5 Black Women Trailblazers in the Hair Care Industry
Black women have been entrepreneurs since ancient times, but few ever received recognition for the changes they wrought in the hair care industry. They were true innovators and their legacies live on in modern times.
Annie Turnbo Malone
A mentor to Madame C.J. Walker, she founded Poro College in 1918. It was the first institution dedicated to teaching women of African-American heritage about cosmetics and hair care. A chemist of note and an astute business woman, she created, crafted and patented her own line of oils, hair stimulants, and non-damaging straighteners. She sold them door-to-door and was one of the first female millionaires, opening her first shop in 1902.
Madame C.J. Walker
Recorded as being the first self-made female millionaire, Walker suffered from severe dandruff and baldness, leading her to developed her own line of products to nourish hair and heal the scalp. She began her haircare journey by selling products for Annie Turnbo Malone.
Sara Spencer Washington
The founder of Apex News and Hair Company, she made pressing oils, pomades and hot combs, along with a variety of cosmetics. She operated a salon of her own during the day, while canvassing for her products by night. She launched a wide range of business enterprises, along with a line of Apex Beauty Colleges.
She co-founded the Johnson Products cosmetic and haircare company with her husband, George. It was the first Black-owned company to be listed on the American Stock Exchange. They began their product line with Ultra Wave, a hair relaxer for men, and followed it with Ultra Sheen, a hair relaxer for women to use at home. The company then launched Afro Sheen, one of the most well-known products in the world for the Black community.
The founder of Carol’s Daughter, she launched the brand from her kitchen as a side hustle while working in TV production on The Cosby Show. The brand specialized in hair, body and skincare products that she gifted to friends and family. Carol’s Daughter caught the attention of Black celebrities that boosted business. The company was acquired by L’Oreal USA in 2014.
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