‘I Am My Hair’: Unilever Salon To Test Products To Understand Black Hair Care
Unilever is taking steps to truly understand Black people and their hair.
For an experiment, Unilever, one of the largest consumer goods conglomerates in the United States, opened up a salon called the Polycultural Center of Excellence for Black people to test products and give their honest opinions, The New York Times reports. Unilever owns some of the most popular haircare brands like Dove, Vaseline, and SheaMoisture. As the Black women provided their feedback, scientists and hairstylists just listened, taking notes on their phones.
The salon hosted about 50 men and women to test certain products. None of the participants were told what products were being tested or what executives thought they should be used for. The team then observed how the testers interacted with each product just in case they decided to reveal what it is used for. Peter Schrooyen, who supervises Unilever’s research and development for beauty brands in North America, says that while their work is commendable, there is still a long way to go. “I’ve been amazed with the work that’s been done so far, but also the work we still have to do,” Schrooyen said.
“We have a lot of understanding of people with darker skin from India, from Africa, but there’s relatively little information we have on the African American, the Black and brown and Hispanic people from North America.”
In recent years, the company made different changes to the brands, including upgrading Vaseline’s lotion formula, adding 88% more moisture. Dove rolled out a new line, including detangling conditioners and hair masks with honey, jojoba, aloe, and coconut oil. For Black women concerned about dandruff, SheaMoisture introduced a scalp care line focused on the issue.
The consumer goods brands understand that the Black haircare market is a highly undervalued place, understanding that Black consumers are a group that beauty companies have ignored for decades and constantly overlook. In 2021, Black Americans spent $6.6 billion on beauty, which is over 11% of the total beauty market in the United States and slightly behind the 12.4% of Black representation of the total population, according to a report from McKinsey.