Not All Hair Is the Same, So Why Do Brands Market “For All Hair Types”?

Unsplash / Marcelo Rangel

In college, I lived in a house with a dog and a cat. Regardless of how far we separated their food bowls, the dog would occasionally eat the cat food. Each time this happened, he would get sick and mope around for a day or two. Why? Because dogs and cats have different genetic makeups and require specific nutrients to thrive. Pet-food companies don’t market their food options to all animals because they understand that in order to adequately nourish the animal, specific ingredients should be included.

I wish the same was applied in the hair industry, where a plethora of products claim to work “for all hair types.” Each time I’ve been manipulated into thinking one of these would work for my hair, my 4A texture was left damaged and dry. All the women of colour I know wrestle with hair-care products on a daily basis, forever working to define their perfect routine. Some of us have multiple textures, where we need a formula that decreases frizz and retains moisture, for example. Unfortunately, for many women of colour, one-product-fits-all is not a thing.

“In my 20-plus years as a hairstylist, I haven’t found a product line that covers the needs of all my clients,” Antekqua, hairstylist and custom wig designer, told POPSUGAR. Knowing what hair type you have is imperative to retaining healthy hair. If you have type 1A-C straight hair, you might find it falls flat often and doesn’t hold a curl. For this hair type, you might want volumizing and oil-free products. For type 3 and 4 textures, hair tends to be dry and requires products that smooth the cuticle, detangle, and lock in moisture. With all this differing criteria, how could one product possibly produce what it promises for everyone?

“In my 20-plus years as a hairstylist, I haven’t found a product line that covers the needs of all my clients.”

Instead of purchasing products for all hair types, Antekqua recommends buying one based on your individual hair texture and needs. In some cases, it could even be damaging to do otherwise: “Some of the products for all hair types can cause drying and breakage to textured, curly hair,” she said. Valonne Smith, owner of Natural Do Salon, agrees and added that the secret to picking the right formula comes down to two things: your hair and your style. There are different hair structures, types, porosity, and density to take into consideration.

Of course, deciphering what your hair needs can be overwhelming. Instead of doing the research and your own experimenting, it can be much easier – and sometimes cheaper – to pick up a generic hair bottle labelled “for all hair types,” and beauty companies are aware of this. “Brands use it as a marketing tactic,” Smith said. By casting a wider consumer net, they are able to save money on product testing in the attempt to reach more people. Unfortunately, terminology isn’t regulated in the hair-care industry (or on beauty products in general), so there’s no one to monitor this messaging but yourself.

In my experience, the brands that are doing it right differentiate their products by hair type. To name a few, there are Ouidad and Twist, which cater to curly hair; 4C Only, which focuses specifically on 4C coils; Living Proof, which is great for type 1 customers looking for more volume; and Shea Moisture for textured wash ‘n’ gos. With that being said, there is still a lot of education to be had. And until brands are held accountable for misinformation, just know that all hair is not the same, so it’s best to make sure you’re buying the shampoo, conditioner, and styling products made especially for you.

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