I ran across an article today via TheSistahChick . It was posted on the Atlanta Journal Constitution website today. So we are making dents in relaxer sales……
And while relaxers have been at the heart of the black haircare industry, 2007 saw the beginning of a decline in sales of relaxer kits at mass market stores, which is projected to continue during the next four years.
But Jerry Dingle, vice president of professional sales and marketing at Atlanta-based Bronner Brothers, said relaxers — at least on the salon level — are still very much mainstay of the black haircare industry.
“I don’t agree with the trend away from relaxers,” he said.
Natural hair is more about a look than a rebellion against chemical products, he said, adding that the trend has attracted converts because it is more economical and requires less maintenance than chemically altered hair.
Bronner Brothers offers some products geared toward natural hair such as its African Royale line, but most of the company’s maintenance products can be used on a variety of hair types, he said. Dingle said they’ve adopted a wait-and-see approach when it comes to new product introductions, since this isn’t the first time the hair pendulum has swung from natural looks to chemically straightened hair and back again.
When stylist Tracy Robertson came to Atlanta 13 years ago, almost everyone was chemically relaxing their hair. Today, TAG Salon, of which Robertson is part-owner, is among a number of local businesses offering natural products and services solely for natural hair.
“So many women in Atlanta have begun to embrace natural hair. Atlanta is the hub [for black haircare trends] being the hair city that it is,” Robertson said.
In February 2009, Robertson and three stylists joined forces to open the salon on Pharr Road offering care and maintenance services for natural hair.
“When you say natural hair, people are thinking Afro and Angela Davis. They are not thinking about what we do,” said Robertson, explaining the TAG process of styling hair straight without the help of chemicals.
Though chemical relaxers are still widely used, little objective data has been published on the effects. A recent study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, linked relaxers to hair damage. The study, conducted by Dr. Nonhlanhla P. Khumalo at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, found that cystine, an amino acid considered a measure for hair fragility, was reduced in relaxed hair of the study subjects. Add styling stress, and the scene is set for a Campbell-type disaster.
At TAG, Robertson said they seek to offer clients similar style results as relaxers minus the damage. It was a gamble in a city where most salons continue to offer some form of chemical straightening. The four owners struggled for a few months, working without pay, until the salon began attracting 60 percent new clients via word of mouth. They followed with a proprietary line of sulfate and methylparaben free shampoos and conditioners and are now preparing to open salon franchises in Washington, D.C. and Dallas.
Cindy Primm, owner of Sage Naturalceuticals in Castleberry Hill, has also seen a shift in the number of Atlantans wearing more natural and textured hair styles. Early this year, she decided to revamp her inventory to meet the growing demand. Primm, who only stocks natural products, hunted down haircare companies such as the locally produced Darcy’s Botanicals and Texas-based AfroVeda.
The adjustment quickly paid off.
“It created traffic where there really was no traffic for people seeking me out,” Primm said. “We get a mix of people who have natural hair and wear it straight, but for the most part at least 75 percent of our customers coming in looking for natural products actually wear their hair in its natural state.”
She currently carries seven lines of natural products for kinky, curly or Afro-textured hair, none of which are manufactured by the major haircare companies.
“For the bigger companies out there, the trend of naturals and getting rid of chemicals is more of a recent thing,” Primm said. “Because other people recognize that there is a hole in the market, the smaller companies started creating products to meet their own needs.”
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