New Survey Finds African American Women Spend 4x Times More On Hair Care Than Caucasian Women

In the early 2000’s, Indie Arie sang “I am not my hair, I am not this skin, I am not your expectations…I am a soul that lives within” from her breakout track ‘I Am Not My Hair’. She followed it up with the lyrics “I’m not the average girl from your video, and I ain’t built like a supermodel, but I learned to love myself unconditionally, because I am a queen” from her hit song ‘Video’.

It was anthem for Black women across the United States and the world, to embrace their beauty and not play to societal expectations or industry standards when it comes to appearance. But in 2023, how much have we evolved on the topic of diversity an inclusion, when many people of color are still experiencing inequality and discrimination when it comes to their hair?

Hair inequality affects men and women of color nationally; It is a prevalent experience that occurs in a larger multitude of spaces within the United States. From professional workplace environments all the way down to everyday shopping experiences, hair inequality negatively impacts the way individuals with certain hairstyles and textures navigate their day-to-day life and how they show up in the world. 

Despite the implementation of The CROWN Act across 20 US states, a law that forbids discrimination based on hair texture and hair styles, new survey data shows that natural hair discrimination is still prevalent in the US beauty industry and that women of color with 4c hair are experiencing an ‘Afro Tax’: price discrimination, and a lack of availability and variety of hair care services and products. 

The hair experts at All Things Hair conducted a survey targeting US women of different ethnicities above the age of 16 to investigate hair inequality. African American women spend x4 times more on hair care than Caucasian women, with 21% spending more than 25% of their monthly budget on hair care compared to only 5% of Caucasian women.

“As an individual with textured hair, talking about the lengths I had to go through for hair care was always a taboo subject. Upon learning about how other black women face the same issue and have to go through great lengths to find proper hair care it has become a goal of mine to be more open about the subject regardless of how taboo it’s been,” said Nelly Ghansah, Natural Hair Editor at All Things Hair in a statement to us.

Hair Product Pain Points

The survey reveals that women of color in the US are experiencing the most pain points when shopping for hair products: 33% of Black women say their pain point when buying hair products is the lack of variety compared to 20% of White women. Adding to this, 21% of Caucasian women say that they have “no pain points” when buying hair products in the US compared to just 14% of Black women and 8% of Hispanic & Latino women.

Overall, 20% of US women find it difficult to find products that suit their hair. This increases to 29% for Multiracial & Biracial women, followed closely by 28% for Black women. 

Despite black consumers making up 11.1% of the total US beauty market, these figures emphasize that women of color encounter multiple friction points when shopping for hair and beauty products and that their experience within the beauty industry “is markedly more frustrating than that of other people” (McKinsey)

“In a society where we have progressed so much, hair inequality remains a huge issue. Our goal is to shed light on the inequalities that black and brown women face in the haircare space and the many strides that are being made to combat this issue,” said Nelly Ghansah.

Visiting the Hair Salon

The survey reveals that a quarter (24%) of American women don’t even go to hair salons, with Multiracial & Biracial women being the least likely to go to hair salons, which is likely due to the time it takes to travel to a salon that truly caters to their hair type.

The survey shows that African American women go to hair salons the most frequently: 6% of Black women go to a hair salon once a week (double the consumer average). Adding to this, African American women have to travel the furthest to get to a hair salon that really caters to their hair type.

The survey also reveals that African American women spend the most time at hair salon appointments while Caucasian women spend the least amount of time: 18% of Black women spend more than 3 hours at hair salon appointments (triple the average of 6%) while almost half (46%) of White women spend less than 1 hour at hair salon appointments (higher than the average of 40%). 

Hair Salon Spending Habits

According to the survey results, half of women with 4c hair spend more than $100 in hair salons (double the consumer average of 24%). African American women spend the most money, with 36% spending more than $100 at salons, followed by 34% of Multiracial & Biracial women, 27% of Hispanic & Latino women, 21% of White & Caucasian women, and 19% of Asian women.

Collectively, these figures show that African American women are spending more money in hair salons, visiting hair salons more regularly, and spending more time at hair salon appointments despite having to travel the furthest to find a hair salon that really caters to their hair type. 

In 2019 California became the first state to ban hair discrimination in the workplace. New York became the second state to follow suit the following year. Since then, The Crown Act, which has been co-founded and supported by Dove, and CA state legislator Holly J. Mitchell, has made it a goal to ban natural hair discrimination in U.S. work environments. Now, there is a goal to pass this law across all 50 states in America.

“The first step towards inciting change and creating hair inequality is to have more transparent conversations about the state of the hair care industry. I am hoping that by sharing these insights and my experiences I am doing just that,” said Nelly Ghansah.

With the results of this survey, the need for this type of legislation is clear. We certainly hope this will give legislators, activists and beauty industry insiders the push to implement the CROWN Act, and ensure equitable access for hair care products and services for all. Read more about the survey result over at All Things Hair.

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