone before — the Shoppers Drug Mart on Spring Garden Road — and you find that there are zero aisles hosting Sassy Black Woman posters, just take a deep breath. You can still find your way.

You can go to the aisle where the Beautiful women go. You may feel lost, not recognizing any of the terms you’ve become so fondly accustomed to, but I promise you that white people seek answers to the same hair questions, and they put most of those answers in the same aisle. It’s all for hair, and it’s all for you. Whether you want to strengthen your hair, moisturize it, add shine, smooth it, cleanse it, define its curl, repair it, or protect it from heat, your ethnicity is a barely a side-note. It all comes down to the texture of your unique hair, which varies throughout every race.

Considering the booming black hair care industry in the United States, it’s likely that in your lifetime, drug stores will get their shit together and get your hair needs out of the diaper section. Until then, try visiting your nearest “white” salon. Ask them which of their products you should buy from the display case, and see if they turn you away. 


Author: Sandra C. Hannebohm

Political science major, some french and a lot of concern about the state of things.

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