Hair Facts: The Prevalence of Hair Inequality in the U.S. and How it Affects People of Color
End hair discrimination at stores and in the workplace.
If you’re a POC with a textured hair type in the United States, the chances are that hair inequality is no stranger to you. 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.
All About The Prevalence of Hair Inequality in the USA
All Things Hair partnered with 3Gem Research to take a deep dive into hair inequality and its significant impact on the U.S. Continue reading to see our results.
What Is Hair Inequality and Where Does it Take Place
Hair Inequality is the unfair treatment of one hair texture over another which can also lead to hair discrimination. Hair discrimination is rooted in texturism–unfair treatment towards an individual based on how close or far their natural hair texture is to Caucasian hair standards. These standards typically refer to the ideal “bone-straight hair” or loose untextured wavy hair, as opposed to an individual who has naturally tight curly hair or coily hair. These are known as textured hair types.
Hair types that are closer to the white European standard tend to be more favorable and accepted. Nonsimultaneously, those who present a texture away from the norm are at a higher risk of being discriminated against. Hair inequality also takes place in the marketing and sales of hair products. This also trickles down to hair salon offerings, workplace environments, and beyond.
Who Experiences Hair Inequality?
To put things into perspective, women with coily hair face more difficulty finding hair products that cater to their hair care routine. 37.1% of women with coily hair say it is difficult to find products that suit them, followed by 32.3% of women with curly hair. On the contrary to this, women with straight hair have the least challenging access to hair products catering to them. 62.8% of women in the U.S. with straight hair say it is “easy” to find products that suit their hair, followed by 53.4% of women with wavy hair. Black women with coily hair are more likely to spend more money searching for the products that work for them and are more likely to travel the furthest to shop for these products or even have their hair styled.
Does Hair Inequality Contribute to a Lack of Assesbility in Products and Services?
Due to the lack of availability of beauty supply stores that cater to black hair types, the prices are marked up in the beauty supply stores near my college town because these stores understand that they are one in a few in the area.
Stacy G, Ithaca College Student.
Stacy G is a college student who moved to a small, predominantly white town five hours away from home. She went from having one beauty supply nearby in her hometown that she could always go to, to not having one available within a five-mile distance. “To find hair products catering towards my 4b curly hair type, I either have to order online or wait until I’m back home,” she says. “Otherwise, I must travel over 40 minutes to access the closest beauty supply store to my college town”.
“Also,” she adds, “due to the lack of availability of beauty supply stores that cater to black hair types, the prices are marked up high in the beauty supply stores near my college town because these stores understand that they are one in a few in the area.” Another challenge Stacy faced when moving away from home was finding a hairstylist to cater to her hair needs. “I am at the point where I have learned how to style my hair since I know that not many people around me can efficiently. As a result of this, a lot of my other friends with coily and curly hair have asked me to do their hair due to the lack of hair stylists in the area that specialize in black hair.”
Additional Stats to Consider About Accessibility to Products and Services Among Various Hair Textures:
- 5.2% of women with coily hair in the U.S. spend more than $100 on hair products each month, followed by women with curly and straight hair at 2.5% and 1.7% of women with wavy hair.
- Only 19.2% of Black/African American women shop at drugstores for their hair products, compared to 42% of Asian women and Multiracial/Biracial women, 30.1% of White/Caucasian women, and 26.1% of Hispanic/Latino women.
- 75.9% (3 in 4) of Black/African American women in the U.S. are more likely to purchase their hair products from beauty supply stores.
- 19.6% of Black/African American women have to travel more than 1 hour to have their hair styled, followed by 15.2% of Hispanic/Latino women, 12.2% of Asian women, 8.7% of Multiracial/Biracial women, and 3.9% of White/Caucasian women.
- 5.2% of women with coily hair have to travel more than three hours, compared to only 0.5% of women with straight hair
- More than half (51.1% – double the consumer average of 23.9%) of women with coily hair spend more than $100 at hair salons, followed by 28.1% of women with curly hair, 22.4% of women with wavy hair, and 18.9% of women with straight hair
For individuals who don’t feel secure in having a natural hair texture like mine, I can understand why they would feel more compelled to keep straightening the hair to fit a standard. Not to mention, due to the increased challenge to acquire the right hair products, many may feel that straightening their hair often is the easiest way to maintain and care for their hair on a week-to-week basis.
Are There Different Tiers to Hair Inequality?
21.1% of women with straight hair experience no pain points when buying hair products, followed by 18.1% of women with coily hair, 16.1% with wavy hair, and 13.1% with curly hair. This statistic puts in perspective a “hierarchy” of how the different hair textures are treated within the United States. Women with straight hair type have better experiences, followed by those with wavy hair, curly hair, and last coily hair.
Alisa B is a Hispanic college student who grew up in New York City with a 3b to 3c hair type. Despite growing up in such a diverse community, she attests to the difference in how she is treated when her hair is in its natural state compared to when she straightens it. “I don’t change the style of my natural hair too often. However, on the rare occasion that I do straighten my hair, I witness a boost in the number of compliments I receive on my hair from my peers and even strangers,” she says. “For individuals who don’t feel secure in having a natural hair texture like mine, I can understand why they would feel more compelled to keep straightening the hair to fit a standard. Not to mention, due to the increased challenge to acquire the right hair products, many may feel that straightening their hair often is the easiest way to maintain and care for their hair on a week-to-week basis.”
How Does Hair Inequality Impact Professionals in the Workplace?
Hair Inequality is a major social justice issue in the United States. Many employers across several industry settings, such as retail, restaurants, corporate, performing arts, and more, have found ways to restrict employees who wear natural or protective hairstyles to work. This most often targets black women with coily and curly hair. Hair discrimination in the workplace can happen in several ways. For instance, an employee poking fun at a co-worker with a protective style, or a manager favoring one employee over another for a presentation due to hair type, etcetera.
Some companies have gone as far as to discriminate against hair styling in company dress codes. In the entertainment industry, many models and actresses have admitted to there being a lack of hairstylists who specialize in coily and curly hair on sets which often leads to them touching up on their look after being styled or doing their hair, as opposed to their counterparts with looser hair textures which can have seamless hair styling experiences while on set.
How has the Fight Against Hair Inequality Evolved Over Time?
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, 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.
Progress has been made, as over 18 states (Minnesota’s most recent addition as of February 2023) have enacted The Crown Act. In American society, so many of your lifestyle choices tie directly to what you do for a living. Therefore, with more individuals having the opportunity to freely embrace their natural hair at work, this may pave the way for less hair inequality in the U.S. over time. With the workplace being one of the first places where hair inequality is squashed, this may trickle down to the larger availability of textured hair products and services in more accessible spaces as the demand to wear out textured hair increases.
Several strides are being made toward hair inequality, but there is a long way to go. However, no action is too small when it comes to helping the cause. You can also take action against hair quality by signing Dove’s petition to pass the Crown Act across the entirety of the United States.
- The stats presented in this article are from a 3Gem Research & Insights survey in March 2023. The survey investigates hair inequality in the US. The survey targeted 2,000 US women of different ethnicities above the age of 16. The ethnicity fallout was based on representative data in the US. It included White or Caucasian, Asian, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Native American or Alaskan Native, Multiracial or Biracial, and Another Race.
- Please see HERE for more information on the Crown Act from Dove.
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