The beauty industry would not be what it is today if it wasn’t for Black women.
Join us in a celebration of Black excellence in the beauty sphere with a look at ground-breaking women from then, and now….
INH babe @_meagangreen wearing Sammy in shade black brown.
For more than a century, Black women have been making innovations that made women of all backgrounds feel more beautiful.
Unfortunately, they’re still too often undervalued & under celebrated for their work, & the beauty industry still has a ways to go to become more inclusive.
The beauty industry & especially the hair industry, was one of the first spaces that Black women were able to monetize & gain some financial independence. Let’s dive deeper into it…
Madam CJ Walker
Madam CJ Walker became the first self-made female millionaire from her hair products that soothed scalps & helped grow hair. In the 1890s, Walker began to experience hair loss, so she took matters into her own hands. In 1906, she began selling “Wonderful Hair Grower,” which helped her gain her fortune. She eventually created a whole line of hair care & cosmetics for Black women, boosting confidence one head of hair at a time!
Christina Jenkins invented the sew-in hair weave during a time when women used grips & pins to attach weaves to their hair. While working at a wig factory in the ‘40s, she came up with the sew in weave, which involved three cords & a weaving frame. Thanks to Jenkins, weaves became more comfortable & natural-looking for women.
Marjorie Joyner developed a permanent wave machine, which gave women the ability to have curled or straightened hair that lasted for several days. Her work was so good that Joyner’s machine design was used in both Black & white hair salons! Joyner became one of the first Black women to receive a patent because of it. (However, the patent was credited to Madame Walker’s company, so Joyner received almost no money for it).
We all have to thank Lyda Newman, the inventor of the first synthetic hairbrush. Her creation was a groundbreaking alternative to animal hair brushes, which were too soft for thicker hair textures. She created brushes with evenly spaced synthetic bristles, & open slots that collected the hair that could be thrown out. Aside from her success in the beauty sphere, Newman played a major role in the Black branch of the women’s suffrage party.
Since the advances from these four women, Black women have continued to be changemakers in the hair industry in today’s day. Take celebrity hairstylist Nikki Nelms who uses color and sewing threads to turn hair into literal art; Or Ursula Stephen who created some of the most iconic pop culture looks, like Rihanna’s asymmetrical bob & several of Zendaya’s Met Gala hairdos.
From the invention of the synthetic hairbrush to conditioners to sew in weaves—
Black women have been progressing the field for ages.
Here is a list of resources used in the article where you can read more on this important topic.