Haircare Company Exec Dishes on Natural Vs. Permed Hair

A conversation on black hair with one of the industry's most respected

charlene bastien strength of natureIt’s an undisputed fact: black women are passionate about their hair.
And whether it’s natural, permed, weaved, braided or concealed with a wig, for most all that really matters is that it is gorgeous and as healthy as possible.

Charlene Bastien-Dance, the marketing guru behind the hugely successful hair-care company Strength of Nature, aims to give her customers what they want. The Global Marketing Director for the S.O.N. house of brands — home to hair-salon-quality products like African Pride, Elasta QP and Mega Growth Profectiv — says outside of making sure her products are universally visible, her second concern is making sure her consumers know that they don’t have to compromise health for beauty.

“Many times with your traditional relaxer, for instance, you can hurt your hair and scalp if the chemicals have not been properly mixed,” she explains. “To help keep this from happening, our new African Pride Dream Kids system, for example, contains an advanced cream-on-cream relaxer kit that allows you to mix two creams as opposed to the traditional cream-and-liquid combination, which makes the blend safer and more homogenous,” says Bastien-Dance. “Also, we’ve made it so you can actually add conditioners to this relaxer – something no other company is doing – in order to protect the hair. This creates a more gentle approach to relaxing for children and adults.”

Bastien-Dance, who has worked for the African-American and Latino-operated business since 2009, says the owners have long been committed to enhancing black women’s perceptions of themselves in a complexion-and-hair-conscious world, no matter how they wear their tresses.

“Fifty-five percent of women relax their hair in the United States,” says the former social worker, “and forty-five percent are natural. We believe that our company portfolio represents the balance, which means that we have product offerings for everyone. We have several product lines that meet the needs of natural-haired women,” she continues, “including Beautiful Textures, a brand that I co-created. It celebrates a woman’s natural texture, and educates her about exactly what that is. Our packaging is very unique: on the back of the box there are three sections — one is a statement of guarantee, the second describes how to best use our product depending on your hair type, and the third walks you through the steps depending on your hair type and texture. We also offer how-to videos online. We have a graph that tells you to use these products if you want to moisture and condition your hair, or take a “mix cocktailing” approach, which many naturalistas like to do. This brand is currently doing incredibly well.”

And if you’ve managed to miss African Pride, Beautiful Textures or any of the other brands Strength of Nature offers on store shelves, Bastien says she doubts you’ve missed all of their celebrity-centered promotional campaigns via social media and other forums.

“African Pride just did a contest with Mary Mary called “A Mother’s Love” in Chicago,” she says. “We offered fans an opportunity to meet the artists. Within one week of launching the promotion our Facebook page gained 6,000 fans. Now we’ve launched our “Beauty and the Beat” Summer Series for folks headed to New Orleans for 4th of July weekend. We work to stay connected to what our consumers are doing and what they love and try to meet them exactly where they are.”

The reason? Not enough companies care enough about the black female consumer, frankly, a trend Bastien-Dance says is just started to turn.

“There’s a fashion publication that [I will not name] that typically only advertised to white females with its fashion, beauty, perfume and hair ads,” she says. “We were studying the trend in this particular publication recently and found that for the first time ever they had more than 150 pages in it with 63 ads that had African American women headlining them. They are clearly talking to the African American woman now. They realize that African American women have dollars and disposable income. I think that African American women are in a unique place today in that we are able to see ourselves more than ever before as competitive. Now’s a good time for us to claim our space in the marketplace.”

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