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Natural Awakenings Healthy Living Magazine

Hair and Beauty Salons Pioneer African American Health Advocacy

Aug 31, 2023 09:31AM ● By Jesse R. Brown
In the intricate tapestry of African American culture, hair and beauty salons, as well as barbershops, have always held a special place. They are not just spaces of physical transformation, but also communal hubs, resonating with conversations, laughter and shared experiences. However, there lies an undercurrent of concern in these spaces. Many African American women, in their quest to align with societal beauty norms, have unknowingly jeopardized their health, opting for beauty products rife with harmful chemicals. But there’s hope on the horizon. As the adage goes, “When you know better, you do better.”

For decades, many women have embraced chemical relaxers, nail polishes, cosmetics and other products, often unaware of their carcinogenic ingredients. The cumulative effect of these choices has been detrimental, leading to adverse health outcomes and a broader culture of prioritizing appearance over well-being. Fortunately, a wind of change is sweeping through. The rise of the natural hair movement, backed by legislation like the CROWN Act, is more than just a statement of style—it is a health revelation. By combating hair discrimination, such acts liberate individuals to make healthier choices not only for their hair, but holistically for their bodies.

Herein lies a golden opportunity for African American-owned beauty and hair establishments. By championing health advocacy, these businesses can transform not just the health, but also the wealth of communities. Consider the vast potential: a hair salon that not only promotes natural hairstyles, but also educates its clientele on the harmful impacts of certain products. Or a beauty spa that emphasizes organic, toxin-free products, ensuring clients leave not just looking good, but feeling even better.

The economic implications of such a shift are profound. As consumers become increasingly health-conscious, businesses that cater to this demand will witness burgeoning growth. According to a report by Grand View Research, the global organic personal care market size is expected to reach $25.11 billion by 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 9.4 percent. For African American businesses, this translates to a substantial share of the pie, allowing them to thrive financially while upholding a commitment to community well-being.

Moreover, there’s an intrinsic ripple effect. As salons and spas advocate for healthier choices, clients become ambassadors of change, influencing their circles and gradually transforming the broader societal mindset. When businesses prioritize health, it’s not just a service—it’s a revolution.

African American hair and beauty establishments stand at the cusp of a transformative era. They possess the power to redefine beauty standards, thus ensuring they are rooted in health, authenticity and empowerment. As these businesses lean into health advocacy, they will be heralding a brighter, healthier, more prosperous future for their communities, both in the U.S. and globally. In this harmonious blend of health and beauty, everyone emerges radiant.

Jesse R. Brown is a traditional naturopathic doctor and director of the Wholistic Training Institute. For more information, email [email protected] or visit