These four Black women have helped make the hair care industry more inclusive – here’s how

These four Black women have helped make the hair care industry more inclusive – here’s how

Written by Lawrencia Nelson

The Black hair industry has come a long way, and it’s in part down to these four trailblazing women. 

It’s officially Black History Month in the UK – a whole four weeks of recognising the achievements and contributions of Black Brits, giving us all a chance to celebrate the lives and stories of individuals who’ve made a significant difference in the Black community. 

So, what better time to champion four remarkable women who’ve been making waves in the hair industry? It’s no secret that it’s an industry that’s historically failed to cater to the needs of women of colour, and as a result there was a lot of work to be done to tackle the inherent racism that still exists – despite the fact that a recent report showed that Black women are more likely to spend nine times more than their non-Black counterparts on hair care. 

However, there’s been tremendous change in the last ten years: not only have women of colour have gone out of their way to steer for change due to racial profiling and micro-aggressions they’re faced with in stores when purchasing hair care, but there’s progression in terms of the availability Afro-Caribbean products. Instead of being confined to places like PAKS, I can now purchase my favourite hair gel Tesco – something my 16-year-old self would never have believed.

And in a world where racial inequality and injustices still exist, and where a lack of change and racial tension is still prevalent, it’s important to celebrate the pioneers that have opened doors for us. Challenging what was perceived as the norm and breaking cultural barriers, I’m paying homage to these four women in the British hair care industry who’ve made it their mission to fight for inclusivity and build a welcoming space for everybody.

  • Jamelia Donaldson, founder of Treasure Tress

    Jamelia Donaldson has fast become a household name in the natural hair community. The beauty and hair entrepreneur carved out a name for herself by creating Treasure Tress, Europe’s first (and largest) natural hair product box. Designed for women and young girls with naturally kinky and curly hair, the brand launched in 2015 as a result of Donaldson’s frustration with the lack of access to quality hair care products, limited hair care knowledge and bad customer service.

    The subscription service has a variety of new products to discover each month, and for me it makes wash day easier. Donaldson has also created a safe space for women of colour, which not only reinforces the sisterhood that exists and helps us celebrate our authentic selves, but it’s also striving to educate consumers and making Black British and Black European culture visible to multinational brands who, for so long, have overlooked them.

  • Tendai Moyo and Ugo Agbai, founders of Ruka Hair

    Founded by Tendai Moyo and Ugo Agbai during the pandemic, Ruka Hair specialises in natural texture hair extensions and, unsurprisingly, it’s taken the world by storm. The British-owned start-up is stocked in Selfridges – which is no mean feat for a Black hair care brand – and has been worn by everybody from Dina Asher Smith to Serena Williams and Julie Adenugn. Moyo and Agbai have made it their mission to increase visibility and accessibility to products, alongside educating consumers on the world of afro hair, plus the duo have worked hard to successfully revolutionise the Black hair care industry.

  • Charlotte Mensah, founder and creative director of Hairlounge

    A legend in her own right, Charlotte Mensah is the British Ghanaian founder and creative director of Hairlounge, a salon located on London’s Portobello Road. Having worked in the industry for over 20 years, Mensah’s dedication to her craft is nothing short of admirable and she’s paved the way for many in the hair care industry.

    Alongside launching her own synonymous range of products in 2016, Mensah has won British Afro hairdresser of the year three times, and in 2018 she was the first Black woman to be inducted into The British Hairdressing Awards Hall of Fame. In 2020, she launched her debut book – Good Hair, a definitive guide to afro, textured and curly hair and it was an overnight global success, not only within the Black community but for others who wanted to learn about Black hair, too.

    Over the years, Mensah has diligently committed herself to teaching that hair is more than just hair – it’s an identity that we should be proud of, and for that she will always be recognised as a trailblazer of the natural hair movement.

Main image: Jamelia Donaldson, Charlotte Mensah, Tendai Moyo and Ugo Agbai

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